By Erika Moen on December 19, 2011
UPDATE: May 1, 2012
Hey folks! For up-to-date information please check out Keep Our Libraries Open, the letter below is now somewhat out of date :)
You guys, I love the library. Especially this year, where I’ve been really relying on the library as my primary resource for researching my next comic project– it’s saved me so much money and space that I would have had to use up if I were buying books that I was only planning on reading once. And, of course, libraries have always been my “happy place” since childhood, so just going into one fills me with delight.
Which is why it’s so upsetting to hear that Portland’s libraries are at immediate risk of losing 33% of their funding and will have to lay off 80-100 people in 2012.
If you’re a Portlander who cares about our libraries, please give it a read through and contact the people she lists to let them know our libraries need to be protected!
As you know, I am a library nerd. In addition, I am currently the Chair of the Multnomah County Library Advisory Board. We are, as the name suggests, a purely advisory organization. For nearly 20 years we’ve been advising that the library be funded through a permanent, dependable mechanism to avoid the threat of losing library services every time a levy is up for a vote. It appears, unfortunately, that the Advisory Board will be ignored, yet again.
A brief summary of public funding for the library:
- The Library is currently funded through two mechanisms: a temporary levy, set to expire in June of 2012, and a contribution from Multnomah County’s general fund. The levy currently accounts for 66% of the library’s funding.
- For the last few years the Advisory Board has been advocating for a library district to replace the levy. A district is a permanent means of funding the library. Once approved, the rate cannot change. As a district, the library remains a portion of public government accountable to the voters.
- At this point, voting for either a levy or a district that will fund the library at its current service level will raise property taxes. The current rate is $0.89 per $1,000 assessed. At a minimum the district rate would need to be $1.17. The highest (and safest) rate being discussed for a levy is $1.24.
- The reason for the difference in the rates is that levies are more susceptible to something called “compression,” which roughly translates into a reduction that happens when less than what was expected is collected. Districts are not as susceptible to compression.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll help me in contacting these people and letting them know we love our libraries.