For the first time since 1999, the Pine River Public Library District is asking voters for a property tax increase.
The proposed property tax would raise the district’s mill levy from 2.5 mills to 4.5 mills. That would almost double the property tax revenue for the district, from $541,000 annually to $973,000 annually. For a $300,000 home, the proposed tax increase would cost a property owner $54 a year, or $3.58 a month.
The library provides valuable community services, said Ashleigh Tarkington, a town board trustee who also serves on the library board.
Pine River Arts, which was organized with support from library staff, brings in visiting artists and performers who also attract visitors to Bayfield, Tarkington said.
Because of declining revenues from oil and gas taxes, the library’s fund balance at the end of this year is projected to be $1.04 million, down from $1.5 million in 2015.
The library district has about 9,500 residents within its boundaries, which are the same as the Bayfield School District, and includes Forest Lakes and Vallecito as well as Bayfield.
The board has used the district’s reserve fund to keep the budget balanced for the past three years but can’t continue that indefinitely, said Shelley Walchak, the library director.
The district has seven full-time staffers and eight part-time employees. Without the property tax increase, the district will have to make cuts in staffing, Walchak said.
A campaign committee of volunteers is asking voters to vote YES. The website is https://voteyesprl.com/pledge-my-vote.
On Oct. 2, the Bayfield Town Board approved a resolution supporting the ballot issue.
There has been no organized opposition to the mill levy increase.
The Pine River Public Library District was formed in 1972. The old library was located on Mill Street in downtown Bayfield, in the building that later became Mill Street Drug. As the Bayfield population increased, the need for a larger facility became apparent.
A mill levy increase passed in November 1999. Construction started in 2001 and was completed at the beginning of 2004.
The library moved from its Mill Street location in March 2004. An addition was added in 2012 with an expanded community room and more space for books and reading. The newly expanded 12,000-square-foot building is home to almost 40,000 items, including books, audiobooks and public access computers.