A Fort Wayne, Indiana, City Councilman Proposes Eliminating the Annual Budget for the Allen County Public Library

The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, contains the largest genealogy collection of any publicly-owned genealogy in the U.S. It is also one of the largest research collections available anywhere, incorporating records from around the world. Thousands of genealogists travel to Fort Wayne every year to take advantage of the resources available in this unique collection. While in the city, these same genealogists obviously spend millions of dollars at local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and more. The money spent by genealogists are an immense help for local business people.

Now Fort Wayne City Councilman Jason Arp has proposed cutting the budget of the Allen County Public Library to the point that it will no longer be able to sustain itself. Arp recently proposed to eliminate Allen County’s business personal property tax. Arp suggests that Amazon should and could replace libraries, thus saving taxpayers money.

If approved, the Allen County Public Library stands to lose about $3.9 million in annual revenue. That’s equal to the combined operating budget of almost every department at the main branch in downtown Fort Wayne, Library Director Greta Southard said Thursday. That $3.9 million also represents most of what the library spends on new books each year, Southard said. It’s also the annual cost to operate all the library branches throughout the county.

“How do we choose? Cut books, shut down the branches or close the main library,” Southard said. “This community has a long history of being incredibly supportive to our library system. I just can’t believe that crippling the library’s ability to serve the public is the outcome they’re looking for out of this proposal.”

To be sure, Councilman Jason Arp’s proposal has already encountered opposition. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, New Haven City Councilman and mayoral candidate Steve McMichael and representatives from area school districts, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, and Citlilink to oppose Arp’s various budget proposals. A public hearing is scheduled for the July 24 City Council meeting.

You can read more in an article by Dave Gong in the Journal Gazette at http://www.journalgazette.net/news/local/20180720/tax-removal-plan-decried as well as an excellent article by Greta Southard that is a rebuttal to Councilman Arp’s proposal at http://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20180810/community-resource.

My thanks to newsletter reader Ernest Thode for telling me about this story.

40 Comments

How short-sighted! We have contributed to the local economy by visiting the library and staying in motels, eating at restaurants, and buying gas. Without it, we would have no reason to go to Fort Wayne. I’m positive that is true for many who visit that library.

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    Omg How insensitive. Books cost money and where do you store all these books? Books are made from trees, how many trees have to be cut down? Just read these books on your Kindle I guess.

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The current Fort Wayne city council is comprised of 7 R’s and 2 D’s. There are 3 Republican’s who can be counted upon to vote for almost any proposal that reduces taxes for business (Arp, Ensley, and Jehl). It takes 5 votes to pass the proposal. The four remaining R’s I would describe as more deliberative and not usually in favor of approving tax proposals without some idea how the revenue is going to be replaced. So I would say this does not have a good chance to be passed. That being said, it is politics and sometimes weird stuff happens. If you are in Allen County, Indiana, please let your representative know how this would hurt you and your family if it passes!!

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The ignorance revealed in this “representative’s” position is breathtaking. First off, when did Amazon get into public libraries? Does he mean Google? Or maybe he was really thinking of Apple, or Ancestry. Or perhaps just about being contrarian. That said, if the Allen County people do not have at the ready hard figures about the economic benefit of that library to the businesses in Fort Wayne, it’s time to get them! The rest of us can avalanche the City Council with passionate words about the value of their stellar library and how it can neither be replaced by any existing online for-profit company, nor can it be replaced by a non-profit without a substantial expenditure for converting the whole thing to digitized, searchable and sensible access.

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I’m with auntyb6022 (above). I can”t tell you how many times I have visited the wonderful Allen County Genealogy facility (even before they built the new library) but I CAN tell you that over many years, I have contributed thousands to the Ft. Wayne economy during my visits of 2-4 days’ duration. I can also tell you that I would have no reason to go to Ft. Wayne otherwise, The jewel that is the library collection, doesn’t exist anywhere else.

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I was seriously considering a visit to Fort Wayne and the storied Allen County Library to access their genealogy collection. It would be necessary to stay a few days (that’s a nice chunk of change for a motel/hotel room), I would be driving there (so would need to purchase gas there and any parking fees), I would need to eat (whether restaurants or grocery stores, it would be money spent in Fort Wayne/Allen County) and whatever other incidentals I would purchase. Evidently Mr. Arp has little idea of the power of the information available at the Library or the numbers of people who visit and spend their money in his fair city and county who otherwise would have no reason to go there. It will be many decades, if ever, before “everything” is on Amazon/Google/Apple/Amazon etc. A library is an easy target for reducing spending – until all those who use the facility, both in the county and who come from outside it are left with no facility, no repository and another loss of information. It is a shame that Mr. Arp seems to short-sighted.

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Everyone who has ever visited the Library or accessed the collection online must contact each Ft Wayne City Council member about the value of the genealogy collection. The email addresses are in the blue block at the left on this page: https://www.cityoffortwayne.org/city-council-home.html
If you visited – please tell each of the council members how much you spent in their city.

Personally – I’d pay to have access to the online data.

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My organization used Allen County Public Library to conduct research. Research that can’t be found anywhere else in the Midwest. Surely its expense is offset by the tourist revenue it brings in.

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I believe that the Visitor’s and Convention Bureau have said that the ACPL Genealogy Center brings about 65,000 visitors to the city annually. I am sure that the revenues they generate for the local economy are in the millions! The FGS national conference will be in Fort Wayne from August 22-25th this month with an anticipated turnout of over 1,000 genealogists expected to be on hand. The local genealogical society will have volunteers at both sites to help the attendees!

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    Maybe all those attending the FGS National Conference should write a letter to Mr. Arp, and/or the City Council, on their hotel stationary just before they leave from the conference, and they should detail the monies they have spent in regards to hotel/motel rooms, meals, gas and all purchases made while they are visiting Fort Wayne. Perhaps when Mr. Arp gets inundated with hundreds of letters that show the benefit of the library to its many visitors, and the city in general, he will withdraw his proposal.

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Read all the above I agree. I have a group of friends that go to ACPL every month between May & Oct. We meet friends from Indianapolis. Without the library we would not be going to Ft. Wayne. Love the library been going for over 15 yrs. please continue support it is very important the younger children need to know Google is not the place for all the answers & need to learn more history.

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The article says that a public hearing was to be held July 24th. Has this occurred? If so, what has happened since?

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Any politician who ignored a tourist incentive should be voted out of office. I lived in Ft Wayne for almost 3years and thoroughly enjoyed the library as did my mother before me while her husband attended engineering school. Imagine Memphis without all our educational outlets not counting entertainment and you could roll up the streets. This man has lost his perspective.

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Yet one more example of why I switched from being a long time Republican to voting Democratic regardless.

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I, too, wondered how things went on 24 July. I couldn’t find anything from the Commissioner ‘s site, but did find an article in their local paper from 10 August authored by the director of the library:
http://www.journalgazette.net/opinion/columns/20180810/community-resource
Please post a follow-up. The ignorance of Mr. Arp (and other library nay-sayers) stuns me!

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I have been there many times. Some special trips only to Ft. Wayne, others when traveling to/from the East on I-80. Really what other reason would any one go from Iowa to Ft. Wayne. other to visit library? 65,000 visitors, if they only spent $100, that is $6.5 million. The average person will spend way over that each and every day, plus most stay multiple days. Economists say that that every dollar spent by a tourist in a town will turn 6-20 times in that town’s economy. So $100 new money in a town will generate from $600-$2000 in additional economic benefit in a community. At $600 per 65,000 visitors would equal $39 million. Can a town like Ft. Wayne replace at least a $39 million loss to their economy? Eliminate the Library in Ft. Wayne, and you have eliminated me from Ft. Wayne!

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I encourage all readers to contact Mr Arp at jasonarpcitycouncil@gmail.com and let him know how important the Allen County Library is to the genealogy community and the tourist dollars that it generates for Fort Wayne.

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You know, nothing is free, someone has to pay the bill. So operating a library is not free and if the count/state can’t afford it they should consider a very small fee for use, which would/could bring in the revenue to keep the genealogy section open. I don’t use that library, but have contributed by donating materials. I don’t mind paying for a library card, or a one time fee use, if it is reasonable. I would also pay for a one time or monthly use online, if I thought the source was worth it. I subscribe to two newspaper sites, Fold 3, Ancestry and of course, use family search. Yes, that is a lot, but it is cheaper than visiting just one major library for the year and I can do it from home. I’m over 70 and can’t always travel to do research, anymore.

We are living in a day where there is a lot of controversy over books and how to access them. I write books (local history) and it is getting almost impossible to print and sell, because people think they can find it over the Internet for free. They can’t! Most small town history is not on the Internet. Ours was, but after over 20 years of paying for a website and providing it free to the public, I took it down. People who had ad based sites were just copying and pasting my stuff onto there site and making money off it. I gave up and now there is no local genealogy and not much history up. Sad, but true.

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My comment concerns the councilman himself. Has he ANY idea of the contributions any library gives to the people? (Perhaps even his staff, who have to locate info for him?) I am appalled by his suggestion. Amazon? Ridiculous! They have enough now. How much time has he spent in any library & is he aware of what goes into collection building? Is he aware of ALL the services offered? I doubt it. As a former school media specialist/librarian for 28 yrs, his views don’t click with me. Other’s comments (above) are mainly on target. Libraries are the holders of info for all walks of life & without them users would not be as informed as they are. Yes costs of materials/sources are rising and yes the web may be used as an info locator, BUT to physically be able to hold a book/document or source in your hands is a lot better than walking or sitting with your nose pointed to the web. No, no, no, this gentleman is wrong! (This is one proposal of many in the US I am vehemently against) I do genealogy, read fiction/non-fiction. newspapers, microfiche/film & many other forms of info but to suggest a company/corp. or other entity not knowledgeable in the dedication, skills, knowledge, perseverance & love of a library is just unimaginable. The ALA (American Library Association), genealogical sites, educational sources, & the users need to get involved. & change this possible detriment.

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Send him a message directly to let him know how you feel. His Facebook profile is Jason Arp – Fort Wayne City Council. The city office’s address is available online.

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What I find sad is that we have to rely on the argument of tourist revenue boosting the local economy instead of the principle that our cultural record should be preserved and made accessible, period. Priorities are completely messed up.

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David Paul Davenport August 14, 2018 at 11:31 am

Sounds like Jason Arp should be recalled as a councilman. IF he can read he needs to thank a librarian.

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This reminds me of the person who said we don’t need farmers any more. We can just go to the grocery store.

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Just to make sure you know this proposal would not impact just the ACPL but other governmental entities as well like the airport, public transportation (buses), and others. The idea is to replace the business property tax on machinery which amounts to millions added to the governmental budgets each year by repealing it and then having literally no economic development efforts or tax abatements in the future. Then the added revenues businesses save would be reinvested and create jobs and more prosperity. I may not have phrased this quite as Mr. Arp would but I hope you get the idea. This is on top of the reduced income taxes that the federal government gave to corporations in the tax bill last year. It should be noted that Mr. Arp is an ideologue and a huge anti-tax proponent for business preferring that they should be unfettered by regulations or nuisances like paying taxes! Regardless, I hope that you understand that the loss of tax dollars would not impact only the ACPL but other aspects of local government also. To me, the most worrisome aspect is that it relies on magical thinking that the tax revenues will somehow magically be replaced over time and have no impact on the government. This is just plain nonsense!!

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To be fair, we should recognize that the economic models which evaluate the payback of economic stimulus money such as that which Allen County may spend on its library to attract out-of-town business are notorious for overestimating the return and for ignoring the opportunity costs of not leaving the money in the hands of the local taxpayers in the first place. While visiting genealogists may spend millions in the county, the *profits* from that spending are considerably less, and I seriously doubt they result in a net benefit to the local taxpayers. As much as everyone else here, I appreciate the service the County’s taxpayers are providing for the rest of us, but we should consider it as a gift rather than as an entitlement and, perhaps, expect that user fees at the library may need to be increased.

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You just made an argument without providing any evidence to back up your supposition! The economic models may be imprecise but that does not mean your statement that the economic benefits result in little “net benefit to the local taxpayers” is true. Actually, the taxpayers of Allen County have voted many times specifically back in 2002 for a vigorous public library system when they passed a bond approval for 84 million dollars to renovate the downtown library and built or rebuilt 13 or more branches throughout the county. No one here suggested that having an excellent public library was an “entitlement” and the user fees are the property taxes corporations and citizens pay to have a civilized country!! I am pretty sure that sane people will prevail and that this proposal will go down to defeat just as Mr. Arp’s same old, same old one did back in 2016! I just hope his constituents realize now what they got when they elected this fool!!

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    Patrick,
    My comment regarding economic models was based upon research by Dr. Roy Cordato, Sr. Economist with the John Locke Foundation and adjunct faculty member at North Carolina State University. (See, e.g., https://www.johnlocke.org/research/economic-impact-studies-the-missing-ingredient-is-economics/.)
    As for the remainder of your comment, I was not questioning the value of the library to the local residents–that is for them to decide–but the value of the money spent in the County by outside researchers relative to tax money spent to attract them. The word “entitlement” was directed not to the local taxpayers but to those of us outsiders who would use the library without having paid the corresponding local taxes. I personally hope the taxpayers of Allen County will continue to subsidize this valuable resource; I just think that those of us who are not footing the bill should be less judgmental of those in the County who may question the economics.

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Mr Arp and the council should seek ways to share costs with the huge percentage of the United States with in a days drive or even a 3 hours drive (Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis) by becoming a Regional Library funded by the expanded community. The Taxpayers of the region, all benefit from the resources at Ft Wayne maybe they can help.

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So Jeff, please tell me who funds the John Locke Foundation? Is this another Koch brothers funded group which is not in any sense non-ideological? And an adjunct professor is literally someone who does not have tenure and, therefore, I have to question how his credentials may line up against someone who has been vetted by being granted tenure! What university granted Dr. Cordato his advanced degree? Maybe Liberty University? But thanks for at least trying to present a foundation for your statements vis a vis economic models. I think you presumed that a significant amount of funds were being used to attract these outside visitors but again you did not present any proof that that is the case! The ACPL Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne has such a stellar reputation nationwide that my guess is that the dollars used to attract outside visitors is very limited! Perhaps I’ll try to find that out by consulting Dr. Google!!

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When did business and making profits become more important than the communities that they make their money in? Jason Arp is a perfect example of the moronic, half witted, empty headed republicans that have the erroneous idea that money makes the world go round. We want to create and live in vibrant, resplendent, energetic societies and to do that we need our libraries, our theatres, good health care, our parks and pools, and great education for our children. A healthy society creates the foundation for good business environment. The Allen County Public Library is eminent, equal in value to the British Library. After all, why else would one want to visit Fort Wayne but to use the vast resources of the Allen County Public Library genealogy collection. I can’t think of a single reason, Mr. Arp.

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This article is grossly misleading. It implies that the Allen County Public Library is being targeted. It is not. It is one of, and a smaller part, of a number of government agencies whose partial funding comes from something called a business personal property tax. That tax is considered controversial and onerous everywhere it is applied. It means businesses have to calculate and pay a tax on everything from automobiles to xerox machines. That is “personal property” as distinguished from real estate. Money to run public institutions has to come from some tax, somewhere. Or no tax if local taxpayers are tired of paying. Just more of life’s tradeoffs. The linked article states: “Arp contends that losses would be closer to $37 million when everything has been fully implemented, but would be offset by about $17 million in existing tax abatements that would eventually end and another $17 million now directed toward Tax Increment Financing Districts throughout the city that will eventually be closed.” So, people, the sky may not be falling.

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Good Grief who is this councilman working for Allen county or amazon? Where do they get these ideas? Crazyness……

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As I noted in my comments above, this tax will impact other aspects of local government including the airport, public transportation and others as well as the ACPL and its Genealogy Center. What Mr. Arp proposes is a complete change in how taxation is done in this city and county. Would it replace the revenues in the future, perhaps, but that leaves a period of years where the budgets would by necessity be impacted lessening them. As far as Jeff’s comments on economic models being incorrect in estimating the multiplier effect, I took a look at his reference to research done by the John Locke Foundation and Dr. Roy Cordato. What I found is that the John Locke Foundation is a conservative think tank in North Carolina that has a pro business bias and is funded by a noted libertarian business person Art Pope in that state. So while I do not know whether Dr. Cordato’s research is valid, I have to question the results of it if it validates his pre-determined bias against the economic benefits of the multiplier effect. What it seems to come down to is whether the multiplier effect is 8 or 3, even the three times multiplier would still have a positive effect on the local economy!!

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David Paul Davenport August 15, 2018 at 11:57 am

I have never been to Ft Wayne, but from all I read about it, the ONLY reason I would ever go there is to visit the Allen County Public Library to make use of its Genealogy resources. I’m willing to bet the farm that this is true of most Americans.

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If you look at the Visit Fort Wayne website, they point out that visitors have paid about $50 million annually in state sales and food and beverage taxes which help the local economy. While Fort Wayne does not have mountains or a sea shore with a beach, it does have businesses like Sweetwater Sound, Lincoln Financial Group and others that host business people from outside the community and there are other attractions besides the ACPL that may help with tourism. The Visit Fort Wayne site also points out that about 11,000 jobs are created here in the tourism and hospitality industries with about 1/3 of those jobs being high wage jobs. Fort Wayne is also a site for athletic endeavors like tournaments and competitions which also add quite significantly to the numbers of visitors spending their dollars in the community on housing and restaurants. There are also good things going on that may increase the number of visitors to Fort Wayne in the future!

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The economic impact may vary from any projections, but the fact is, it is huge and a city can not recover from such a large part of it’s economy disappearing. But probably the most benefit from the library is it’s benefits to the citizens including the youth of the community. Any loss of revenue has to be made up by increasing revenue from another source, which by the way is called raising taxes or creating new taxes which is another economic negative for the community. But you know politicians OPM (other people’s money)!

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WHAT A FOOL>>>>>>>>>!!!!!!!!!!!

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    The rest of the problem is, the County will keep all the money and those taxes will not go down at all. It has happened here, the Towns get nothing from the County these days, whatever tax is paid by residents, visitors, shoppers, etc. stays with the county.

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Well, Dick, You must find this very gratifying.
For quite some time, you’ve been calling for the elimination of paper, and for digitizing and scanning all information instead.
Now you have an official endorsement.
I’m sure you’re feeling very smug.

Congratulations.

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    Indeed. There is already a move to digitize holdings in libraries and make them available to the public. Doing so obviously won’t eliminate libraries but will significantly reduce the expense of maintaining and often expanding large buildings to taxpayers significantly while simultaneously offering better, around-the-clock, free access, to a much wider audience than ever before. Librarians will be able to focus on acquiring, managing, and retrieving information rather than spending a lot of time on mundane matters such as answering questions about the location of the rest rooms or fixing paper jams in the photocopiers. It will take years to fully accomplish all this but it seems obvious that the move to digital, online access is the trend. Yes, I certainly do find this gratifying.

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