BGR Recommends Voters Approve Full Library Millage on Dec 11

The Mid-City branch of the New Orleans Public Library system. Courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) released a report on Tuesday recommending that voters reauthorize the New Orleans Public Library millage. The measure will appear on the Dec. 11 ballot.

“BGR supports the tax based on the Library’s request to continue its dedicated millage revenue at the existing level,” the report states. “At the current rate of 2.58 mills, the tax provides about half of the system’s budget. The Library has used its existing tax revenue to increase its value to residents by expanding services. Continuing this revenue stream will allow the Library to sustain its current service level and implement its new strategic plan.”

After analyzing the proposed tax the BGR found that the library’s 10-year plan – which was developed with extensive input from community members – would include efforts to improve library access for all New Orleans residents and expand the library’s role in workforce development. In addition, the 10-year plan would actually increase library expenditures in order to reduce the current $13.3 million reserve to a more acceptable level.

“There is evidence indicating that the Library will use the tax to meet residents’ library service expectations and implement new initiatives that address high community priorities for the system,” the report states. However, the BGR also notes that the library should adopt a set of public reporting requirements in regard to the library’s progress toward its strategic objectives. These two points are particularly important considering the tax would not be subject to another vote for 20 years.

“Strengthening accountability measures is also important, especially considering that voters will not get another say on the tax for 20 years. The City Council should closely monitor the Library’s fund balance to ensure that the tax does not generate surpluses,” the report recommendation states. “The City should track the fund balance in its public budget documents.”

You can read the full report here.

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