City Beat

Sacramento to ask voters to extend parcel tax for city libraries

Pocket resident Nick Netta, then 7, looks through books on animals at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library in Sacramento on May 4, 2011.
Pocket resident Nick Netta, then 7, looks through books on animals at the Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven Library in Sacramento on May 4, 2011. aalfaro@sacbee.com

Sacramento city leaders intend to place a measure on the June 2016 ballot to extend a parcel tax that provides nearly one-third of the funding for the city’s 12 libraries.

The City Council on Tuesday directed city staff to draft a ballot measure that would renew Measure X, a parcel tax measure voters passed overwhelmingly in 2004. That measure, which charges the typical single-family homeowner $31 per year, generates about $5 million annually for city libraries. It is set to expire in June 2017, and city leaders want to ask the voters to extend the funding before that date.

Rivkah K. Sass, director of the Sacramento Public Library system, told the City Council that future parcel-tax funding will support “core library services” and that the money is necessary to operate all of the libraries in the city. She added that three new libraries have been constructed in the city since Measure X was passed and that the library has greatly expanded its technological offerings from e-books to stronger Internet connections at its facilities.

“The world has changed a lot since 2004,” she said.

City voters have shown since 2004 they are willing to fund library services.

Voters passed Measure U, an increase in the city sales tax, in 2012. The libraries receive just over $500,000 a year in revenue from that tax and were among the top service providers city leaders promoted as they campaigned for the measure.

Two years later, voters approved Measure B, a $12-a-year parcel tax that generates $1.9 million annually for library staffing, materials and technology.

Even with those sources, “funding for library operations has remained extraordinarily challenging,” a city staff report said. Some libraries have gone decades without new carpets, and library use continues to grow, Sass said.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who led the campaign to pass Measure B in 2014, said the Sacramento library system’s budget is among the lowest in the nation for systems its size.

“(Renewing the Measure X parcel tax) does not add any money to what you are already paying in Sacramento,” Ashby said. “This keeps it the same. This is about keeping the 12 libraries going as they go right now.”

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis

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