County deal puts library levy, district to a vote
Commissioners worried about support for new taxing district
January 3, 2012
By Steve Law, The Portland Tribune
Multnomah County commissioners and county library supporters have united around a compromise, two-step plan to secure short- and long-term funding of the county library system.
In a deal announced Tuesday morning, county leaders and library supporters agreed to support putting a three-year temporary tax levy on the ballot in May, to extend the current five-year library levy that expires June 30. The levy tax rate would remain at the current level, 89 cents in property taxes for every $1,000 in assessed property value.
Then, if county voters OK the proposed three-year levy in May, county commissioners pledged to put a permanent funding measure — a library district with its own taxing authority — on the ballot in November. That would replace the temporary levy with permanent property tax funding, probably at a tax rate of around $1.18 per $1,000 in assessed property value.
The compromise alleviates Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen’s fear that voters would reject the more expensive library district proposal if placed on the May ballot, as recent polling indicated. That would have left the county with a 70 percent shortfall in library funds, assuring wide-scale branch closures and other major cutbacks.
The compromise also gives library boosters some hopes that their long-term dream — stable, permanent funding from a library district — remains in reach.
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