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Financially stressed, Richards Library seeks public support

Ellsworth family members (left to right): Kara, 10. Trevor, 9, and mother Peggy Ellsworth check out books from Warrrensburg's Richards Library, with the help of librarian Barbara Whitford.

Ellsworth family members (left to right): Kara, 10. Trevor, 9, and mother Peggy Ellsworth check out books from Warrrensburg's Richards Library, with the help of librarian Barbara Whitford. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Facing a financial squeeze while continuing to provide services for the region, Richards Library is seeking public funding through a regional tax levy.

For more than a century, Richards Library has been operating on the interest from its original endowment.

But in the last 30 years, it has been spending a portion of its endowment for operations, as heating fuel and other costs have soared, while the library’s income from the endowment decreased. it has been estimated that if the library were to continue spending down its endowment, it would last only 12 years or so.

Also, the library’s new wing, built several years ago with private donations and grant money, has never been completed. The expansion project, originally budgeted at $500,000 was put on hold when the project cost increased beyond the ability of the library board to fund the remaining work without a burden on the library’s operating budget. Already, $600,000 has been spent on the expansion project, and completing the work is estimated to cost about $600,000, including providing needed furniture, computers and information technology equipment.

So the library board has proposed, as provided for in state law, to establish a $98,100 tax levy on the residents within the Warrensburg School District, which is virtually identical to their service area. A vote on the levy is now set for May, when the Warrensburg school budget goes up for a vote.

Although the amount would, if approved, be listed as a separate charge on the school tax bill, it is not a part of the school taxes. It is a separate levy allowed by state law, particularly for private libraries like Richards Library, that serve the public.

Library officials have estimated that this levy would cost 19 cents per thousand of assessed valuation on property owners’ tax bills.

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