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New library to replace Tesson Ferry branch

Dominic Kubasta, 3, hides behind a book as he and his mother Sarah Kubasta check out books at the Tesson Ferry branch of the St. Louis County Library earlier this year.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY • Tax increases for the county library system and the Special School District passed easily Tuesday.

The 6-cent library tax levy increase will fund $108 million of construction and renovation of the library system. The school district’s 19-cent hike will increase salaries for teachers and staff, expand services and pay for construction and updated technology. Simple majorities were required for passage of both referendums.

Library director Charles Pace said assembling a broad spectrum of support made the difference.

“What put us over the top, I think, was that we were successful in putting together a coalition of business, labor, educational and cultural organizations,” Pace said.

He said work would begin next fall with the demolition and replacement of the Tesson Ferry branch in south St. Louis County.

Proposition L raises the district’s tax levy to 22.3 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and would allow the district to raise its property tax ceiling to 26 cents from 20. The owner of a house valued at $150,000 will pay an extra $17.10 a year in property taxes. It would be expected to raise an extra $11 million a year in revenue.

The measure was opposed by the county’s Republican Central Committee, which cited concerns about raising taxes in the face of falling incomes. Historic preservationists objected to plans to demolish the Lewis and Clark branch in north St. Louis County.

Many patrons also objected to plans to replace the headquarters in Ladue, which was renovated and expanded in 1989 at a cost of $7.8 million.

Proponents said that the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems worked poorly in most branches and that upgrading electrical systems to meet new computer demands would be impractical compared with new construction.

The referendum’s most active opponent was University City resident Tom Sullivan, a frequent critic of spending practices by public agencies.

Sullivan contended that taxpayers had already been adequately funding the system and that the library’s plan, which includes replacing six branches, was unnecessary.

SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Superintendent John Cary said the district had taken a risk with the timing of the referendum.

“We know the economy is not good and recovery is slow and it’s a hard time for folks, but they saw the need to vote for kids with special needs,” Cary said.

The district provides special education services and technical education to more than 25,000 students in 22 school districts in the county.

In addition to salary increases and renovations of some facilities, district officials also say the money would be used to meet an increased demand for autism-related services and to build a new high school.

The measure will increase property taxes on a $150,000 house by $54.15 a year.

One in six public school students in the county receives special education services or technical education from the district. Among recipients of the district’s services are students with disabilities, including those who attend private, parochial and independent schools, and those who are home-schooled or unable to attend school for medical or other reasons.

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