Director Says Surplus from Davenport Library Levy Protects City Taxpayers and Services Print
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 12 July 2005 18:00
A special levy that will fund the operational costs of two new branch libraries in Davenport is expected to produce a cumulative surplus of more than $791,000 by 2013. But library and city officials say the surplus is necessary to protect the city budget from absorbing a greater portion of construction costs, which would likely force cuts in city services. Furthermore, they say, if the surplus materializes, it will allow the library to expand services or pay for additional materials.

The groundbreaking for the first branch, on the city’s northwest side, was held in early May. If the weather remains favorable for construction, completion is expected by Thanksgiving, said Davenport Public Library Director LaWanda Roudebush.

The total cost of construction for both branches is $13.5 million, or approximately $6.7 million per building. Thus far, the city has made a commitment to provide $8.4 million, which will come out of its Capital Improvement Projects budget, and $300,000 will come from the levy before the surplus. The remaining $4.8 million will be provided by the Friends of the Davenport Library, which has been able to raise $2.13 million so far and hopes to acquire the rest before the second branch is completed. The Friends’ public capital campaign is just getting started, Roudebush said.

An additional $300,000 for construction costs would be supplemented from the library levy in case the Friends of the Davenport Library falls short of its goal to acquire $4.8 million. Roudebush said that arrangement was negotiated in August 2003 among the library’s board of directors, the city, and the Friends.

The first branch will be located at 3000 North Fairmont Street in northwest Davenport, and the second branch is scheduled to be built by 2009 in north-central Davenport on 54th Street.

Roudebush said that once the first branch is opened, the outdated, smaller Annie Wittenmyer branch at 2804 Eastern Avenue will be closed. “The current library branch at Annie Wittenmyer was meant as a temporary solution and has been used for more than 25 years,” she said.

The Davenport library’s 2005 budget is approximately $2.65 million. With a rate of 27 cents for every $1,000 in assessed property valuation, the levy will bring in approximately $822,000, or roughly 38 percent of the library’s 2005 budget. As a result, the library will have an operating surplus this year of more than $310,000.

Furthermore, a study of the library’s operational budget for next decade showed that by the year 2013, the cumulative surplus will have increased to more than $791,000, or $491,000 if the Friends organization falls short of its fundraising target.

The surplus would be used to enhance the libraries’ collections and services, said Alan Guard, Davenport’s budget manager. “There’s nothing nefarious here except careful planning,” he said.

The special library levy, which was approved by voters in November 2003, was targeted to make some improvements at the downtown library, but its primary purpose is to provide money, staffing, collections, and maintenance for the two new branches. “We wouldn’t be able to build the new branches without the levy,” Roudebush said. “We are counting on the city to help make the two new branches possible.”

In addition to funding the new branches, Roudebush said, money from the levy will be used for services that need to be enhanced or have been cut. For example, she said, the library has used some of the levy money to pay the expense of having the main branch open on Sundays from January through April this year.

The elimination of Sunday hours was only one of the service cuts the Davenport library endured because of reduced funding from the city in 2003, before the levy was in place. The reductions also forced the library to end the bookmobile service and cut three full-time equivalent (FTE) positions out of the 48 at the library that year.

Roudebush, who became director of the Davenport library in May 2001, said that since the levy was passed, the library has been able to add five FTEs in preparation for the first branch’s opening and anticipates the downtown library being open on Sundays from October 2005 through April 2006.

Roudebush said the levy will also be used to cover other costs, such as paying for increases in operational and maintenance costs for all three buildings in the years to come, assisting the main library with its collection, and purchasing new high-tech equipment to keep up with the ever-changing technology over the next decade.

The new libraries are meant to meet the growing demand for library services in the areas where the branches will be built, which a “population projection” study done by Stanley Consultants in 2002 referred to as population centers. According to the study, those will be the best locations to service Davenport’s anticipated population growth over the next 20 years. “All three of the libraries will be in locations where anyone who wants to go to one will only have to drive five or six miles to get there,” Roudebush said.

Roudebush said she also hopes the new branches will help compensate for the downtown branch’s lack of parking, which has been an ongoing problem. Currently, parking for the library downtown is limited to some spots on Fourth and Main streets, which have parking meters, and a small parking lot on the corner of Brady and Fourth streets. The new branches are expected to have approximately 85 parking spaces each; the Annie Wittenmyer library has two parking spaces with 20-minute limits.

The branches will also offer customers access to more high-tech equipment and special places to meet that are not currently available at the two existing libraries. Some of the features will include wireless computers, a teen lounge, electronic reference resources, community meeting rooms, a coffee shop, and a drive-through pickup window.