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Library Bond Refinancing Wins Solid Approval

 The library tax for the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will both decrease and go on longer after voters approved a bond refinancing plan by an 86-14 percent margin.

The week-long voting period ended yesterday. Only about 4,400 went to the polls.

The library tax will drop by one-tenth-of-one-mil to .9 mil, but revenue is expected to increase by $15 million to $17 million because the life of the tax is extended by four years.

"It's the kind of issue that's relatively easier to get done compared to an absolute tax increase," said CALS Executive Director Bobby Roberts. "Still, 86 percent is an overwhelming positive vote on it, which we're glad to see."

The increased revenue will go for building upgrades, primarily at the Brown, Fletcher and Thompson library branches. 

Between $5.5 million and $7.5 million will be used to expand library collections--including e-books and digital material--as well as upgrading computer equipment.

"I think the core of what's useful to the patrons will be the money that's spent on automation, book collections and upgrades to the internet," Roberts said.

CALS has already retained an architect for the new construction and remodeling, but they have mapped out only general plans so far. Roberts said bids won't be let for those projects for at least 90 days.

While the life of the tax is now scheduled to run until 2032, Roberts says the fact that library bonds have mandatory payoffs, which pay down the debt when surpluses accumulate, means the number of years will be reduced by about 25 percent.

"For every dollar that's paid back to the bond holders, there'll actually be about a dollar and 35 cents collected in taxes," Roberts said. "It's probably going to take eight or nine years off of it."

Roberts said CALS use has increased significantly in recent decades. Now, about 60 percent of Pulaski County residents have library cards.

David Wallace was a reporter and anchor for UA Little Rock Public Radio from 1991 to March 2021.
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