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Union’s effect on tax-funded library’s budget not yet clear


Members of Missouri's first public library union are asking their employer for raises and increased benefits.

That money has to come from somewhere, and the primary method of funding the Daniel Boone Regional Library system is property taxes.

Results of Daniel Boone Regional Library employees' vote to form Missouri's first public library union were released Monday, but negotiations on contract details could take months. Library workers unionizing under the name DBRL Workers United are asking for many common things workers want when unionizing: increased pay, better benefits plans and a clear path to promotions.

However, since the library is a public entity, it operates on taxpayer money. The budget cannot be expanded without increasing property taxes, which could require a public election.

When asked for a comment on whether the union will impact the library's budget, library communications declined a formal interview. In an email, DBRL communications explained the budget operates on a yearly basis and any changes must be presented to the library board.

"At this point, we don't know what the impact unionization of library employees could or will have on the library's budget since the contract negotiations haven't begun," the email read.

In an April meeting, board members were asked to remain neutral on the union process.

The largest portion of the library's budget comes from property taxes -- estimated at more than $12 million in 2022. Investors and contributions are the next largest portion of the budget. Other than those two avenues, the library system is funded by grants, state funds and printing fees.

For those in the Columbia Boone County Library District, the property tax for the library is $0.30 for every $100 of assessed property value. That rate is far lower than the levy for Columbia Public Schools, but higher than the levy charged by Boone County and some local cities. The owner of a home worth about $250,000 paid about $120 in library property taxes last year.

Ida Fogle, Columbia Public Library employee and member of DBRL Workers United, said the union needs a better understanding of the library's budget to know how to make their demands within the library's means.

"One issue we have grappled with is a lack of transparency," Fogle said. "We need to be able to see the budget in more detail to be able to get some idea of how money is being spent now and what might be possible."

Fogle said she and several other employees noticed increased pay for leadership positions when comparing last year's budget with this year's.

"Speaking from my own perspective, I don't believe any budgeting decisions should be undertaken with the attitude that a living wage for your workers is a luxury item," Fogle said.

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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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