Library director: Expansion costs less than estimate says

By Corene Brisendine

The Manhattan Public Library’s top official said Friday a proposed expansion of that facility will cost property taxpayers significantly less than originally reported.

Linda Knupp, the library’s director, said the impact of a levy increase proposed for use to fund the expansion project will be about $70 over the next 10 years for the owner of an average $175,000 house, or about $7 per year.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting where rezoning of the library was approved, commissioners expressed concern that the library might raise its levy by more than it plans to do in order to fund the expansion. Currently, the library operates on 4.3 mill levy, although it is allowed to levy up to six mills.  Beyond that is added a .932 mill levy to fund employee benefits. That brings the total levy for the library to 5.241 mills.

The library board has requested the city loan the library $2.125 million in order to build the expansion, with the library paying about $800,000 through private donations. The remaining portion of the loan has been proposed by the library to come out of a .335 mill increase in the operating levy, which would climb to 4.635 mills. That .335 mill increase is what translates to the $7 annual additional cost.

Some commissioners sought a signed financial agreement committing the library to keep the combined operating and employee benefit levies under the 6 mill cap.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners were concerned that the library operating costs would increase beyond the 6 mill cap because the .335 mill increase does not include additional operating costs such as heating and cooling the larger space.

Knupp said that she did not perceive those costs going up significantly due to installing more efficient forms of lighting, heating and cooling.

The second concern commissioners brought before the public was the employee benefits cost. While the operating costs have a 6 mill limit, the employee benefits do not. That means the library could potentially go beyond 6 mills in operation costs and employee benefits.

Knupp said that while the employee benefits are not subject to the cap, she does not perceive the total costs of the library exceeding the 6 mill levy over the course of the loan, but she is not enthusiastic about signing a contract with the city guaranteeing the library’s total costs will not go above the limit set on operating costs alone.

She is however, confident that the operating costs for the library will remain well below the 6 mill limit, although she acknowledged those costs at the end of the 10-year period will be close to the 6 mill cap.









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