The Bitterroot Public Library was successful in their petition drive and a request for three mills in additional funding for the library will appear on the ballot in June 2020.
“The library greatly appreciates the support of our community in getting this levy on the ballot for June,” said Mark Wetherington, Bitterroot Public Library director. “It was very helpful to get feedback from the community during the petition process about what the library was doing that benefited the community, what they would like to see us add, and other suggestions for improvements.”
Over 900 signatures from registered voters in Victor, Hamilton and Corvallis school districts were certified by the Ravalli County Elections Office to support placing the levy on the ballot. The minimum number of signatures required for ballot placement was 800.
This is the library’s first ballot request for additional mills in over 20 years. The proposed 3 mill levy will translate into a tax increase of $4.05 per $100,000 of property valuation. The increase will impact property owners in the library’s funding district encompassing the school districts of Victor, Corvallis and Hamilton. If approved, the mill levy would provide the library an additional $143,900 per year. They are currently funded at approximately 8.9 mills.
“Hamilton and the surrounding areas have grown significantly over the last 20 years and so has the use of the library,” said Wetherington. “To keep up with increased demand we’ve added staff, doubled the number of computers available to the public, and expanded our budget for books, DVDs and other materials.”
“There’s also been the challenge of keeping up with the maintenance of a facility that was built in 1916,” he continued. “Several large donations over the last decade allowed us to pay for ongoing expenses and new services, like e-books and 24/7 Wi-Fi, but we are drawing those donations down and estimate that they’ll run out by 2022.”
The library expanded its operating hours in 2018 to open earlier and stay open later on more days based on patron feedback. In recent years the library has invested in improvements to the accessibility and efficiency of the building, including a roof over the handicap access ramp, automatic doors at ramp entrances to the meeting room and main floor, and LED lighting which has decreased electricity costs by 20%. The library will replace its 32-year-old roof in 2020 which is estimated to cost approximately $50,000.
In addition to books, DVDs, and other materials the library provides assistance with job applications and searches, weekly free programs for children, families, and adults, as well as a large community room with wireless internet and a media center that the public can reserve. It also provides access to materials at other Montana libraries through membership in the Montana Shared Catalog and importantly this time of year, free tax forms.
“With a successful mill levy, we would be able to better plan for the future and expand on what we already do that people value,” said Wetherington. “Without sustainable funding, we would eventually have to reduce services, reduce hours, and ultimately reduce what we can provide to the community. We want to keep moving forward with our community as it grows and do everything we can to keep serving our community’s needs and interests.”