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Commerce Library committee talks personnel, sales taxes

COMMERCE - A campaign to restore a 95-year-old library facility through $400,000 in donations continues in Commerce. Volunteers wrapped up their third meeting to discuss strategy.

Conducting the event was Carolyn Trezevant with the Friends of the Commerce Public Library, the group tasked with library operations and associated costs.

Previous meetings had invited the formation of a second committee, in charge of obtaining funding for the restoration effort. The committed is co-chaired by Randy Van Deven, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and Ludonna Patterson, president of the Commerce Chamber of Commerce.

“Their task is to raise money, get political if we need to, and then coordinate input from the breakout groups that we had in our last meeting,” Trezevant said.

Those groups will focus on fundraising, donor recognition, communications and in-kind donations. A summary of each group’s goals developed on June 7 was revisited Wednesday and a representative for each subcommittee appointed.

In the campaign’s first meeting on May 17, Jim Patton presented a budget that showed needs related to site drainage improvements, roof repairs, interior painting, fire alarm and sprinkler system, handicapped accessible ramp and toilet, new shelving and elevator, among other needs.

One big hurdle has already been climbed, last year’s installation of a new air conditioning unit valued at $28,500.

Randy Van Deven says it’ll be important to obtain what’s called a “lead gift,” which is roughly 25 percent of the funding goal. In this situation, that’d be $100,000. While donations of any amount are helpful, he added, the group will be looking to identify potential donors in this upper tier, as well as at levels of $50,000, $25,000 and $5,000.

A topic sure to gain attention, if followed through, was if they should look into details of what it would take to change the city’s current sales tax from a 4A to a 4B. Under the 4A model, eligible projects to receive funding include manufacturing, industrial, research and development. The 4B model assists parks, tourism and entertainment facilities.

These taxes, which cities may impose for economic development, are adopted through a sales tax election. 

Volunteer Mike Odom indicated they were considering speaking with City Attorney Jim McLeroy about the possibility of an amendment to the current 4A model that would specify money be used for the library.

“This is serious politics,” Wyman Williams said. “We’re talking about a half cent sales tax that’s been collected for years and has been upheld by its original destination for industrial development.”

He added that public discussion of the possibility of that happening is going to dampen individual donations because it’s a slow process.

“The way the thing works is the city council appoints the board that controls the money. The board then decides how to spend the money and then the city council has to agree to approve it,” Williams said.

He encouraged the group to go the other route first by collecting private donations to see if that will obtain the needed funding.

Library Director Gayle Gordon also gave a report on the campaign’s communications effort through the media and online. There’s also planning by the group to address local clubs and organizations to inform them of their mission and progress.

A date has not been set for the group’s next meeting.

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