Success in Central Arkansas Library System bond referendum is ‘gratifying,’ says executive director

The executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, at a board meeting Thursday, called the success of the library system’s property tax referendum in Little Rock two days earlier “a gratifying illustration of the

The executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, at a board meeting Thursday, called the success of the library system’s property tax referendum in Little Rock two days earlier “a gratifying illustration of the support from the community to the library”.

At the same time, Nate Coulter admitted that he had been a little worried.

In a special election in Little Rock on Tuesday that coincided with Arkansas’ nonpartisan primary judicial general election, about 68% of voters approved of the library system bond proposal.

Library officials had asked residents to approve a reduction in the Little Rock capital improvement mileage rate that supports the library system from 1.8 to 1.3 mills as well as bond refinancing.

Once voting began, people contacted Coulter and expressed some confusion, he said Thursday. They said they liked the library and never wanted to cut its taxes, but were told it was a good thing, Coulter recalled.

Likewise, reading the ballot itself, he remarked, “You could get lost in that.”

Nonetheless, Coulter said he “underestimates the intelligence, collectively, of voters and their commitment to the library because if you go back, since 1992 they have constantly renewed authority for bond issues capital enhancement, which is not something to be taken for granted.”

According to unofficial results from the Pulaski County Election Commission, the last referendum passed with 20,781 ballots in favor of the proposal out of 30,622 cast.

The refinancing of the outstanding bonds is expected to generate more than $22 million, which library officials want to use for interior renovations to the main library, acquisition of a bookmobile and more.

Tuesday’s ballot wording said the expanded and reduced mileage would be pledged to one or more bond issues of a maximum aggregate principal amount of $42 million.

Coulter estimated that the decision to refinance at the lower mileage rate will extend payments on the library system’s reissued bonds by two years, with the payoff expected to occur in eight years instead of six.

Earlier this week, Coulter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via email that timelines for planned improvements could vary. Remodeling of the main library may not begin until mid-2023, he said.

The decision to lower and expand the mileage was tied to another recent special election and a proportional change, albeit in the opposite direction, to a separate property tax.

Last November, approximately 71 percent of participating Little Rock voters approved of increasing the mileage rate that funds operations and maintenance of the library system from 3.3 mils to 3.8 mils.

Library officials requested the operating mile increase — the first such increase approved in Little Rock since 2007 — due to costs associated with new facilities and electronic materials as well as foregone bond revenue capital enhancement to cover materials. budget.

On Thursday, Coulter told board members that “we think we’ve been true to the commitment we made last year. We said, ‘If you give us a little more money to operate, we’ll give it back to you at the first chance we get.'”

He added that he felt good ‘to have delivered on that commitment and essentially put taxpayers back in the position they were in before they gave us the much-needed boost to our revenue. operating”.

Each mill equals the dollar amount of tax paid on every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Earlier at the library system board meeting, board treasurer Brandon Grice said three entities were being considered to serve as bond underwriters: Crews and Associates, Stephens Inc. and Carty and Company. .

Officials eventually recommended Crews serve as an underwriter for the 2022 bond issue, Grice said.

Grice as well as the library system’s chief financial officer, Jo Spencer, noted that the library system had used Stephens for three of the previous four bond issues.

Library system board members then approved a motion to rely on Crews as an underwriter.