SPECIAL ELECTION JUNE 6: VOTERS TO DECIDE ON LIBRARY MILL LEVY
The voters will be asked to decide on the following:
Shall the City of Great Falls be authorized to amend Article I, Section 3 of the Charter of the City of Great Falls to levy up to 17 mills, an increase of 15 mills, raising approximately $1,594,500 for the purpose of providing funds for the operation, maintenance and capital needs of the Great Falls Public Library.
[ ] FOR amending the Charter of the City of Great Falls to increase the authorized mills to levy for the operation, maintenance and capital needs of the Great Falls Public Library from two (2) mills to seventeen (17) mills as provided for in Ordinance No. 3254.
[ ] AGAINST amending the Charter of the City of Great Falls to increase the authorized mills to levy for the operation, maintenance and capital needs of the Great Falls Public Library from two (2) mills to seventeen (17) mills as provided for in Ordinance No. 3254.
Total Mills requested = 15 MILLS ≈ $1,594,500.00
INCREASE THE ANNUAL TAX ON A $100,000 HOME APPROXIMATELY $20.25
INCREASE THE ANNUAL TAX ON A $200,000 HOME APPROXIMATELY $40.50
Please see the Elections Office website for more details about casting your ballot.
GREAT FALLS PUBLIC LIBRARY MILL LEVY
The Great Falls Public Library is at a crossroads. The library is operating at the minimal State Library standards and yet continues to be in a financial deficit. The community values the library, but it isn’t adequately financially supported to provide the quality library services that our community deserves.
The library is currently funded at $19 per capita, which is well below the Montana average of $31 per capita.
Library Mill Levy Passes:
Property tax increase
Increase the Annual Tax on a $200,000 home approximately $40.50
Library Mill Levy Doesn’t Pass:
No increase in property taxes
Library Mill Levy Passes:
Library Mill Levy Doesn’t Pass:
|Funding for increased staff and services||Limited funding resulting in decreased staff and services|
Continuing and expanding early literacy and afterschool programs for children and parents
Reduced early literacy and afterschool programs for children and parents
Expanding homebound services and programming for people who are disabled and seniors
No homebound services and programming for people who are disabled and seniors
Providing computer and technology classes and expanded support for job seekers
No computer and technology classes and reduced support for job seekers
Providing a College Readiness Program for teens that includes literacy programs, test prep, and application assistance
No College Readiness Program for teens (literacy programs, test prep, and application assistance)
Expanding our hours to be open seven days a week providing more service to all community members
Reducing our hours to be open only five days a week providing less service to all community members
Expanding Bookmobile services to six days a week providing more services to daycares, schools and seniors
Failing to meet Montana Public Library Standards disqualifying the Library from receiving State Library Aid of around $30,000
Improving Library safety so that parents, seniors and families feel welcome at the Library.
Bookmobile service maintained at only 3 days a week providing inadequate service to daycares, schools and seniors
Providing free parking to reduce barriers to using the library
Failing to adequately address Library safety so that parents, seniors and families feel welcome at the Library
HISTORY OF UNDERFUNDING:
Library funding was cut in 2014 causing the Library to have to reduce hours and only be open five days a week. Over the past 8 years, the Great Falls Public Library has struggled to provide services and meet the minimum Montana State Public Library standards—specifically the standard requiring a Library serving a community of more than 25,000 people be open for service at least 50 hours per week. Not meeting standards will mean a loss of about $30,000/year
When the services of the Great Falls Library are compared to the services provided in the other large communities in the State, Great Falls Library falls far short. The Library is open fewer hours, has the smallest budget and provides the fewest programs.
Cascade County and the City of Great Falls are currently unable to increase the funds provided to the Library through the existing funding mechanisms. With increasing costs and almost flat funding, our current funding model isn’t adequate to provide the quality Library services that our community deserves. The Library is currently funded at $19.00 per capita which is well below the Montana average of $31.00 per capita.
MASTER PLAN TO IMPROVE LIBRARY SERVICE:
In order to understand how to provide our community with the best Library services possible, the Library spent months working with consultants and community partners to develop a Library Master Plan. The Plan provides a vision for the future. It provides information to guide decisions on facility maintenance and upgrades, library space configurations, library services, community outreach, staffing and funding.
The Master Plan process started in March of 2022 and it included the following:
- Staff, and Board Discussion Sessions
- Community Focus Groups
- Community Survey
- Demographics and Demographic Mapping
- 10-year Usage and Funding Trends
- Comparison Benchmarks
- Collection Utilization Analysis
Space Needs Analysis
- Professional evaluations of facilities (structure and space)
The Library Master Plan was completed in September of 2022. A key finding of the Master Plan is that current Library funding is inadequate. The Master Plan states that it is necessary to increase library funding to a minimum goal of getting up to the average MT library of similar size ($31.00 per capita).
LIBRARY MILL LEVY RECOMMENDATION:
The Great Falls Public Library Board has determined with the escalating costs of operations, a levy is necessary to provide sustainable annual funding to expand Library service, to continue to meet State standards and to provide for future growth.
February 21st City Commission Meeting
February 7th City Commission Meeting:
Minutes of January 24th Library Board Meeting: Unanimous approval of Library Motion “Moved that the Great Falls Library Board of Trustees request that the Great Falls City commission call for a special election to be held on June 6th, 2023 for the purpose of placing a library mill levy of 15 mills before the voters.”
Minutes of December 12th Library Board Meeting: Unanimous approval of Library Motion. “Moved that the Great Falls Public Library Board of Trustees recommend the proposed Library Mill Levy plan to the Great Falls City Commission.”
AFTER THIS RECOMMENDATION WAS MADE TO THE CITY COMMISSION, IT WAS DETERMINED THAT A LIBRARY MILL LEVY COULD NOT BE PLACED ON A SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION BUT NEEDED TO BE PLACED ON A SPECIAL ELECTION.
Minutes of January 28th Library Board Meeting: Unanimous approval of Library Motion “Moved that the Great Falls Library Board of Trustees request that the Great Falls City commission call for a special election to be held on June 6th, 2023 for the purpose of placing a library mill levy of 15 mills before the voters.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
QUESTION: This Mill Levy will significantly increase the funding for the Library. How will the new funds be spent?
ANSWER: The majority of the new funding would be spent to increase operations in order to be open 7 days per week and expand programming to youth, seniors and the homebound. This includes hiring additional staff.
QUESTION: If the Mill Levy doesn’t pass, what exactly will the Library do to balance the budget?
ANSWER: The Library will reduce operations and services from 6 days per week to 5 days per week. Additionally, it will be necessary for the library to reduce adult programming.
QUESTION: Why does the Library Mill Levy proposal include a contract for a mental health provider at the Library?
ANSWER: While gathering community feedback during the creation of the Library Master Plan, we clearly heard that some people feel unsafe coming to the Library. Great Falls as a community has problems with addiction, mental health and homelessness. These problems often surface at the Library.
Over the last 8 months, the Library has partnered with the Cascade County Local Area Council on Mental Health on a temporary grant funded project to place a mental health professional at the Library a limited number of hours per week as a pilot project. The mental health professional aids Library staff to de-escalate patron behavior problems and to connect patrons in need to community services. This project has resulted in fewer calls to dispatch to request emergency assistance, improved customer service and connected patrons to services in the community.
By preventing problems from escalating and diverting people from the emergency room and the jail, this program not only saves tax payer funds, but makes the Library a safer place. The proposal to spend a relatively small amount of funds on a mental health contract ($30,000) is a reasonable and prudent effort to ensure that the Library is safe and welcoming for all.
QUESTION: Why does the Library Mill Levy proposal include free parking?
ANSWER: While gathering community feedback during the creation of the Library Master Plan, we clearly heard that paying for parking is a barrier for many people using the Library. Increasing access to needed Library services for those who most need them is an excellent investment in our community.
QUESTION: Why isn’t the Library Mill Levy Election on the School Election Day as originally proposed?
ANSWER: The Library had originally hoped to place the Library Mill Levy on the ballot as part of the School Board Election. After research, the City Attorney, David Dennis, determined that it was not legal for a City Library to place a Mill Levy on a School Election Ballot. (It is legal for a Library District to place a Mill Levy on a School Board Election, but Great Falls Public Library is NOT a Library District.)
Here is a summary of the statutory analysis re whether the library mill levy could be held in conjunction with the local school elections in May:
o 15-10-425 MCA requires mill levy elections to be held in accordance with Title 13, Chapter 1, Part 4.
o Title 13, Chapter 1, Part 4 (specifically MCA 13-1-405) provides that a local government election must be held on a primary election day, a general election day or as a special election (if the election concerns funding).
o 20-1-101 defines a “regular school election" as an election for school board members held on the day established in 20-20-105(1).
o 20-20-105 specifies the regular school election day as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May.
Analysis: Since the regular school election day—the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May—is not a primary election day, a general election day or a special election day, pursuant to 13-1-405, a local government levy election may not be held on that day.
QUESTION: Do you have data on how much the Library is used?
ANSWER: We have lots of statistical data on Library usage.
· In the last twelve months, there have been 101,897 visits to the Library and Bookmobile.
· In the last twelve months, Great Falls Public Library patrons have checked out 257,994 items.
· In the last twelve months, Great Falls Public Library patrons have engaged in 105,023 sessions on our Wi-Fi and publicly available computers.
You can find additional statistical information (and compare our Library to other libraries in Montana) through the Montana State Library statistical dashboard.