A bill filed by a new southeastern Franklin County state representative could save a local library district millions.
Brad Banderman, R-St. Clair, who will take over the District 119 seat being vacated by Rep. Nate Tate on Jan. 4, prefiled House Bill 437 on Thursday. If approved, it will allow the board of state’s six consolidated multicounty library districts, including Scenic Regional Library, to change the dates of their fiscal year. They are now required by an early 1970s law to have a fiscal year of July 1 to June 30.
The bill came after Banderman talked with Scenic Regional Director Steve Campbell about his concerns.
In a typical year, Scenic Regional gets most of its property tax revenue, which makes up 95 percent of its income, in January. Campbell said that requires the district to pay its bill with reserve funds the second half of each calendar year.
“We have to set aside half of our normal budget, which this year was $3.4 million (out of a $6.8 million total budget), as extra reserves every year just to pay our bills from July through December,” Campbell told The Missourian. “And then when we get our money, we replenish those (reserves) for the next year.”
Scenic Regional has been doing it that way since 2017, when it took out a 30-year, $18.2 million bond to pay for construction of eight library branches.
“What we want to do is change our fiscal year to January, so that we’ll get our money in January, our fiscal year will start in January and we don’t need to hold that $3.4 million,” Campbell said.
That will allow Scenic Regional to apply the $3.4 million to the bond for construction projects. Over the life of the bond, Campbell said that will save taxpayers $6.5 million in interest and move up the date when the bond is paid off by four years to 2044 from the current 2048.
“It’s a big deal for us, and it would save a lot of money,” he said. “It doesn’t cost anyone anything. It would just be a huge savings for us.”
Incoming state Sen. Ben Brown, R-Washington, plans to file a companion bill on the Senate side, Campbell said.
Campbell said it could take two legislative sessions to get the bill passed. He said that is OK because Scenic Regional is not allowed to apply extra money to the bond until April 2025.
“So, we really have two years anyway to get the law passed,” he said. “It would be great if it passes this year, but, if not, we could try again next year.”
Banderman said Campbell’s original request was to require library district’s fiscal years to start Jan. 1, but after talking to directors in other districts, they decided to give each district the flexibility to determine when it wants the fiscal year to start.
Scenic Regional has branches in Union, St. Clair, Pacific, New Haven, Hermann, Owensville, Sullivan, Warrenton and Wright City.
The bill has no fiscal impact on the state, Banderman said.
“I think, normally, (the dates of the fiscal year) wouldn’t cause much of an issue, but with the increase in capital improvements in our particular region, it has put them in a position where they have money tied up that they could put down on the principal of those capital improvement projects,” he said.
This is the only bill Banderman, whose regular job is student pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Lonedell, intends to file at the moment.
“I’m certainly open to potentially carrying other legislation, but I’m using this one as, kind of, a learning process for me,” he said. “It usually takes a couple years, from what I’ve been told, to get up to speed down at Jeff City, so I’m hoping that this piece of legislation, because it’s really not controversial and it doesn’t really have a budget impact one way or the other, will allow me to slow-walk through this process, learn the whole process of legislation. I’m hoping within the next couple months, that I may be able to bring some other legislation.”
Banderman said he would definitely consider sponsoring bills that would make doing business “easier and cheaper,” but he is hoping the library bill can make it, for now.
“There’s a lot of ways to kill a bill, so if I can get this all the way across the finish line in my first year, I’ll be tickled pink,” he said. “I’ve been told that it’s quite a slow process in Jeff City.”
The other incoming House member from Franklin County, Kyle Marquart, a Washington Republican, filed his first bill late Thursday. House Bill 443 would establish “minimum fees for certain Missouri State Highway Patrol records requests.” The full text of the bill did not appear on the House website as of Friday morning.