Large crowd attends library meeting concerning tax rates

Beth Rumsey, Staff Writer

Several residents living in the Osgood Public Library (OPL) district attended the Osgood Library Board meeting on Tuesday, August 25 hoping to receive more information on the increase to the property tax rate which will be used to fund the building of a new building for the Milan branch of the Osgood Library, which is currently under construction.

The matter of increased taxes was first brought to the attention of taxpayers at the August Ripley County Council meeting where OPL Board Treasurer Richard Parks noted that the debt was overstated.

OPL Board President Gene Pitts told those attending that the budget was tentative, that it would not be official until state approval from the Department of Local Government Finance ( DLGF). According to Pitts, before the budget goes to the state, the library board adopts it, after which it is presented to the town of Osgood for approval.

According to Pitts, there was some information missing in the first draft of the budget which caused the DLGF to determine the current proposed tax rate. The budget has been resubmitted with all the necessary information. Pitts asked those attending for patience. “We’re going to work very hard to get this rate as accurate as possible,” he said.

Lonnie Thurber, financial advisor for the library board, explained how the tax rate is determined by the state. According to Thurber, the value of all property in the townships served by the library district is reviewed. This is a cumulative total of all personal property as well as land and home. The total valuation will reflect all deductions allowed by the State such as Homestead Tax Credit. The tax rate is then determined using a specially designed formula.

According to the proposed 2010 budget, a tax rate of .075 for the Library Operating Fund and .156 for the Library Debt Service Fund will be levied to all taxable property within the townships serviced by the OPL. The 2009 budget had a rate of .0606 for the Library Operating Fund and a rate of .0689 for the Library Debt Service Fund. A tax rate of .02 funded Capital Projects for the 2009 budget year.

The major theme of the public comments was that many of the residents of the townships in the library service area cannot pay their property taxes, due to the state of the current economy. According to Steve Linville, who runs a farm as well as holding down another job, the taxes are a burden. He also believes the proposed rate seems to be higher for farmers. “I wouldn’t have a problem if it was an even rate,” he said.

Glen Comer pointed out that there are only two townships in Milan and three in the Osgood area. “It’s not evenly distributed,” he said.

John Peetz, who owns property in Jackson Township, told the OPL board that on 33 acres he will pay about $32. Peetz reminded the board that the county council expects the taxes to double next year, which would make his taxes on this property about $67 next year. Peetz provided information to the Osgood Journal that was on the OPL website that referred to what the cost would be. In the materials it notes: “What will this cost me? An example of costs for this bond: $100,000 home additional tax of under $13 a year. What a bargain!” Peetz said the information is no longer on the OPL website.

Peetz’s suggestion to fire the staff and use volunteers would not meet with state library requirements, according to library director Emily Kruse. Kruse said the libraries have been operating under budget and several cutbacks have been made for the 2010 budget. The director’s salary has been reduced to $39,000 from $45,000 in 2009. Also, the 2010 budget reflects a 3% cost of living raise for the library staff as well as an increase in janitor salary with the hope to hire an additional janitor for the Milan branch in January.
Delbert Abplanalp asked the board, “Where’s our 3% cost of living increase?” According to Abplanalp, he believes those on Social Security benefits will not receive a cost of living increase in 2010.

The number of those who did not know about the increase was also an issue. Pitts reminded those attending that the budgets are advertised two times in each of the county papers as per state requirements. He also noted that the library board meetings are open to the public.

The Osgood Public Library and the Milan branch had combined total visits of 32,812 in 2008.

Circulation was up by 7% in July this year, according to Kruse. “People are using the library more often to check out materials, such as books and DVDs, they may be unable to purchase due to financial constraints,” she said.

Programs offered by the library include GED classes that meet twice a week; a free budgeting workshop held by Purdue University; and a summer reading program to encourage kids to read during their time off from school.

The budget will be approved at the next OPL board meeting on Tuesday, September 22 at the Osgood Public Library beginning at 7 p.m.