City of San Jose Library Parcel Tax, Measure B (June 2014)

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A City of San Jose Library Parcel Tax, Measure B ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of San Jose in Santa Clara County, California, where it was overwhelmingly approved.

Measure B renewed for 25 years a city library parcel tax that was originally approved in 2004 and was set to expire in 2015. This parcel tax began at a rate of $25 per single-family home in 2004 but, through inflation adjustment, rose to $29.84 per single-family home.[1]

Approximately $505,000 was approved by the city council to fund the process of putting this ballot question before voters.[1]

A two-thirds supermajority vote was required for approval of this measure.

Election results

Measure B
Approveda Yes 102,291 81.47%
Election results from Santa Clara County Elections Office


This tax provided about eight million dollars per year in revenue to the San Jose library system, and it was estimated that this amount would continue to be collected going forward once voters approved Measure B. This estimated revenue of eight million dollars amounts to about a quarter - 22 percent - of the entire library budget. As of 2014, the San Jose library system had 23 branches and drew around 5.84 million visits per year. Over the last four years, the library system had been forced by city budget shortfalls to cut about 13 percent of operating library hours. Library officials said that, while renewing this tax would not restore any lost hours, it would prevent the library from firing nearly 50 librarians, decreasing new book and material purchases and even closing down several branches.[1][2]

Between the years 2000 and 2014, San Jose libraries saw a 30 percent drop in total visits and materials checked out by library visitors. A city survey showed that less than 40 percent of residents went to a library more than twice in 2013.[1]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[3]

To continue existing, voter-approved funding for all San Jose's libraries and services, including: open hours; librarians; updated books/research materials; access to computers/technology; children’s reading programs, story times, teen/senior programs; and adult literacy/job readiness, shall the City of San Jose continue its library parcel tax for another 25 years, subject to independent annual audits and ’citizens oversight, with no change in the existing voter-approved tax rate formula?[4]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure B was prepared by the office of the city attorney:[5]

The proposed measure, if approved, would enact an ordinance amending the San Jose Municipal Code to extend an existing annual special tax on parcels of land for library purposes ("Library Parcel Tax"). The San Jose City Council placed this measure on the ballot. Under State law, passage of this measure requires two-thirds voter approval. The Library Parcel Tax was originally approved by the voters in 2004 and expires on June 30, 2015. The amending ordinance would continue library funding provided by the Library Parcel Tax until June 30, 2040.

The land use classifications and Library Parcel tax rates imposed on those classifications would continue based on current rates: $29.84 on single-family parcels, condominiums and townhomes and the other specified rates for multi-family and other types of residential, industrial, commercial, professional, and vacant parcels. Each fiscal year the City Council may adjust the Library Parcel Tax rates by the inflation rate in the Bay Area, not to exceed three percent. The amending ordinance clarifies the calculation of the inflation rate adjustment.

The amending ordinance does not make any other changes to the Library Parcel Tax in the Municipal Code. Existing features of the Library Parcel Tax are described below.

The Municipal Code exempts parcels owned by churches and religious organizations and used for religious worship and parcels owned by governmental entities.

The Library Parcel Tax would continue to be collected by the County in conjunction with the collection of property taxes. Payment of the Library Parcel Tax is subject to the same requirements applicable to the payment of property taxes.

The Library Parcel Tax proceeds are required to be deposited into a special fund and used only for library purposes, including the acquisition of library books and materials and related costs of maintaining library collections; the development and delivery of homework and educational programs; the repair, equipping and staffing of libraries; and the cost of collection and administration of the Library Parcel Tax.

The Municipal Code requires the City Council to appoint or designate an oversight committee to review the expenditure of the Library Parcel Tax proceeds. Annually, the City's Director of Finance must report in writing to the City Council for the prior fiscal year the amount of Library Parcel Tax receipts and the expenditures. Additionally, the City's independent auditor is required to annually audit the expenditure of the Library Parcel Tax proceeds.

The City Council may adopt clarifying amendments and corrections to the Municipal Code's provisions regarding the Library Parcel Tax. However, voter approval is required to increase the Library Parcel Tax rate, other than inflation adjustments, or to extend the term of the tax.

Voting yes on this measure is a vote to continue the Library Parcel Tax for 25 years to be used only for library purposes.

Voting no on this measure is a vote to let the Library Parcel Tax expire on June 30, 2015. [4]

—Richard Doyle, San Jose City Attorney[5]



A coalition of library supporters formed to campaign in favor of the parcel tax renewal. These supporters, led by former library director Jane Light and former city manager Deb Figone, were joined by the Library Foundation and the Friends of the Library.[1]

The following individuals signed the official arguments in favor of Measure B:[5]

  • Gloria Chun Hoo, president of the San Jose/Santa Clara League of Women Voters
  • Maria A. Evans, an elementary school principal
  • Carl Guardino, president & CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group
  • Jane E. Light, retired librarian
  • Patricia Wolfe, retired San Jose resident/taxpayer

Arguments in favor

Those who advocated the renewal of this tax argued that the library system formed an essential resource to those without computers and to all residents, especially children. They stressed that the loss of revenue from this parcel tax would cause even more drastic cuts in library services.[1]

Councilwoman Rose Herrera said, "We're not where we want to be, but we certainly don't want to go in the other direction and close libraries."[1]

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in favor of Measure B:[5]

Protect and maintain San Jose's neighborhood libraries, without increasing your taxes--Vote YES on B! Neighborhood libraries play a critical role in our community. In 2013, residents made 6,000,000 visits to San Jose libraries. Over 200,000 children, teens, and adults attended library workshops, and 89,000 children and adults attended library literacy programs.

Twenty years ago, the community approved funding for San Jose libraries, which will expire unless renewed. Without extending this existing, voter-approved funding, tens of thousands of local students and residents will be affected--Vote YES on B!

Measure B is NOT a new tax. Measure B is NOT a tax increase. Measure B simply extends existing library funding.

Every dollar raised by Measure B goes directly to OUR San Jose libraries --and by law, cannot be used by politicians for any other purpose.

YES on B prevents neighborhood libraries from closing YES on B provides safe computers for children to use and places to go after school YES on B prevents elimination of children's reading programs YES on B provides library services for local schools that don't have libraries at their school sites YES on B keeps libraries safe and clean

Most of San Jose's libraries are only open four days a week, and only half are open on weekends. YES on B maintains library hours and helps keep libraries open at least one day on weekends.

Neighborhood public libraries are one of the few community centers left that benefit children, families, seniors and the disabled. Many seniors and families rely on libraries because buying books is just too expensive.

YES on B is subject to annual, published audits and Independent Citizens Oversight. Join the San Jose Mercury News, teachers, parents, librarians, community leaders and local business owners in voting YES on B to maintain funding for our local libraries! [4]

—Gloria Chun Hoo, Maria A. Evans, Carl Guardino, Jane E. Light and Patricia Wolfe[5]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in opposition to Measure B:[5]

  • Mary Anne Fifield, pornography addiction specialist
  • Larry Pegram, president of the Values Advocacy Council
  • Oretta Rodriguez, parent
  • Sue Sheffield, and elementary school teacher and parent
  • Robert Varich, Moreland School District Board Member

Arguments against

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure B:[5]

Vote "No" on Measure B. Children's computers in San Jose libraries do not protect our children from graphic sexual pictures. Pornographic images are available to our children on the computers in the children's section of the San Jose Libraries. Santa Clara County Library District computers have pornography filters in place to protect the children of Los Altos, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga from pornographic images.

The San Jose children that use our San Jose libraries deserve to be protected in the same way. In 2009, the San Jose library system refused to protect our children even though the costs to install the filters on the computers in the children's section were guaranteed by private contributions. Why reward the libraries which do not give our children the same protection children in other cities receive? Help make our libraries a safe place for children and families. No parcel tax extension until pornography filters are installed on the computers in the children's section of our libraries.

Protect our children.

Vote "No" on Measure B. [4]

—Mary Anne Fifield, Larry Pegram, Oretta Rodriguez, Sue Sheffield and Robert Varich[5]

Revenue purpose

Revenue from this tax was earmarked exclusively for the following purposes:[3]

1. The acquisition of library books and materials and related costs to maintain library collections at all libraries;

2. Development and delivery of educational support programs for all age groups to support literacy and lifelong learning;

3. The repair, equipping and staffing of libraries; and

4. The cost of collection and administration of the Library Parcel Tax.

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

On March 4, 2014, the San Jose City Council voted unanimously to put this question before voters on the June 3, 2014 election ballot. The council approved $505,000 in election related expenditures to fund the process of putting this ballot question before voters.[1]

See also

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