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local library threat

The governor of Indiana has formed a committee to look into consolidating local government units in order to save on property taxes. I do not know why he bothered: The committee will certainly recommend abolishing the township and merge as many government units as it can, starting with the libraries — ideas which local Republicans have been bouncing around for the past couple of years. (I suspect those Republicans would be joining the Libertarian Party if they could still stay in office.)

The committee would ask for a merger of library districts into an all-county district. It is my opinion, both as a private citizen and as secretary of the Fairmount library board, that this would be a disaster for Fairmount. We are trying to grow out of our current library and modernize in the process, and all without issuing bonds that would further burden the town. If our library district disappears and Fairmount's library become a mere branch of the Marion Library, all our work would be in vain.

Also, as the current library is very small, in a merged district our branch would be among the first to close under pressure to save on taxes. This would be a serious blow to Fairmount's efforts to improve itself both economically and culturally. Its citizens would have no connection to the Marion Library (it's in Marion, so why should they care?) apart from paying taxes for it. Fairmount would resist any attempt by the Marion Library to expand or do anything else that would raise those taxes. And so would towns like Upland and Swayzee with similarly small libraries, and places like Green Township with no library service at all. Marion Library as a result would have to expend more funds for such outreach efforts as bookmobiles in order to bond with those alienated communities on the county periphery. These, in turn, would ensure that property taxes for libraries would grow or remain high, frustrating any attempt at tax savings.

It is not likely that library district merger would ever take place in Grant County. Gas City and the surrounding county would resist it. And Marion, with its economic pull diminished over the past quarter century and with fewer people than the rest of the county, would not be able to force the issue. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to attack this issue while it is in the committee stage. As reform in theory would mean destruction in practice, the only sensible solution for the moment is to do nothing. Let the library districts in Grant Country be.

The committee is a distraction in any case. Grant County is already doing its part to reduce property taxes and to resist calls to expand county services. What we should be asking is why the state assessor's office has chosen to apply property tax criteria for Indianapolis on the rest of the state, and on the depressed Grant County in particular.


I used the text of this entry as a basis for a proposed article or editorial letter to the local papers. The local library board wanted such a letter, and I decided to spare the librarian the effort. She has enough on her plate already, and I wanted to make up for showing up a half-hour late.

I also used the article text for a "fight library consolidation" page on my Fairmount Web site. Both contain instructions on how to contact the Committee this month, and state representatives next month, to stop any attempt at consolidation. Here is the address and links to the Committee so that you can contact them:

Committee on Local Government Reform
Center on Urban Policy and the Environment
334 North Senate Avenue, Suite 300
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-1708

or by e-mail at . HCard in Page

Posted on the Dysmey Blog on 8 November 2007.