About the Library Levy Question - FAQ

What does the Library levy pay for?

Levy-generated revenues account for nearly 90 percent of the funding for operations at the Kansas City Public Library’s 10 locations and for the on-site and online services they provide – from early childhood literacy to outreach to the elderly and disabled, from access to computers and internet to civic and community engagement. The levy also maintains our collection of nearly 900,000 printed, video, audio, and digital items, and keeps our facilities running, up-to-date and safe.

Why is the Library asking for additional funding now?

The Kansas City Public Library last sought a levy increase 22 years ago – in 1996. Our I.H. Ruiz and Sugar Creek branches didn’t exist then. We had no designated spaces for early literacy or teen learning, didn’t provide internet access, didn’t yet have e-books and other digital materials, and offered only minimal adult programming. Today’s needs range further from additional librarians for computer training to the delivery of books and other Library materials to seniors and others who are homebound. Most of our branches are a quarter of a century old and behind on maintenance, let alone renovation.

Meanwhile, the Library’s revenues have remained relatively flat. Tax increment financing (TIF) and other abatements granted by the city to developers have cut significantly into Library levy proceeds – approximately $30 million over the past decade. Library levy income has consequently risen by less than 1 percent annually in that time, failing to keep up with inflation, and the Library’s board of trustees has determined that the current rate of funding no longer can keep pace with the Library’s basic needs and the community’s demand for its services.

How much money would the levy measure generate?

An 8-cent levy increase would provide $2.8 million annually. That is the approximate amount that the Library annually loses in levy proceeds because of tax increment financing (TIF) and other abatements.

What will passage of the Library Question mean?

The Library will keep pace with the growing, 21st-century needs of its community:

  • Expanding Library services for children, students, seniors, families, and others.
  • Extending Library hours, increasing access to our programs and materials.
  • Modernizing computers and other digital resources and expanding training.
  • Expanding outreach programs that extend computer and internet access and training to individuals, families, and neighborhoods.
  • Renovating or replacing aging Library branches.
  • Expanding our summer reading program for children and adults.
  • Continuing our nationally renowned public programming – author and public figure presentations, civic forums, cultural events.

What if the Library Question doesn’t pass?

The Library will have to make some difficult decisions potentially affecting the level of its services and the maintenance of facilities:

  • Acquiring fewer new materials and resources including books, movies, music, magazines, informational databases, and other research tools.
  • Cutting back Library hours, reducing access to computers, services, programs, and materials.
  • Scaling back technology updates and likely falling short in meeting our community’s growing digital needs.
  • Making only basic repairs and postponing renovations to facilities, which will further deteriorate.
  • Reducing outreach services and partnership development.

Who will vote?

All residents of the Kansas City Public Library Tax District are eligible to vote.

What would it cost me?

With an 8-cent levy increase, owners of a home with a market value of $75,000 would pay an additional 95 cents a month in property taxes (which are based on lower, assessed value). A further look:

Home Market Value Added Yearly Cost Added Monthly Cost
$75,000 $11.40 $0.95
$100,000 $15.20 $1.27
$150,000 $22.80 $1.90
$200,000 $30.40 $2.53
Taxes based on lower, assessed value

How much of my property tax bill goes to the Library?

Generally, it’s around 6 percent. It can be less, depending on what other taxes are being collected (for a community improvement or transportation development district, for example). An 8-cent increase in the Library levy would increase the total tax bill by less than 1 percent.

Is the Kansas City Public Library connected with the Mid-Continent Public Library, which got a levy increase last year?

No. They are two great – but entirely separate – library systems with separate service areas and separate tax bases. You may live in the Kansas City Public Library district and also use Mid-Continent, or vice versa, but you only pay taxes for one or the other. There is no tax overlap.

How do I weigh this tax measure against others that may be on the current or future ballots?

That is up to you. The Library levy is not a single-use tax as it is applied to a wide array of community needs, from the advancement of children’s and adult literacy to senior services and wider access to computers and the internet. Those services and programs touch many lives. And the levy is a not a regressive tax. Owners of more modest homes pay less; owners of higher-value homes pay slightly more.

How does the Library levy impact me if I’m not a homeowner?

The Kansas City Public Library and its array of services are free and open to all, regardless of whether someone owns a home and pays property taxes. Likewise, all residents of the Library Tax District are eligible to vote on the levy measure.

Are there alternatives to a levy increase?

The Library has worked to offset relatively flat overall revenues over the past decade by deferring maintenance and needed improvement of facilities, reducing its staff by nearly 7.5 percent through attrition, and relying more on donations and grants.

Temporary closures at three Library branches this past summer, all due to air conditioning issues, underscore the risks of delaying repairs and renovations, and we cannot further reduce staff without sacrificing services. The Library continues to explore other sources of revenue, but taxpayer dollars have been and will continue to be its primary source of revenue.

What if I have additional questions?

Email Carrie Coogan, the Library’s deputy director for public affairs and community engagement, at carriecoogan@kclibrary.org.