ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)--What began as a non-partisan ballot issue drew partisan fire Tuesday. The St. Louis County Republican Central Committee announced it voted unanimously to urge voters to oppose an increase in the St. Louis County Library property tax.
The library system includes twenty libraries and offers a wide range of services from reference books to e-books and movies and video games. Residents in all but nine county municipalities will vote in November on whether to approve a six cent hike in the library tax from twenty-cents to twenty-six cents. ( The nine communities have their own municipal libraries.) The extra 11 million dollars a year would be used to fund new services as well as major renovation projects over the next decade.
If approved by a simple majority it would be the first tax hike for the St. Louis County Library in 30 years. Supporters say aging buildings in the system no longer offer the flexibility and electrical power needed to fuel today's electronic and internet equipment. Heating and cooling systems are getting harder to repair as they age.
"We have a lot of facilities that were built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s so they are just approaching the end of their design life," said Library Director Charles Pace. Buildings like the Tesson Ferry branch built in the late 1950s would be too expensive to renovate. Pace offered this example: "If you want to put in a new outlet you have to trench through the concrete floor."
The 56 member GOP Central Committee chose to voice its opposition because of a philosophical difference that Pace said dated to 2008. Pace said he was surprised by the disagreement which he thought had been settled with a compromise. Republicans point to complaints from some parents and Missouri State Senator Jane Cunningham over whether parents should be able to limit the books their children access in the library.
Bruce Buwalda, chair of the GOP Central Committee, said the committee felt the library did not listen to parents who complained about "sexually explicit" books. "We don't want them banned," Buwalda said asking instead that parents be required to give permission before the students could check out the books.
"This is a perfect opportunity to get the library's attention by saying vote no on Proposition "L" on a six cent tax increase; that's why we voted," Buwalda said.
The County Republicans also voted to oppose a measure in St. Louis City that would give St. Louis local control over its police department. Some said St. Louis City no longer operates under a two party system and if the city controlled the police department some "police control" would wind up in the Democrats' hands.