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Provo City Council calls for tax-hike hearing as library seeks revenue increase

By Curtis Booker - | Jun 19, 2024

Curtis Booker, Daily Herald

The outside of the Provo City Library is shown Thursday, June 13, 2024.

The Provo City Library serves as a community space for reading, internet access, social connection and educational services. Citizens touted these resources and much more during the public comment period at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. However, inflation, needed building maintenance and operating costs have left the library with a significant financial shortfall in revenue, officials say.

Because of that, the library board is asking for a budget increase for fiscal year 2025 of $500,000.

Since roughly 87% of the library’s revenue is dedicated funding from property tax, the requested boost would mean an average home in Provo valued at $450,000 would pay roughly $11.16 a year more in taxes.

On Tuesday, Provo City Council members voted 6-1 in favor of holding a truth-in-taxation hearing Aug. 13. A vote on the final budget will happen one week later. The tentative budget is just under $293 million.

Up until the 2023 budget season, the library had not requested a revenue increase in over 20 years. Costs were able to be sustained due to savings accumulated after moving into the current Academy building in the early 2000s, Library Director Carla Gordon told the Daily Herald. “The library pulled funds from our ending fund balance to cover the deficit each year and we have been slowly decreasing that savings account,” she said.

Last August, the council approved an increase of $100,000 a year that was intended to continue for the next five years.

“Unfortunately, several of our tax revenue estimates came in low two years in a row and we were hit with some very expensive building maintenance projects that could not be postponed,” Gordon said. “Add inflation to the situation and we could see that our plan for small increases over a number of years would put the library in a very financially precarious place.”

The initial budgeted deficit presented for fiscal year 2025 was $800,000, according to Gordon. To address the financial challenges, the library looks to shave $300,000 off its services. “These cuts included decreasing our purchasing for collections, limiting some programs and eliminating some of our more expensive resources,” Gordon explained.

Which leaves the institution with a $500,000 revenue shortfall.

Even if the increase were to be approved, Councilman George Handley said a longer-term solution likely would need to be solved at some point to keep up with inflation. “I don’t personally see any solution to it that doesn’t include a boost this year and a regular boost every year to the property tax source, because that’s 87% of their budget,” he said.

Councilwoman Rachel Whipple pointed to the impacts of the many years the library went without a tax increase. “(It) means for years they’ve been doing more with less aid or they’ve been dipping into the savings, which is good when you’ve got a lot of savings. But at some point you’re like, we do not have a lot of savings anymore,” she said.

The 2025 budget initially was proposed without any tax increases.

Councilman Craig Christensen said he wants to continue the conversation regarding a solution for the library without dismissing potential financial impacts to Provo residents.

“I still have a responsibility to be fiscally careful about how the taxes are used, even $1, I know it sounds like, well, it’s just a dollar. And if everyone loads on $1, taxes go up. I’m sensitive to that,” Christensen said.

The matter has gained a large amount of public input, with over 230 email comments on both sides of the issue and over a dozen people who appeared in person to weigh in at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We have also been incredibly touched by the outpouring of support we’ve received from our community,” Gordon said in an emailed statement to the Daily Herald.

The council could choose to approve the increase up to $450,000, a slightly lower rate, or no boost at all.

Ultimately, a decision on the matter will be decided in August.

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