Vote to decide future of Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library

Craighead County voters have an important choice on the upcoming ballot with regard to the library’s funding. Either voters continue things as they are or they cut the funding in half.

And like in most disagreements, each side raises valid points while somehow finding a way to ignore the opposing arguments.

Factual Background

The Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library’s (CCJPL) funding will be cut from 2 mills to 1 mill if voters decide to approve a millage cut on the ballot this November.

The group “Craighead Citizens Taxed Enough” gathered the required signatures needed for the measure to be put on the ballot. Iris Stevens is the coordinator of the group and also the coordinator of the NEA Tea Party. She is a retired English teacher.

“It started back in February or March of 2021,” Stevens said, asserting that the matter was not related to recent politics.  “Another citizen and I got together and we were talking about the upcoming reassessments and how that was going to change. That person had been looking at a lot of the taxes in NEA and this will probably not going to be the only one we looked at.”

Are we paying more?

One of the bold points of “Craighead Citizens Taxed Enough” was that the CCJPL has $6 million in the bank. CCJPL Director Vanessa Adams clarified this was because they’re forward-funded. It’s a system they’ve used since the 1940s, she said, to protect both tax payers and the library.

“Forward-funded, according to our library definition, that all of the funding we received last year is what we are living on this year,” Adams said. “So all of the property tax, all of the millage we are receiving now this year, goes to fund us next year. It’s a brilliant format.”

This explains why the library has built a surplus fund. But with the library bringing in higher revenues than their operating expenses, the question shifts to if the library is overfunded. Library Director Adams says no. Citizen organizer Stevens says yes.

A county can levy up to 5 mills under Arkansas law for maintenance and operation of a library, authorized by Amendment 38 of the Arkansas Constitution. Any changes must be made by electors. Stevens said that Craighead County is unusually high at 2 mills when considering property values and size.

As a class 6 county (class 7 is the highest) Craighead County collects more mills for its library than other counties of similar size (source). However, it is critical to note that this still isn’t disproportionately high. Saline County collects 1.7 mills, Jefferson County 1.4 mills, and Garland County 1.6 mills. At 2 mills, Craighead would go from having one of the most well-funded to the least well-funded libraries, should funding be cut in half to 1 mill. Faulkner County and White County, also class 6 counties, collect 1 mill.

What Would Be Cut?

Both Jonesboro voters and Craighead County voters will be voting FOR the measure or AGAINST the measure, but each result has individual implications, Adams told NEA Report.

If the county cuts funding, all four library branches in the county will be forced to close. That includes Lake City, Brookland, Monette, and Caraway.

Stevens, without being able to provide evidence, disputed this and said that the branches would be unaffected. She said she is working on documents to prove this but they are not ready yet.

If the Jonesboro measure passes, operating funds for the library will be cut in half, Adams said, meaning far more visible consequences.

“We will potentially have to sell our book mobile,” Adams said. “We will have to cut hours. We won’t be available to the public when we are now. We will cut our programming. We do a lot of outreach programming to nursing centers, Alzheimer’s units, daycares, we will have to cut all of that.”

Stevens seemed to believe otherwise, in that the library could thrive and continue to adequately serve the community with the reduced millage. Although Adams and library proponents disagree, Stevens said inflation and the recent spike in appraisals across the area as a whole are big reasons why her group wants to cut funding to the library.

“We have a 40 year high in inflation with people seeing grocery prices going up a dollar or two a trip,” Stevens said. “Anywhere we can help them, I believe we need to. They’re the ones paying the bills and we need to make sure they’re not over paying.”

But a tax on property is generally one that isn’t felt as hard by those who can barely afford food. The tax increases based on how much value the property has. Of all taxes collected in Arkansas (state and local combined), 18.1% comes from property taxes. That’s the fifth lowest in the nation, according to, where the average is 31%.

Stevens acknowledged this but indicated a trickle-down effect from the larger property owners could still be felt by those struggling to get by.

“The ones who own small homes and lower income are already in a pinch,” Stevens said. “So let’s raise their taxes more during reappraisal. When appraisals go up, the rent goes up for everyone. So this helps people who struggle to make the rent.”

Until the results come in on election night, no one can predict for certain which way the tax measure will go. A vocal contingent does seem to have rallied around the library in a social media push to “Save the Library.” The library director calls that encouraging and genuinely seemed positive about the prospects. But it was clear that a sour feeling wouldn’t go away for her at the mere concept, she said, of people wanting to defund a library that helps people who have nothing else.


  1. The proposal is written intentionally confusing,
    If you vote “yes” you are voting to reduce funding to the library hoping to confuse voters who in my opinion would normally vote “yes” save our library.

  2. Everyboby needs to cut their budgets in Bidens & Democrats Inflation Economy…We the people had to take a pay cut with inflation so can you! We are taxed enough!

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