DALLAS — Voters in Little Rock approved a renewal of a bond program Tuesday that will provide the Central Arkansas Library System with up to $24 million of new money for new and expanded facilities.
Almost 90% of the 5,200 ballots cast favored the plan that will reduce the library’s property tax rate in 2013 to 0.9 mills from the current 1 mill, and extend the tax for another four years. Less than 5% of the city’s 115,000 registered voters cast ballots.
“It’s always good to win, and especially with those approval numbers,” said Bobby Roberts, director of the library system.
Roberts said the system hopes to obtain $22 million to $24 million of new money from the $32 million of general obligation bonds.
The proceeds also will refund the remaining $8 million of outstanding debt from the original $25 million of library bonds issued in 2004 to build the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock.
The original bonds carry interest rates of around 4.5%, according to Roberts.
An early sale date is expected for the newly approved bonds, the library director said.
“The rates are so good and construction prices so low that we want to get to market with these bonds soon,” Roberts said. “We could wait until the new rate goes into effect in 2013, but that could hurt us on construction costs.”
The library board will issue a request for proposals for underwriters promptly, he said.
“It takes 30 days to officially certify an election and those interested in the underwriting will have 30 days to respond,” Roberts said. “Those periods can overlap, so I’m hoping for a bond sale in May or June.”
Debt issued by Little Rock for the library system is rated AA by Standard & Poor’s.
Tuesday’s election was restricted to Little Rock voters because the original bonds were designated in the 2004 election to finance facilities within the city.
The Central Arkansas Library System serves Pulaski County — excluding the city of North Little Rock — and Perry County.
The reduction in the tax rate will lower the bill on a $200,000 residence to $36 a year from the current $40.
Plans call for a $13 million of the proceeds to finance construction of additional parking and a new, 350-seat auditorium and lecture hall at the main library in downtown Little Rock.
“We don’t have a big enough auditorium to do the kind of programming we would like to do,” Roberts said.
The library system will use $5 million of the proceeds to acquire new books and other materials, $2 million to expand a branch library, and $1 million to acquire land in western Little Rock for a future branch.