The Johnson County Library Board will ask for full funding of a 20-year master plan that will keep the libraries at Cedar Roe, Antioch and Corinth in place on their current sites. Full funding – as of Thursday – was believed to require a 1.151 increase in the mill levy for the library over the 20-year period.
However, the conclusion of the Kansas legislative session may cause complications with the financial plan to expand the libraries, in particular provisions to put a cap on local property tax increases and to end sales tax exemptions for county governments.
The board Thursday approved a “Request for Additional Resources” that will be presented to the county commissioners next week. The RAR projects the mill levy increase would raise more than $8 million in 2016 and is designed to fully fund the project which is valued at close to $400 million over its 20-year implementation.
The future of Cedar Roe and Antioch had been a point of controversy with the board, but that appears to be resolved. In a special board meeting in late May, the board voted 5-2 to accept a plan presented by its consultants without any changes. That plan called for no libraries to be closed and for both Antioch and Cedar Roe to be rebuilt or renovated on their current sites. Corinth also was recommended for a rebuild in its current location.
An older library facilities plan proposed that Antioch and Cedar Roe be combined. The communities surrounding those libraries have lobbied to keep both of them open. When the master plan was presented in early May, a few board members from outside northeast Johnson County suggested the two should still be combined. The master plan was approved, but with a provision that the board be allowed flexibility – language targeting the future of the two NEJC libraries.
The special meeting removed that rider and approved the new master plan without change. A memo to the county read Thursday by Library Director Sean Casserley said the library now considers the previous capital facilities plan “obsolete” and that the new comprehensive master plan is the working document until a capital replacement plan can be completed that reflects the master plan provisions.
The memo reads, in part: “The Library Board now considers the CRP presented on March 28th 2015 to the Capital Improvement Committee to be obsolete. Specifically, the consolidation of Antioch and Cedar Roe and the expansion of the Shawnee Library are no longer included in the Comprehensive Library Master Plan and will not be part of the revised CRP. The newly adopted Comprehensive Library Master Plan specifies that both the Antioch and Cedar Roe libraries will continue to exist in their current communities and that there is no plan for expansion at the Shawnee location.”
That still gives the board the ability to choose priorities on which library construction projects are completed first in the 20-year plan. The plan calls for modernizing 10 libraries on their current sites, adding two new branches, building a new operations center, and relocating and expanding three of the libraries.
The board also approved an operating budget for 2016 that calls for no tax rate increase. The library has not had any significant rate increase since 1994 and that increase was largely rolled back in 1999.