A Look at Ballot Question 6A — affectionately known as the BV Library Expansion
Ark Valley Voice is recapping the pros and cons of both the two state-wide ballot questions in the November 7 coordinated election, and the two local ballot questions. In this news story, we’ll examine Ballot question 6A — the Buena Vista (BV) Library Expansion.
A “yes” vote on 6A will indicate approval of a tax increase in the Northern Chaffee County Library District (formerly known as the Buena Vista Public Library). That tax increase of $475,000 annually would begin being collected in the 2024 calendar year, with additional amounts generated annually from a property tax mill levy of 1.2 mills.
The library has operated at the current mill levy since 1995. Increasing the current mill levy by 1.2 mills is estimated to cost the average residential property owner in Buena Vista from $4 to $5 per month.
Usage of the Buena Vista library is at an all-time high and the building is at capacity. The population it serves has grown 27 percent since the existing building opened.
Most people don’t realize that it is the only open-access building in the northern half of Chaffee County. Public libraries are one of the few public services that serve all age demographics at the same time.
The current library facility was originally built in 2005. The northwest portion of that construction was intended to have a second floor.
While the structural footings were put in place, the second floor wasn’t built. If expansion is approved, the construction of that second floor atop the existing books and reference area would add 4,300 square feet of additional space. That investment would allow the library district to maintain existing services and meet a growing public demand for resources, space, and services.
In the five years from 2019- 2023, the fiscal year spending has gone up 47 percent, indicating a growing public demand for services. The library district programming is at — and many point out it is past — capacity.
If approved, construction would take place in 2026, and the library district would need to lease space during the closure to maintain both their essential and high-demand services.
To meet increased public demand, the library district says that approval of the ballot question would allow it to:
- Renovate and expand the existing building including the construction of a larger children’s space and a second floor to accommodate more resources and areas for public use including study rooms and meeting/classroom space.
- Provide space to expand the collection of books, e-books, media, digital media, and other high-demand materials.
- Increase educational training and programming for youth, adults, and teens. The library district points out that training will include technology training (which metro-area library districts with larger facilities already offer to support their communities).
The Pros and the Cons of Ballot Issue 6A
Those who support this ballot issue cite many positive aspects of this ballot question:
- The library serves people at all stages of life: serving as an early childhood learning center for families and childcare providers (and a safe afterschool destination for children), and for adults it’s a place to study, research, and meet.
- The library is a community gathering spot that is welcoming to all; libraries are one of the few remaining open-access public spaces that have no charge for entry.
- The library helps businesses and nonprofits; not only providing a place to meet, but librarians’ role in assisting businesses to access a range of information and resources that supports the local economic climate.
- The library’s extensive programming across all age demographics adds to the quality of life of northern Chaffee County, and the addition of more space will allow the library to continue to expand its programming.
- The community continues to express the desire for more and varied selection of books and materials, more library events and classes and more resources; none of which can be satisfied unless the library is expanded.
- With construction costs rising, the original building construction that anticipated future needs will save approximately $10 million in construction costs, and adding energy-saving heating and cooling will reduce future operating costs.
Some see negative impacts from addressing the needs of the Northern Chaffee County Library District. They include:
- Those against any expansion of property taxes say that the estimates of tax increases are just that – estimates — and all-to-often construction costs exceed estimations.
- Naysayers point out that the library expansion only addresses growth over the next 20 years, meaning the county will be faced with continuing requests to support growth in the future.
- Others point to the temporary relocation of library resources while construction takes place as needlessly disruptive to community life.
- Some, who apparently have not felt the need to access library services, believe they should not as property owners be forced to contribute to community public services.
For more about the proposed library expansion, including space use and program delivery improvements follow this link.