published Monday, October 28th, 2013

Collegedale Public Library eyes discount for those outside city

The Collegedale Public Library is seen in Collegedale.
The Collegedale Public Library is seen in Collegedale.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Collegedale commissioners today will discuss offering library card discounts to nonresident home-school students.

Joanne Stanfield, director of the Collegedale Public Library, said people who live outside the city can use the library if they pay a $60 annual fee. Family rates are available at $85 per year. Senior rates also are available.

Stanfield said the facility serves a large community of home-schoolers, including some who are subject to nonresident fees. She said a home-school parent recently asked library officials whether nonresident home-schoolers could get a discount.

"We just want to give it an opportunity to be heard," she said Friday afternoon.

The topic is on Collegedale officials' workshop agenda.

Collegedale residents pay for the library's services through their property taxes, Stanfield said. That policy was initiated in 2011, when Chattanooga and Hamilton County ended a sales tax agreement that jointly funded library and other services. Chattanooga took over most of the old Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library locations, and county government currently does not operate a library system.

The Ooltewah-Collegedale library was one of the city-county branches under the old system, serving unincorporated Ooltewah and Collegedale, which has its own municipal government.

When the Chattanooga-Hamilton County sales tax agreement ended in 2011, Collegedale took over its local branch and initiated the new tax to pay for it.

"Raising property taxes wasn't popular at the time," Stanfield said.

Ooltewah residents, like all county residents, were left on the outside with no library system and forced to pay a yearly fee to use the Collegedale Public Library.

Corinne Hill, director of the Chattanooga Public Library, said Chattanooga faces similar issues.

"Everyone likes to say libraries are free. They're not. They cost money," she said.

Like Collegedale, Chattanooga pays for its libraries through a property tax percentage. Hill said that tax averages about $34 per city resident annually.

"I think it's the best deal in town," she said.

Also like Collegedale, the Chattanooga library system charges a nonresident user fee, $50 per year. Hill said venturing into nonresident discounts is "just a nightmare." She said it easily turns into an obligation to offer discounts to many groups, with little ability to monitor them.

"It's an administrative nightmare, and you know what? No one is happy," she said.

And she said giving away library services to nonresidents is unfair to the city residents who fund the library system through taxes.

"That's not fair to the people who pay the taxes."

The Collegedale Commission workshop will be held in the city's municipal building at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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