(Times Record (Fort Smith, AR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 11--A request from the Fort Smith Public Library for an August tax election was granted Tuesday by city leaders.
In special session, the Fort Smith Board of Directors voted 5-1 in favor of the special election, which is planned for Aug. 12. The library's Board of Trustees is seeking voter approval for a 2-mill increase for a total of 3 mills. According to library director Jennifer Goodson, a 2-mill hike will double the library's $2.6 million annual budget.
"The Fort Smith Public Library has been at 1 mill for 57 years," Goodson told directors. "Libraries have changed a lot in 57 years. Our library in particular has changed a lot in 57 years."
Goodson described the library's plan for additional funding as "ambitious and progressive."
A long list of library wishes includes more traditional print materials along with digital resources, like ebooks. New offerings could include live online tutoring and homework help, resume assistance, a newspaper archive service, streaming movies and "Redbox-style kiosks" for books and DVDs around the community.
"Our libraries are a point of pride in our community," Goodson said. "They are a busy and vibrant part of Fort Smith. Last year, more than 434,000 people visited one of our four public library locations. They checked out almost half a million items."
She added that the library's Board of Trustees has "identified sources of private money" to pay for the election, which could cost upwards of $35,000, according to the city.
"So in order to finance the election, there will be no expenditure of public money," Goodson said.
Ward 4 Director George Catsavis cast the lone dissenting vote against the August election.
"I think any tax issue should be voted on in a general election, not a staged, special election," he said after the meeting.
In 2002, voters rejected the library's request for an additional 2 mills. The Fort Smith Public Library system includes a 67,000-square-foot main library on Rogers Avenue and three 11,000-square-foot neighborhood branches.
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