Library’s future hinges on sales tax extension vote, county judge says

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VAN BUREN, Ark. – Van Buren County’s only library sits on the chopping block unless voters approve a sales tax extension, according to the county judge.

The library, which is barely three years old, remains one of the rare modernized buildings with up-to-date resources in the area. But, financial hurdles starting piling up almost as soon as it opened.

“We saw a storm of negativity hit as soon as the library construction started,” Dale James, Van Buren county judge, says.

James says mineral values dropped within the Fayetteville shale, which is an area that includes Van Buren county.

As mineral values dropped, so did property values and tax revenues.

The money losses put the county in a position where it couldn’t afford to pay off the library.

“We were looking at possibly a sales tax increase or a millage increase,” James says.

On Tuesday, James announced that neither of those would be needed if voters approve a sales tax extension.

The extension would continue a 1-cent sales tax that was put in place to update the area hospital but if continued could pay the library off in a year and then go on to provide funding to emergency services, according to James.

“We have to have this [library] open, and it’s so important to so many people,” David Emmerling says.

Emmerling is a library patron who frequents the facility two or three times a week.

“Whatever book I’m looking for, I can generally get it,” Emmerling says.

Judge James says he expects the sales tax extension issue to go before voters next March.

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