SMARTaxes Scarborough Maine Advocates for Reasonable Taxes
Does Scarborough really need a $16 million Library expansion now?
Scarborough Public Library Expansion Frequently Unanswered Questions
1. How much will the new Library cost?
Answer:About $16 million. The total being raised for the expansion project is $15.8 million -- $12.9 million of taxpayer-funded bonds and between $2.75 and 3.0 million of private donations.
The project construction budget is $13.7 million, but that does not include the cost of setting up and maintaining a temporary Library for the 18-month construction period. There is currently no estimate of the cost of the temporary Library facility. A Fundraising study used $16-18 million as the total project cost. 2. How much will my taxes go up because of the Library expansion? Answer:The Town refuses to say. Our estimate is that the taxes on a $400,000 home will increase by $1,038 over the ten years from FY25 to FY34. That’s about $100 per year more than you would otherwise pay. This amount does not include the additional costs of increased staffing, utilities, etc. related to the expansion.
It’s necessary to look at the tax impact over the ten-year period because the full impact of the debt does not occur until FY34.
3. How big will the expanded Library be?
Answer: The current Library is 12,884 square feet. The expanded Library will be 35,060 square feet. That’s 2.7 times larger than the existing Library. If constructed, it would be the seventh largest municipal library in the State.
By way of comparison, the proposed Library will be 9,000 square feet larger than Town Hall.
4. Is it okay to vote NO on the Library expansion even if you are a strong supporter of the Library? Answer: YES! A NO vote does not mean you are a selfish, anti-intellectual, knuckle-dragging misanthrope! It simply indicates that you have determined that a near tripling of the size of the current Library is not a good use of the Town's (i.e., taxpayers') money -- especially knowing that the $135 million school project is just around the corner. Vote NO without shame!
5. What other major projects are in the pipeline and what will their impact be on my tax bill? Answer:This is an extremely important question! And the Town won’t answer it. To see a shocking video of the Town Council Chair and the Town Manager refusing to provide this information to residents, go to 03:54:40 of the video of the September 7 Town Council meeting (link below).
Since the Town won’t answer the question, we have estimated the amount your tax bill will increase for each of the three major projects now on the table – the Library expansion ($12.9 million), the new Primary School ($135-137 million) and the pool/community center ($35+ million). See table below:
6. Is there broad public dissatisfaction with the current Library?
Answer:No! To the contrary, there is broad public satisfaction with the existing library. This may easily be confirmed by reviewing the results of the 2021 Community Survey.
“Overall satisfaction with Scarborough Public Library” was rated as Very Satisfied or Satisfied by 89.9% of the respondents! (p. 91, Q18a-1)
In terms of the specific services the Library offers, none had more than a 5.5% rating as Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied. (p. 91, Q18a-2 through Q18a-12)
These levels of satisfaction do not justify the urgent and expensive project which is being proposed.
7. Why did the size of the expanded Library increase from a maximum of about 25,465 square feet in the January, 2020 architect’s report to the current 35,060 square feet – an increase of about 9,600 square feet?
Answer: In less than three years, the space needs – as determined by a Library-commissioned study – increased by 9,600 square feet. What had been a doubling of the Library size suddenly went to a 2.7 times increase in space. Did someone decide: “as long as we’re doing this, we might as well GO BIG!” But they forgot to ask the taxpayers how we felt about it. Now the taxpayers finally have an opportunity to answer that question: NO, the proposed expansion is TOO BIG!
8. What's the difference between a need and a want?
Answer: In our daily lives, most of us differentiate between things we would like to have (that luxury vacation to Hawaii in February or the indoor pool) and the things we need to have (the new roof or the kids' college expenses). We routinely PRIORITIZE by assessing the cost of the items and comparing them to our available funds. The Town needs to go through the same process with our major capital projects. While we believe a modest expansion of the Library makes sense at some point, we put that in the NICE-TO-HAVE category. The primary school replacement, however, is a critical NEED now, especially in light of the rapid growth the Town is experiencing.
We need to see the big picture of our capital spending plans BEFORE we decide to go ahead with one project. Isn't that just common sense?
9. Is the $135 million primary school project real?
Answer: Some members of Town leadership continue to pretend that the major project to replace our three primary schools is years and years away and that there is no way we can be evaluating its tax impact now. The facts do not support those conclusions.
In January, 2020, the School Board voted to accept the Building Steering Committee’s recommendation for a new primary school. In October, 2021, after the Covid interruption, the School Board entered into a preliminary design contract for the new primary school with the architecture firm of Harriman Associates at a cost of $358,000. The contract covers planning/design services through the intended bond referendum date, which is specified as November, 2023. This project is real!
At the July 26, 2022 Building Committee meeting, the architects provided a preliminary cost estimate for the project based on projected enrollments, estimated square footage needs and estimated construction costs per square foot -- $134.5 million to $137.5 million. While the current cost estimates will improve as the design process continues, they are perfectly adequate for making informed projections and decisions about the future tax impact of the project.
Much more information about the primary school project may be found on the School Department website.
10. What will the additional staffing and operating costs be for the expanded Library?
Answer: The Library plans to add 3 new full-time employees because of the expansion at a cost of $235,000. (The current staffing costs of the Library are $1,128,000, according to the FY23 budget.) In addition, there will be increased building/facilities costs of about $139,000. That’s a total of $374,000 of new operating costs each year, in addition to approximately $1.6 million of principal and interest payments on the debt for every year from FY24 through FY33. (And some members of Town leadership want you to believe that adding $2.0 million of additional costs to the Town budget won’t have an impact on your taxes. It’s magic!)
11. How do the operating costs of the current Library compare with other Cumberland and York County libraries?
Answer: According to State of Maine data on libraries in the large town category, Scarborough already has the second highest level of taxpayer support per person (“Local Revenues per Capita”) in Cumberland and York counties. Here are the taxpayer costs per person for selected comparable libraries:
12. How does the usage of the current Library compare with other Cumberland and York County libraries?
Answer: According to State of Maine data on libraries in the large town category, Scarborough has a relatively low number of registered borrowers per capita compared to other libraries in Cumberland and York counties. Here are the numbers of registered users (i.e., library card holders) per 100 residents for selected comparable libraries: