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Library funding proposed

Published (2/15/2008)
By Thomas Hammell
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A plan to help libraries across the state with accessibility issues could be in the House K-12 Finance Division bonding recommendations.

Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) sponsors HF2558, which would provide $10 million for library accessibility projects. It was heard by the division Feb. 12, but no action was taken. A Senate companion, SF2682, sponsored by Sen. Dan Skogen (DFL-Hewitt), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

The Legislature created a program for library accessibility projects in 1994 and approved $1 million for the program. In 2005, it was expanded to include other types of library improvements. Bonding bills in 2005 and 2006 each contained $1 million in library funding.

Current law limits individual accessibility grants to $200,000 or 50 percent of the project costs, whichever is less, and improvement grants are limited to $1 million or 50 percent of the project costs, whichever is less.

However, Elaine Keefe, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Library Association, said that libraries that bypassed the grant process and came directly to the state received substantially more than the cap.

Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville), the division chairwoman, said a need-based system seemed to be the fairest process, instead of the money going to the powerful or the fortunate.

Keefe said that, in the past, $6.62 has been provided locally for every $1 of state support. She said the renovation needs are staggering because 54 percent of the state’s public libraries were built before 1969 and 33 percent were built before 1939. She said that state public libraries are expected to request $120 million this year and $260 million next year.

Greiling expects the division to hear all bonding proposals within the next week, and submit its proposal to the House Capital Investment Finance Division shortly thereafter.

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