Library boosters may seek district vote
May 17, 2012
By Steve Law, The Portland Tribune
Multnomah County leaders and library supporters will huddle Monday to plot the next step to secure long-term library funding, after voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved stopgap money by renewing a short-term operating levy.
By a whopping 5-to-1 margin, county voters approved a three-year renewal of the current property tax levy. That will enable libraries to keep operating when the current five-year levy expires June 30, and maintain the current property tax level of 89 cents for every $1,000 in assessed value, or $178 for a home assessed at $200,000.
"We didn't expect this kind of a margin," said Brian Wilson, campaign chairman. "We thought it would be a sizable win, but we didn't think it would be this big."
To put the numbers in perspective, the library levy had the same level of support as city of Portland charter amendments that were considered routine housekeeping measures.
County Chair Jeff Cogen said Wednesday morning that he summoned political leaders and people active in the Library Foundation and Friends of the Multnomah County Library to discuss future election strategy on Monday, in a private meeting at his office. The key issue is whether county commissioners will make good on their pledge last December to put a countywide library district -- which would raise the tax rate while providing permanent property taxes for libraries -- before voters in November.
Library supporters have long dreamed of a district to achieve stable funding, so the library system isn't dependent on going back to voters every three to five years to renew temporary tax levies. Multnomah County voters made it easier to form a district when they approved a county charter amendment in 2010.
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