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home : news : news Wednesday, December 13, 2017

10/11/2017 Email this articlePrint this article 
City gives go-ahead to library
Plans for other projects not yet ready for public referendum on bonding

By Larry Lough
Executive editor

Library expansion has the green light from city officials.

Extensive planning has given the project the "momentum" to proceed.

And plans for other city projects are not far enough along to share a public referendum question about funding through a bond sale.

The only thing holding back the project now is ... library officials.

"The library project is ready to go," city Administrator Steve Linder said Monday during a meeting of the city council and library board. "I'm not trying to put it on you; it's [about] when is the best opportunity to get a 'yes' vote.

"What is your schedule? The library board needs to set their schedule and move ahead."

Library Director Jillian Aschliman said the library's next step would be a meeting with the project task force on Nov. 1. That meeting will include people who have indicated they are ready to donate toward the expansion.

"I suspect we'll have a better idea in the next month or so," she said.

But she earlier had asked city officials about plans for their other multimillion-dollar capital projects - a new fitness center, an addition to the fire department, and a new street department shop.

City officials have discussed whether a bond issue for the library should be combined with other projects to make only one request for voter approval.

But Lindner said planning for those other projects was well behind the library.

"We're not far enough along, unless you guys slow down," he said. "We cannot get in the way of the library."

'Political process' ahead

Library officials have had several open meetings, design workshops, and a public survey in their planning for an expansion of Frances Banta Waggoner Community Library. Preliminary plans call for a $5.7 million project, with $3.5 million coming from a bond sale that must win voter approval. The rest would come from grants and fundraising.

City financial adviser Tim Oswald of Des Moines said he figured a $3.5 million bond issue would raise the tax rate by almost a dollar for every $1,000 of assessed property value. That would translate to about $51 a year for the owner of a home with a $100,000 market value.

But Lindner explained that some of that might be absorbed by the city's "usual debt service" rate, so the annual budget would not see all of that as an addition to the levy.

And growth in the city's overall assessed value would bring down the rate over time, he said.

Oswald spent several minutes discussing a campaign to win public support for a bond referendum.

"You have to view it as a political process," he said. "You have to put your political hat on and say, 'How do I get this through?'"

He advised a focus on winning "yes" votes with facts about the project, urging proponents not to "waste your time" trying to change minds of "no" voters.

"Don't ask about taxes," he said. "Nobody votes yes for tax increases."

Instead, he suggested that the public campaign answer two questions: "Why this? Why now?"

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