A vote that really counts

This November Malta residents will have the opportunity to vote on the Round Lake Library’s funding request. The proposed increase is a modest one: from this year’s $285,000 to a $291,000 budget next year. That’s about 2 percent. More than half of the budget goes to paying staff salaries.

In all likelihood any increase in the budget would have to be funded by an increase in property taxes. A 2 percent rise amounts to about 16 cents for every $1,000 of property tax levied.

Such small amounts would seem to be a small issue. But, we believe there is more to this story than meets the eye.

For all citizens, wherever they live, pocketbook issues have become increasingly important as our prolonged economic stagnation continues. The plain truth is governments and school districts have less money to work with than they have had in the recent past. And, ordinary citizens, in general, have less money to give them.

But, the demand for government services hasn’t decreased with the revenues. If anything, we’ve come to expect even more, from help for the poor and unemployed to improved infrastructure to schools better-positioned to give our children a greater chance at a healthy financial future.

The resulting strain has forced our public servants to make some painful cuts. For the most part they’ve managed to do it without causing too much disappointment to our expectations. But as the general economic malaise continues to drag on they’re faced with fewer and fewer options.

Come November, we as citizen voters will have the opportunity to tell them which direction to go. In some cases, especially in Malta, the issues are clear and the choice stark. In others the view is a bit murkier.

But, in all cases it’s up to the people themselves to decide where their money will be spent and by whom. It’s the great strength of our republic: We may not get to vote directly on every expenditure, but we get to pick the people who do and give them a pretty clear idea of what we want. In the end, the citizens choose.

We believe the Round Lake Library’s request should be approved. It is, after all, not very much money, and on its face seems a reasonable request, especially given the vital role a public library plays in the life of its community. Ben Franklin saw the need back in 1731, when he formed the Library Company in Philadelphia- the first subscription library in the New World. His goal was to make books, expensive then as now, available to all as a matter of civic improvement. “An investment in knowledge,” he said, “pays the best interest.” That’s still true today.

But beyond the immediate question of library funding is the more fundamental one of choice. A ballot is a voice, and one that must be heard. There will be other questions to decide in November, but the most important one is who will represent us. We get to hire the people who will serve us. And, we get to ask them who they are, what they believe, and what they plan to do if they get the job.

We hope as the next couple months unfold our readers will take full advantage of that opportunity. We pledge to do our part by reporting the news and keeping our friends and neighbors informed about the candidates and the issues. But in the end it is up to each of us as individuals to reach out for information and then make up our own minds.

Sometimes, we admit, that’s not always easy to do, especially when national issues are on the table. Next year’s general election is already looming. And well-funded candidates (and the people behind them) will be increasingly clamoring for our money and our votes, and possibly smudging the issues in order to get both. It can sometimes seem to be too much and our individual voices too small. But here at home, in our local elections, each vote is a vote that really counts.

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