Tax for new libraries too much, initial survey says

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 | 12:44 p.m. CST; updated 9:08 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Preliminary survey results show that the proposed cost of two branch libraries and distrust of the library board were two of the main reasons behind the failure of an April ballot measure.

The survey also found satisfaction with existing services and interest in expanding weekend hours in libraries operated by the Daniel Boone Regional Library system that includes Columbia, Boone and Callaway counties.

More than 73 percent of voters in the April 3 election opposed a 21-cent increase in taxes for property owners in the Boone County Library District to finance the construction of branch libraries in Ashland and at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Concerned about this overwhelming response, library officials paid the ETC Institute $25,000 to survey voters on their use of library services, satisfaction with these services and reasons why they supported or opposed the ballot issue.

Chris Tatham, vice-president of ETC Institute, told the Daniel Boone Regional Library Election Review Committee on Monday that the amount of the proposed tax increase was the main reason why the proposal lost by such a large margin.

“Cost is really the big issue,” Tatham said. “They weren’t willing to pay what you were asking of them. Even if they trusted you, they wouldn’t approve it.”

Among the respondents opposed to the ballot measure:

  • Sixty-one percent strongly agreed or agreed that construction costs for the projects were too high.
  • Sixty percent strongly agreed or agreed that “taxes are already too high.”
  • Forty percent strongly agreed they don’t trust the library board because of past decisions.

When all survey respondents were asked whether they would consider voting in favor of a new proposal for “new or improved library programs and facilities,” 33 percent replied yes; 22 percent said probably; and 24 percent said maybe.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed said they would be “very likely” or “likely” to approve an 8-cent tax increase for new or improved library programs and facilities.

Tom Richards, board chairman, said he found the survey helpful.

“The data reinforced the library’s need for more hours on the weekends,” Richards said.

He also said that the survey results would help in creating a strategic plan for the future.

“I’m very pleased we’re going to have good data to move forward with,” Richards said.

The initial findings indicate those surveyed were satisfied with the library’s existing facilities and services.

“There is very little dissatisfaction,” Tatham said.

He advised library officials to focus on the public’s desire to see expanded weekend hours before planning for branch libraries. “I would advise you to expand operations and wait on the expansion of facilities,” Tatham told the committee.

He stressed that the results were preliminary and that quality control checks have not been done on the data. The survey, which was only meant to poll registered voters, mistakenly included 100 or so responses from people who were not registered to vote, he said. The final survey results will resolve these issues.

The survey reached more than 1,200 households, with at least 400 surveys completed in each of the three library districts: Columbia, Boone County and Callaway County. The Columbia Library District is limited to the 1965 city limits.

Ten percent of the surveys were completed by mail, with the majority completed over the phone.

The final report is scheduled to be presented on Dec. 13.

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