To the editor:

On Nov. 4, a referendum on new libraries in Fulton County will be voted on by the county’s voters. Included among the new libraries is a new Central Library in downtown Atlanta at a cost of more than $200 million plus interest on the bonds.

We are currently facing unprecedented economic times. The financial crisis in the United States is not just limited to exotic forms of financial instruments like interest rate swaps and collateralized debt obligations.

A recent New York Times article (Sept. 27) headlined “Municipalities Also Find Credit Is Scarce” outlines the current challenges in financing city and county projects. The article highlights several city and county projects across the country that failed to raise the necessary bond issues.

According to The Bond Buyer, a trade publication, “Investors shied away from municipal bonds, traditionally considered among the safest investments. As a result, yields on municipal bonds rose to their highest level in nearly nine years, 6.28 percent.”

Given this situation, it behooves the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to clearly distinguish between discretionary and nondiscretionary expenditures. Surely, a new public library at this time is unnecessary.

Based on moderate-to-low customer usage, the present Central Library, designed by the world-renowned architect Marcel Breuer, is perfectly suited to continue as the Central Library. The size of the present Central Library is 280,000 square feet. With the Internet taking the place of libraries, the present Central Library could easily serve as the Central Library for decades to come.

The Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation (FCTF) has requested — in vain — a copy of any feasibility study for the new Central Library. I personally visit the Central Library several times each month to conduct research for the FCTF newsletters. I can attest the facility is in reasonable condition but sadly underutilized.

In times of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, it is not fair to the taxpayers for the Board of Commissioners to have passed such a huge, unnecessary expenditure, even with the private-sector fundraising initiative.

The new Central Library referendum will appear, together with other new libraries, on the Nov. 4 ballot. The taxpayers of Fulton County should vote based on the facts.

John S. Sherman, president
Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation