Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): I'll Have What the Library Board Is Smoking

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I'll Have What the Library Board Is Smoking

When members of the Johnson County Library Board arrive at meetings, are they offered bowls of crack? It's a legitimate question in light of the board's early plans to construct a library palace in Shawnee.

The board announced its preliminary 33,000 square-feet design last week. The two-story monstrosity would cost taxpayers $18.1 million.

This is insanity. Let's take a quick walk through recent history. Back in 2012, the library board threatened to close the Edgerton Library. That library, built on the backs and private donations of Edgerton citizens and in honor of a kid that died from cancer, was set to be closed due to insufficient funds. It cost the library system $19,000 to run that library for an entire year. It cost $605,000 to maintain the Oak Park Library and $316,000 to run the Cedar Roe Library.

Less than 4 years ago, the library board threatened to close a $19,000 facility for lack of funds and somehow today, the library has miraculously dug enough coins out of the sofa cushions to build a monstrous, glass, two-story building in Shawnee.

If you're not outraged by this run on the wallets of taxpayers, you're simply not paying attention. When times are good, we spend like sailors on three-day leave, and then hike taxes to maintain the excessive spending in the future. It's gotten out of hand! 

I love a good library, but most Americans don't go to the library in any given year. Pew Research estimates that 48 percent of Americans will set foot in a library in any 12 month period. (And that number continues to fall every year as more and more people turn to digital. And this seems like a good place to note that digital books, which I don't really like by the way, take up far less space than paper and hardbacks.)

If the library charged a user fee, and every single Johnson Countian visited the new library in one year, the user fee would have to be about $32 per library visit to pay it off in a year. But since only about half of the county would actually visit, the user fee would need to be $64. Even when you spread that user fee over 20 years, the likely repayment period on the bonds to build the new library, that would require a user fee of $3.20 per person per visit to the library.

And that's assuming that every person who was going to visit a library in Johnson County each year visited the new Monticello branch. I can't find numbers of how many people that library would supposedly serve, but my math assumes that all of those visitors (approximately half of JoCo's 566,933 people) would still show up knowing they had to pay an admittance fee of $3.20, AND that admittance fee doesn't even touch the cost to operate and staff the building or pay interest on the bonds.

The math simply doesn't work. I can't believe anyone of sound mind is even entertaining this ridiculous library design proposal, especially considering that two-thirds of Americans who make between $50,000 and $100,000 couldn't come up with $1,000 to cover an emergency. But good news! The county is taking 14 percent more in property taxes each year, thanks to the county commission's insane tax increase last year. Johnson Countians may not be able to fund a medical emergency or pay for a car repair, but they'll have a swanky new library.

Something has to be done about outrageous spending problem in Johnson County. 

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