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LPPJ passes library tax roll-up

Max-capacity crowd speaks both for, against millage
Thursday, August 15, 2019
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Leader photo by CALEB DANIEL
            The Lincoln Parish Police Jury held a public hearing and voted to roll up the property tax rate that funds the Lincoln Parish Library in front of a full crowd Tuesday.

A capacity crowd turned out for the Lincoln Parish Police Jury’s regular meeting Tuesday, thanks in large part to a public hearing and vote to roll up the property tax rate that funds the Lincoln Parish Library.

More than 30 attendees took up all available seating in the jury’s third-floor meeting room, and four of them spoke during the public hearing on both sides of the issue.

Ultimately, the jury accepted the rate of 4.65 mills proposed by its administrative staff last month, rolling it up for 2019 from its previous rate of 3.2 mills.

This 3.2-mill rate was the result of a series of millage reductions begun in 2014 to lower the library’s burgeoning fund balance. The last time the 10-year millage went to the public for approval was 2010, when it was passed at 5.99 mills.

So the 2019 rate approved Tuesday will still be lower than the original rate passed by the public.

The final vote was 11-0 in favor of the new rate, with District Six Juror Walter Pullen abstaining due to a conflict of interest. Pullen is running for Assessor.

During the public hearing, some attendees expressed disapproval of any millage roll-up for the library.

Mark Taylor, who spoke first and for the longest time, questioned whether the library needed more funding or was using its current funding correctly, bemoaning the loss of former outreach programs like the “Bookmobile.”

“(The library) benefits the folks of Ruston, if you have the means of transportation to get there,” Taylor said. “But it does not benefit the entire parish. I contend there needs to be a hard look at how the library operates.”

He also said more should be done to eliminate what he believes is unnecessary spending at the library, askingif it needs to stay open until 8 p.m. or even be open on Sundays at all.

“The library needs to do something about tightening up their belt, reducing the debt they incur so that (the jury) may not need as much debt from the taxpayers,” he said.

Kacey Richard, marketing director at the library, spoke briefly about the outreach the entity still performs. She said the library delivers books to the elderly, people with disabilities, and those with other circumstances that prevent them from traveling.

The library saw foot traffic of 35,000 in the month of June, and on Sunday alone ther were 1,200 visitors.

“I just want to let you know it is a privilege to be able to keep this library open seven days a week,” Richard said. “There are few people allowed that luxury in other parishes in the state.”

Former parish administrator Richard Durrett also spoke during the hearing. He said his administration eliminated the bookmobile program because it was “outrageously expensive,” but the library still serves the parish beyond Ruston.

“I live in Simsboro, as far as you can get from here in the parish,” Durrett said. “I come to the library, the people of Simsboro come to the library, and so do the children. It’s a very important service to the parish and to people who couldn’t afford the books, services and internet access anywhere else.”

Several members of the library’s Board of Control and administration were in attendance, but none spoke during the hearing.

The 4.65 rate passed by the jury for 2019 is projected to be enough for the library to break even on its $2.4 million expenditure budget. The millage will go back to the public for renewal in 2020.

All other parish millages were passed at unchanged rates.