The East Baton Rouge Parish Library tax appears to have found enough favor with voters for another 10 years of full library system funding.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters voted in favor of the library tax while 42 percent voted against it.
The tax is all-or-nothing, and it makes up 98 percent of the library’s $40 million budget.
The tax on ballots was for 11.1 mills, which would increase tax bills for voters by a few to several extra dollars a year depending on the assessed value of their home.
The library system billed the tax as a renewal, but some outsiders dubbed it as an increase. Residents approved 11.1 mills library taxes ten years ago, but the tax had since been rolled back to 10.78 mills as property values have increased.
Baton Rouge residents with $200,000 homes and homestead exemption will now pay $138.75 annually, while those with $150,000 properties will pay $83.25 yearly. People with $250,000 properties will pay $194.25 a year.
Six months ago, some Metro Council members decried the library system for having too much money, saying the city had other needs where the library’s dedicated money might be better spent. In particular, some eyed the library’s pots of reserves that included tens of millions of dollars in cash balances. They asked why the system was asking for more money when it already had so much put away.
Library supporters countered that much of their reserve money was earmarked for new libraries, renovations and rainy days. They also said the library system was a rare example of a state of the art system in Baton Rouge, one that wins awards and provides educational opportunities for the affluent and impoverished alike.
Under pressure, Library Director Spencer Watts said in the spring that the system could survive on slightly less tax money. But the Library Board pushed ahead with a renewal at the 11.1 mills level, a tax that voters have approved for the last two decades.
Initially, many Many Metro Council members insisted that they would not allow the 11.1 mill tax, but ended up changing their mind during a June vote.
Controversy about the library’s tax had largely subsided by election day. A few dedicated opponents stuck by their calls to shrink the tax, but no formal opposition bubbled up to fight the renewal campaign.
The limited campaign had residents showing their support for the library’s funding with blue and yellow yard signs with the word “yes!” splashed across them. Library officials held public meetings to present more information and answer questions about the tax.
Local leaders like Rev. Raymond Jetson assured their support and asked others to get involved as well.
“The library, in many ways, has become Baton Rouge’s living room,” Jetson said.