In Clayton, poor now subsidize library services for wealthy | The Johnstonian News
The Johnstonian News

Our Opinion

In Clayton, poor now subsidize library services for wealthy

Posted on February 21, 2022

Updated on February 26, 2022

Clayton will no longer charge out-of-town residents to use its library.

Town of Clayton photo

Clayton will no longer charge out-of-town residents to use its library.

From now on, the poorest Clayton residents will subsidize library services for the wealthiest folks who live outside of town. That’s the fallout from the Town Council no longer requiring out-of-town residents to pay $25 a year for a library card.

Councilman Mike Sims called the out-of-town fee an annoyance. We’re sure it is, but so are town property taxes, though Clayton property owners pay those, which is how the town has a library in the first place.

Councilman Jason Thompson said libraries, like public schools, should be free and available to everyone. That’s a nice sentiment, but Mr. Thompson knows that neither libraries nor public schools are free. They cost money to build and operate. The difference now is that while all Johnstonians pay for their public schools, in Clayton, just in-town residents will pay for a library free to everyone else.

Only Mayor Jody McLeod seemed to be mindful that some Clayton library users were about to be getting something for nothing. Still, he supported the move, though he called on library leaders to find grants and donations to ease the burden on Clayton taxpayers.

What we don’t understand is how Clayton’s library differs from its parks and recreation programs. Out-of-town residents have always paid a premium — a steep one at that — to take part in recreation programs. Want to sign your child up for T-ball? It’ll cost a Clayton resident $30; an out-of-towner $60.

And yet Clayton’s parks and recreation director isn’t lobbying the Town Council to abandon the out-of-town markup. Perhaps that’s because out-of-town residents think rec programs are worth the cost; they value them.

Based on patron numbers, out-of-town residents have placed less value on library services since the town implemented the annual fee. The number of out-of-town patrons fell dramatically when that happened.

But Clayton isn’t making its library more valuable by making library services free to some patrons while making them more costly for others. It’s simply acknowledging that in-town residents have no choice but to pay property taxes to support a library that’s suddenly free to people who don’t pay those taxes.

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