One of the new members the Metro Council just appointed to serve on the East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control lobbied the Library Board last month to seek a property tax increase — an increase Council members have said was ill-advised .
Many Metro Council members have slammed the Library Board for requesting an election for an 11.1 mills property tax — the same amount that voters approved in the last two election cycles. The tax has been rolled back to 10.78 mills as property values have increased, and the new tax would mean a higher bill for property owners.
Two of the Library Board members who supported the higher tax are finishing their terms and the Metro Council replaced them on Wednesday. But instead of appointing staunch anti-tax advocates, the council appointed Kathy Wascom, who previously worked for the library system, and Donald Luther Jr., a local businessman who owns a driving school.
Two other more openly conservative, anti-tax candidates — Rick Bond and J Hudson — were nominated for the positions but did not receive enough votes.
Wascom’s appointment seems to conflict with the position Metro Councilman John Delgado took just a day before the meeting.
“I’m not voting to reappoint anyone that supported increasing our taxes,” Delgado said then.
Wascom helped persuade the Library Board last month to not lower its proposed tax in the fall 2015 election. And Delgado is one of the seven council members who voted for Wascom to sit on the Library Board.
“Now that the library system is on solid financial footing, it is not the time to decrease its income,” Wascom told the Library Board in March. “…You don’t want to diminish the library. We have worked so hard to create a wonderful, wonderful library.”
Wascom and Luther will replace longtime Library Board members Tanya Freeman and Stan Bardwell. Wascom regularly attends Library Board meetings and often shows up at Metro Council meetings and planning and zoning meetings as well.
Delgado said Thursday he knew Wascom was qualified for the Library Board position and that she has been a longtime advocate for the library. He said Wascom’s views on the library’s budget may change now that she is an appointed official on the board.
“The distinction is of course that she was speaking as private citizen, not as a member of the library board,” he said about her asking the Library Board to reject a tax decrease.