Tuesday, July 17, 2007 | Scott Lewis makes an important point about libraries: Why even think about building them, if the city cannot staff them? He also correctly illustrates the connection between using redevelopment tax increment funds for construction and the lack of funding to meet payroll. Downtown and CCDC, however, are not the only situations where this absurdity applies. The city is looking at similar plans for Grantville.

One of the multiple pretenses for pushing the Grantville redevelopment project is to capture tax increment (the new property tax revenues diverted to the Redevelopment Agency after the establishment of the project area), so that this revenue stream could be used to finance the construction of a new branch library in Allied Gardens. For the 45-year duration of the Grantville redevelopment project the city will be limited to the same amount of property tax revenue as it collected in 2005. About 25 percent of the city’s general fund revenue comes from property tax. The general fund pays the librarians’ salaries. The result is obvious — the Redevelopment Agency can build it, but the city cannot staff it. And for every dollar diverted to the Redevelopment Agency as tax increment, it becomes even less likely that the city can staff it. This same dichotomy applies to police stations and police, to firehouses and firefighters, and to streets and street workers.

Really, rather than looking to build libraries, city leaders should be taking a close look at all the redevelopment project areas. They should determine which of these are truly blighted and which redevelopment projects are truly worth the expense to the general fund. The sooner the city stops the redevelopment projects that are not needed, the sooner the city can shore up its finances. Only then should the city think about building libraries, and only then will the city be able to afford to staff them.

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