Magazine article American Libraries

A Tax by Any Other Name

Magazine article American Libraries

A Tax by Any Other Name

Article excerpt

For library officials trapped in a world of tax-limitation measures and shrinking millages, it may seem self-defeating to eye other state-level revenue generators as viable alternative funding sources. But for a handful of libraries across the country, government fees assessed on other types of personal property, as well as business transactions, have provided underfunded programs with much-needed cash infusions.

* Since 1995, Florida officials in each of the state's eligible 67 counties select a cultural institution to receive the locally collected proceeds of "State of the Arts" license-plate sales. In 1997, St. Johns County Public Library was among the libraries lucky enough to be so designated by its county commissioners, entitling the library to a $15,000 windfall as of December to supplement its $2.08-million budget.

The funds, which amount to $17.49 per $32 specialty plate, will garner some $7,500 annually for the five-branch system, Library Director Mary Jane Little told American Libraries. Little will spend the unexpected revenue on materials, and also plans to form an ad hoc citizens advisory committee to suggest arts programming the library could not otherwise have afforded.

* Predating the Florida scheme by two years is Illinois' "Live and Learn" program, which deposits a percentage of every Land of Lincoln automobile license-plate renewal into a state-level supplemental funding pool (AL, July/Aug. 1993, p. 606). The state librarian makes grant awards totaling some $18.9 million annually to public and school libraries for construction, automation, and collection-development projects, as well as per capita grants.

Lauded by libraries statewide, "Live and Learn" spawned "Educate and Automate" in 1996, a similar library grant program funded by a percentage of fees collected from three types of business licenses. "Educate and Automate" is expected to generate $1 million each year for family-literacy initiatives based in libraries as well as in participants' workplaces and in community organizations, and another $4 million for technology initiatives.

* 1996 was also the year mobile-home residents in Sussex County, Delaware, began supporting the area's 11 public libraries through a one-time placement fee equal to 1% of their vehicle's value. …

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