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Ripley voters back change to district library

May 25, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Voters overwhelmingly supported the Ripley Free Library board of trustees' decision to become a district library, even though it means higher taxes.

By a vote of 232 to 107, residents agreed to pay $1.04 per $1,000 assessed property value to give the library a yearly budget of $85,000. The library will lose the funding from the town, however, so taxpayers will realize a decrease of $0.21 per $1,000 in the town tax. Therefore, residents will see an actual tax increase of $0.83 per $1,000.

From now on, the library's seven-member board will also be elected by voters. Voters chose Charlie Little, Karen Gunther, Mike Rowe, Lynda LaMaye, Laurel Adams, Earl Freling, and Larry Freligh to serve on the board.

Library Director Rhonda Thompson said she was "elated" with the outcome. "Now we will have the ability to provide for the community in ways I feel that they deserve - by community, I mean the public. I am very, very pleased that the community came out in force to support us and I'm very, very glad they were able to see the need for this."

Janet Skinner, current president of the library board, said she was also happy with the vote. "We're very pleased that the community supported this, to become a district library and we look forward to offering new and exciting things at the library."

Skinner said the last three months have been "labor intensive" since the board unanimously decided to seek to become a district library. The library hosted several public information meetings on the decision.

Thompson said she believed the work done by the library board helped bring about a positive response. "We were totally transparent right from the start. We did not ask anyone to do anything we were not willing to do ourselves," she said. "I'm feeling a sense that this is something important to the entire town, not just us."

Becoming a district library means that the school district will collect the tax for the library and the library will share the school district's boundaries. However, Thompson noted, "we are completely independent of Ripley School District. They don't run us and we don't run them."

Records show that 13,600 people visited Ripley Free Library and the computers were used 3,743 times. The value of all library programs in 2015 has been estimated at $217,718.

Thompson said that the library hopes to increase library hours of operation, increase internet bandwidth, give patrons a better wireless experience, increase the budget for new materials, purchase new technology, and offer enhanced printing and copying services.

For many years, the Ripley Free Library operated on a budget of $28,600 from the town; $3,000 from the school, and fundraising efforts. "We always operate on a deficit," Thomson said. "By becoming a district library, we would not have to do that and we would become much more stable."

Ripley voters also approved the school district's 2016-17 budget by a vote of 190-143, and the purchase of new school buses by a vote of 177-160. Paul McCutcheon retained his seat on the board of education against challenger Nathan Davis by a vote of 192-137. Larry Freligh, who ran unopposed for the seat left vacant by the departure of Fred Krause, received 275 votes.



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