If Andrew Carnegie were still alive, he would be smiling today.
The Union Carnegie Public Library received a big boost from its community Tuesday. Union’s voters narrowly approved a five-year option levy for the library by a vote of 342 to 327 in a mail-in election.
The 51.12 percent to 48.88 percent vote puts the library, built in 1912 with funds from the foundation of Andrew Carnegie, the famed industrialist and philanthropist, on solid financial ground.
The option levy, which goes into effect in 2018-19, will raise about $118,000 a year, enough to fund the library’s proposed 2018-19 operating budget.
“I’m so happy and so proud of the support we received from our community for the library,” said Louise Shelden, the library’s director. “It makes me feel so happy that people love our library.”
Voter participation in the election was 46.4 percent, said Union County Clerk Robin Church.
The option levy will cost property owners about $1.21 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. For example, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $121 a year for the levy.
Had voters rejected the levy, the library would have been almost totally dependent upon uncertain funding from the city. This is no longer a concern for library supporters.
“It is so nice that we can count on that stability,” Shelden said. “That is such a relief.”
Shelden said that passage of the levy means there is a good chance Saturday morning operating hours will be added. The library is presently open 32.5 hours a week Monday through Friday.
The levy will replace a five-year option levy for the library that expired June 30. That levy cost property owners 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed value and raised about $37,000 a year for the library. This gave the library about half of its operating budget, the rest of which was provided by the city and miscellaneous money including grants from Union County and the state.
The city is spending $96,857 to operate the library in 2017-18 following the expiration of the 2012-2017 levy.
Union City Councilor Randy Knop said he is happy with the outcome of the election.
“I feel that the library provides a valuable service to the community and its children,” he said.
He said the passage of the levy and the resulting larger budget will allow the library to purchase additional books and updated technology. In addition, Knop noted that having a strong library could help Union’s economic future, because investors like communities that are committed to education.
“Passage of the levy is a clear statement that the city and its citizens value education as one of the core assets for creating economic development opportunities,” Knop said.
The Union Carnegie Library offers 22,136 print books, 23,280 books that can be downloaded to electronic devices, 1,621 DVDs and VHS tapes, and access to materials from 75 other libraries that are also part of the Sage Library System, a consortium of 15 counties in Eastern and Central Oregon.