News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 14, 2011

Proposal would expand library service to all Parke residents

ROCKVILLE — Parke County residents are looking at the possibility of expanding full public library services within their county.

At a Tuesday night meeting in Rockville’s Ritz Theater, about 50 Parke County residents heard details about a proposal that would provide full library services to people living outside of Rockville and Montezuma – the two areas currently served by public libraries.

Currently, only property owners in the townships around Rockville and Montezuma are taxed to pay for those towns’ public libraries. The proposal discussed Tuesday would spread the tax burden to property owners in the broader county.

At present, Parke County residents living outside of the Rockville and Montezuma areas may use the libraries in those towns, but, in order to check out materials, they must purchase library cards. A Rockville card is $63 a year. The Montezuma card costs $35 a year.

If the current effort to expand library services is successful, all Parke County residents could receive library cards at no cost. However, property owners living in all areas of the county would then pay taxes to support the two library districts.

The governing library boards in Montezuma and Rockville are considering starting petition drives to expand the property tax bases of their institutions. To be successful, the petition drives would need the signatures of at least 20 percent of the registered voters in the areas that would become part of the library districts. Those petitions would also need to have more signatures than rival petitions aimed at stopping the library expansions.

Neither Rockville nor Montezuma plans to increase their library budgets if the petition drive is successful, said Cindy Hein, library director for the Rockville Public Library. The annual budget for the Rockville library is a little more than $400,000 and about $88,000 for the smaller Montezuma library.

Some residents at Tuesday’s meeting noted the effort would have an big impact on the county’s large farm owners. Because the libraries would be supported by property taxes, those owning large acreage farms could pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in additional property taxes each year, they said.

Others at the meeting said offering countywide library services would help people who cannot afford a library card under the current system and — by presenting a more “progressive” image — would help attract new residents and business to the county.

Speaking after the meeting, Jim Meece, a County Commissioner from the northern part of the county, said he is unsure whether the petition drive could be successful.

If successful, the proposal would retain two distinct library districts in Parke County — one based in Rockville and one based in Montezuma. A petition drive could be successful in one district and not in the other, which would mean only about half of the county would have full library services, Hein noted.

The goal of Tuesday’s meeting was to explain the situation and answer questions from the public, Hein said after the nearly 2-hour meeting. “I think we accomplished our goal.”

Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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