Supporters of Drummond’s school/community library were breathing easier Tuesday, the day after a ballot measure passed with flying colors to finance the community’s end of it.
“We are so excited. It’s nice to have good news in this time of recession, isn’t it?” said Shelley Johnson, chair of the library board.
With an additional $29,500 a year to operate a jurisdictional service district, it means Drummond can pay its share of librarian Jodi Oberweiser’s salary and hire an assistant. That’s important, said Johnson. Volunteers help, but by state law a public library must be staffed by a paid, certified librarian 90 percent of the time.
Library hours – currently 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, and 1-5 p.m. on other weekdays – can be extended with an assistant. The supply of adult books can be augmented, and computers and other technology can be bought, maintained and updated without relying solely on gifts and grants.
The measure passed by a 300-170 margin – nearly 64 percent – with a lofty 66 percent turnout among registered voters in the Drummond High School district.
The district stretches across northern Granite County, from Rock Creek on the west to the Powell County line on the east, and a few miles past Hall to the south.
According to ballot language, the approximate property tax impact will be $11.28 on a home valued at $200,000 and $5.64 on a $100,000 home, based on 2009 market values.
Blanche McLure, Granite County’s Clerk and Recorder in Philipsburg, said the vote is unofficial until a canvass takes place next week. Ballots in the mail-in election went out Jan. 20 and were due back Monday at 8 p.m. McLure said 470 of the 712 ballots mailed were returned.
The library is one of a dozen or so in Montana that have forged school/community partnerships. It’s owned and maintained by Drummond School across the street. Donations and an anonymous gift of $1,000 helped keep the doors open last summer after school let out.
“We need a permanent fix. We don’t need to go through this every year,” Diane Andrews, who headed the steering committee, said at the time.
Johnson said the first $29,500 won’t be available until November taxes are collected. “Right now we’ll use grants to pay for Jodi’s salary until the fiscal year ends June 30. Then the town has committed to giving us 7 mills until the taxes are paid for this levy.”
The mills generally run out in late December or early November.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Johnson admitted.
Information brochures were mailed to everyone in the district and two community meetings were held, one in Drummond and one in Hall.
“It was pretty much the supporters who would show up at the meetings, so we didn’t get a good read on what the community in general was thinking,” Johnson said. “We would hear when someone was adamantly opposed to it, but you don’t know how much weight they carried, or if they were just an island.”
Perhaps the library’s most valuable service is its bank of 11 public computers with Internet access just inside the front door.
“I think what we’re looking for is what our community needs, and it’s something we’ll probably have to assess now that we have some money coming in,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’ll be for helping the unemployed, or training, or another way, but that seems to be our big need in the community right now.”
Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at email@example.com.