NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

May 15, 2013

Hidden costs of a public library


Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

The new construction proposed for the public library in Salisbury is going to be expensive. The total cost to taxpayers will be $7.5 million. Proponents of the project will try to convince the taxpayers of Salisbury that they are going to receive a $3.8 million discount. Look again. That discount comes from the state of Massachusetts where we all pay taxes. Communities around the state are all competing for similar “discounts,” but the reality is that we are all simply paying for each other’s discount in a cleverly rigged shell game.

There is no discount. The public library is going to cost us $7.5 million one way or another. These additional costs are already projected to increase the town’s operating budget. Town Manager Neil

Harrington has stated that these costs will be covered through increased revenues. That is, more taxes.

The proposed $7.5 million facility is a 17,000-square-foot, two-story building complete with a conference center. Once the new library is built, the costs do not stop. Every year the new library will

need to be recertified. According to Massachusetts General Law (M.G.L., c.78, s.19A) the new library will need to meet its Municipal Appropriation Requirement. This means that each year the budget for

library operations must be increased by 2.5 percent above the average of the previous three years appropriations.

That’s right. A mandatory budget increase. Every year.

The public library also costs money in other ways. Tourists who might seek out places to spend time on a hot afternoon could be spending money in our regional shops and restaurants instead of taxpayer-funded air-conditioning. A bookstore and coffee shop that would be paying employees and taxes is forced out by the presence of taxpayer-funded competition.

It is time to question the need for expensive public libraries. This is not an attack on libraries. Rather, a simple recognition that we do not need the government to improve and enrich our lives.

The need for public libraries is rapidly diminishing. Today information is far less expensive than it was even a generation ago. Public libraries, in recognition of this threat to their relevance, have sought ways to expand their mission beyond their traditional role of providing access to information.

Today the public library sees entertainment and socializing as a core part of its mission. Entertainment and socializing are indeed important aspects of community life. Forcing taxpayers to pay for entertainment and socializing is an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to achieve that end.

Matthew Talas

Salisbury