Aurora Library Property Tax Increase, 2009

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The Aurora Library Property Tax Increase appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Arapahoe, Adams and Douglas counties for voters in the City of Aurora. This measure sought to raise resident's property tax by about 6 percent in order to fund local libraries.

Election results

The measure was defeated.[1]

Ballot Issue 4A
Result Votes Percentage
Defeatedd No 20,778 53.8%
Yes 17,825 46.1%
Total votes 38,603 100.00%
Voter turnout NA%


Aftermath

Four libraries will now be closed due to this measure not passing with about 40 people losing their jobs in the process. The Mission Viejo, Hoffman Heights, Iliff Square and Chambers Plaza libraries were chosen as those that will closed with three libraries remaining open in the north, south and central part of the city. it is unsure when the libraries will close, but sometime within the month it is expected. The city will hold on to the buildings and equipment in the libraries in the hopes that it will be able to open them again in the future.[2]

A task force has been set up to deal with these closures, which will occur by the end of December. Their job is to find places for the computers and books from the closed libraries. The computers will be moved to those libraries that are remaining open as long as their systems can support the addition. The books will either be put in the remaining libraries, given to a local book charity or recycled in some other fashion. The Iliff Square and Chambers Plaza libraries are under leases, so now when those leases are up the buildings will no longer be the city's. What will happen to the other two buildings is still unclear, the city may use them for other purposes. There is still a lot to be done to meet the six week closure deadline at these four libraries.[3]

Currently the homeowners association near the Mission Viejo library is trying to get that library to remain open, citing a 1973 pact made with the city to provide library services. The city lawyer stated that the pact has no legal grounds anymore, but the city council was willing to meet with the group to see if an arrangement could be worked out. The other library branches are also unsure if they will be able to deal with the increase amount of traffic due to library closures. All programs provided by the libraries will also be unavailable after this year ends.[4]

The four libraries officially closed the beginning of 2010. Residents who attended the closings were disappointed, but the city had no other option. Story time and computer classes are also canceled indefinitely in the other three libraries.[5]

Ballot summary

The ballot language read as follows:[6]

Shall the Aurora Public Library general improvement district be organized in the City of Aurora, Colorado, and shall district taxes be increased not to exceed $12,514,000 annually, payable commencing in 2010, by an ad valorem property tax mill levy imposed at a rate sufficient to produce the annual revenues specified above (which in 2009, is approximately $5.69 per month on a $200,000 home at a rate of 4.29 mills) and such additional amounts as may be necessary to account for increases in the consumer price index for the statistical area that includes Aurora, all to provide solely for the following services without any subsidy from City of Aurora general revenues:

  • maintaining, improving and expanding library services and facilities;
  • increasing library system hours of operation; and
  • providing enhanced library services, such as a buying new books and media and improving programs for children, teens, and adults;

provided that: (I)the rate of such tax may be adjusted to account for changes in law or in the method of calculating assessed valuation so that such changes will not impact the revenues generated by such tax, and (II) such tax shall be spent as a voter-approved revenue change and an exception to any limits that would otherwise apply under the constitution and laws of this state and the Aurora City Charter?

Support

Proponents said that this increase was needed in order to keep the libraries alive, if the measure was not passed four libraries would need to be closed because the city could not fund them all. Also, about 40 employees were expected to lose their jobs as a result of cut backs.[7]But the question came down to either adding a tax that some see as too high or closing the libraries for the foreseeable future.[8] A study done in Aurora by the public schools showed that nearly 30 percent of families don't have access to a home computer, so the library is their only source for this. It was also important to those who cannot afford books, it was a quality of life issue in this regard.[9]

Opponents

Opponents said a 40 percent budget increase for the libraries was far too much, nearly doubling the budget the libraries had in 2009 at $6.5 million to nearly $12.5 million if the measure passed. Split issue, need for libraries but questionable about the large tax increase for residents.[7] Many opponents saw the city more than doubling the library budget in order to use the extra money for other uses not associated with the library; they saw no use in increasing the budget so much.[8] The fact that the country was basically in a depression, many saw this as the wrong time to ask for such a tax increase, no matter the issue.[9]

References