Task A Five: Cost Assessments

You can't give an accurate estimate of operational costs for your area at this stage, but you should give a range of costs. State law requires that the territory included in a public library district contain a taxable value of at least $5 million. Refer to MCA 15-10-420 for information about the maximum levy for a library district operational budget.

Calculate a somewhat more accurate figure for cost by examining the statistics for libraries serving similar size populations. The State Library publishes statistics for Montana public libraries annually. Average expenditures per capita are calculated for libraries in various size categories. Multiply this per capita figure by the population being served in the proposed district to figure out what a typical district of that size spends for service. Additional costs to consider include:

costs of an annual trustee election audit


building costs if they are assumed by the district - which includes lease or purchase, repair and maintenance, utilities, snow removal, landscape, janitorial services, etc.

personnel administration costs including salaries, insurance and retirement, along with other benefits.

Caution: It is difficult to give accurate figures on the operational costs for a new district. Figures at best will be inexact, so when discussing operational costs give a range of costs rather than a specific cost. If supporters mention a specific cost, people will assume that this figure is the one that must be raised. Later on in the districting process, you will be able to provide more accurate figures to the public.

If the new district will have to purchase, build, or extensively remodel a building in order to provide district services, the exploratory group should include these costs in the total cost estimate as capital costs. Capital costs are the costs of buying or building a library facility. These costs may be raised through bond issues or as part of a depreciation fund. [See MCA 22-1-707]. If there will be major capital costs in beginning the library district, state these costs openly and honestly in any estimate of the district's total costs. (Opponents of the districting effort will certainly include these costs in their estimates, so it's best to be open about all costs.)

The issue of costs is usually one of the most difficult aspects of promoting a new library district. Be open and aboveboard when discussing the costs of a library district and how money will be raised through property taxes, but relate the cost of library services to the value people will receive from those services.