Proposed bill could make Iowa library tax levies optional

Proposed Bill would make library tax levies optional in Iowa

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(ABC 6 News) – A new bill proposed in the Iowa state senate could affect funding of local libraries.

State law currently mandates cities and counties give .675% of a cent per $1,000 of city property taxes to the libraries.

A small, but critical change of wording would give local Iowa governments the power to decide for themselves whether to direct a portion of property taxes in support of public libraries.

Senate Study Bill 3131 replaces the word “shall” with “may,” making the tax levy optional, if passed.

“Most people and local governments are happy with their library and the services they provide; I don’t see a massive change here,” said Iowa State Senator Jesse Green (R), author SSB 3131 and Chair of the Local Government Committee.

However, librarians worry the proposed changes would drastically affect their operations.

“I can’t imagine what kind of library service we could offer without the levy,” said Mary Markwalter, Director of the Mason City Public Library.

In Mason City, 10% of the library’s budget comes from the tax levy, which Markwalter says pays for quite a few library employees’ salaries.

If the city doesn’t maintain funding, it could cause MCPL to cut some essential services.

“This is gonna be very difficult.  It will shrink, our hours will be reduced, our collections will be greatly reduced,” said Markwalter.

Local governments say, with recent changes in property taxes, they need more flexibility over this money.

“Just empowering local governments to make these decisions for themselves,” said Green.

These city governments hope the law change would open discussions about how their communities want their tax dollars spent.

The bill is up for subcommittee hearing Monday at 2 p.m. at the Iowa state capitol.

All Iowans are welcome to comment at the hearing in person or by zoom.