A failure to collect enough property taxes owed along with tax caps has led to the Hammond Public Library closing its remaining two branches on Nov. 1.
Library Board members voted unanimously to close the E.B. Hayward branch on 172nd St. and the Howard branch on Grand Ave. The main library will remain open.
The Northwest Indiana Times reports on the story here.
More than 70 people squeezed into a community room at the main library to ask the board to keep the libraries open, but it wasn’t enough. The library system has seen declining revenue for the last three years.
Indiana voters added tax caps to the state constitution which reduced the amount of property taxes the library receives. The library gets most of its funds from property taxes. Additionally, the Indiana General Assembly froze Lake County’s tax levy because the county failed to adopt a local-option income tax. And in May, the county collected just 86 percent of the property taxes that were owed.
In all, that cost the library more than $800,000 in potential revenue. The branches cost $550,000 to operate each year and both branches needed major repairs, including new roofs.
The library system’s budget was cut by $500,000 this year and in July the library board learned that $801,000 more would be cut.
The library system receives no state or city money, including any money generated by casinos. The city receives $39 million in riverboat funds every year that is available to the mayor and city council and all of those parties were approached about helping fund the library but to no avail.
People in attendance presented several ideas for keeping the library open, including charging fees for library cards and computer use and keeping branches open while closing the main library on particular days. But state law says all libraries must be open 64 hours a week to receive funding.
Some employees of the branches will be transferred to the main branch while others are retiring or leaving the library. No layoffs are planned, and no decision has been made regarding the materials (books, computers, etc.) at the branches.