Marin County Free Library District Parcel Tax Renewal, Measure A (June 2014)

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A Marin County Free Library District Parcel Tax Renewal Measure ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the Marin County Free Library District in Marin County, California, where it was approved.[1]

The measure renewed a parcel tax of $49 per year for 9 years in support of the Marin County Free Library District. This tax, which raised about $2.5 million per year for the library, was designed to expire in 2015. Measure A extended the existing parcel tax, which was approved in 2010. It also featured an annual cost-of-living increase tied to the Bay Area Consumer Price Index and capped at three percent per year. Seniors were to continue to be eligible for an exemption under Measure A.[2]

The Library Chief Sara Jones said that the 2010 tax had allowed for the remodeling of library branches, the improvement of services, the improvement of disability access and the expansion of library materials and has provided $1.7 million towards staff salaries, which amounted to 17 percent of the staffing budget.[2]

This tax was originally approved as Measure A in 2010 by over 74 percent of Marin County voters.

A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for approval of the measure.

Note: Original voter pamphlet information was sent to all county voters because of a coding error. This measure could, in fact, only be voted on by district residents, which included residents of Novato, Fairfax, Corte Madera, Ross and the unincorporated areas of the county, but excluded voters in San Anselmo and southern Marin. Although voters countywide saw Measure A on voter pamphlets, the official ballots were corrected to exclude Measure A from the ballots of voters outside of the library district boundaries.[3]

Election results

Measure A
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 26,075 78.53%
No7,13021.47%
Election results from County of Marin Elections Department

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot is:[4]

To provide critical funding to: upgrade local libraries, prevent closures, and maintain library hours; provide children, teen, senior and disabled programs including public education support; maintain books and digital collections; enhance library facilities and ADA accessibility; and ensure local funding can’t be taken by the State, shall Marin County Free Library extend the current approved 2010, $49 parcel tax for 9 years with annual CPI adjustment, including independent citizen oversight and senior citizen exemptions?[5]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure A was prepared by the office of the county counsel:[4]

This Measure was placed on the ballot by the Marin County Board of Supervisors. If this Measure is approved by a two-thirds vote, Resolution No. 2014-17 of the Board of Supervisors of Marin County establishing a special tax of Forty-Nine Dollars ($49.00) per parcel for maintaining and providing essential funding to protect library services, commencing in fiscal year 2015-2016 and continuing for a period of nine (9) years, shall be confirmed. An exemption is created for owners aged sixty-five (65) years or older who use the parcel as his or her principal place of residence. [5]

—Steven M. Woodside, Marin County Counsel[4]

Support

Supporters

The parcel tax was approved unanimously by the county supervisors.[2]

  • Supervisor Susan Adams: "There is a lot of support in the community. This is where we level the playing field about education and access."
  • Supervisor Steve Kinsey: "I absolutely support this. This is one of the ways we can address the equity gaps in our community."
  • Supervisor Kate Sears: "These funds are really crucial to our community."

Librarian Sara Jones, who had played a large role in tightening oversight of the parcel tax revenue, said, "The parcel tax funding provides a critical part of the needed financial resources to keep our library system whole to avoid reduced hours or closure of any of our branches. It also funds critical services to children that support their formal education and encouraged them to become lifelong learners." She also warned that the library system would experience budget shortfalls of approximately $2.5 million by fiscal year 2015-16 if voters rejected Measure A.[2]

The following individuals signed the official argument in favor of Measure A:[4]

  • Jared Huffman (D-2), member of Congress
  • Robert Berner, former Executive Director of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust
  • Alison Dana Howard, Measure A Oversight Committee member, MCFL Library Commission and Professor at Dominican University
  • Dietrich Stroeh, former Novato Citizen of the Year and Former President of the Novato Chamber of Commerce
  • Elisabeth "Suki" Sennett, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Marin County

Arguments in favor

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in favor of Measure A:[4]

Vote YES to renew Measure A for Marin libraries + protect important programs and services for children and people with disabilities, keep materials collections up-to-date, and most importantly prevent branches from closing and operating hours from being cut. Our Marin County libraries are an extremely valuable community resource. Since 2010 there has been a 24% increase in library visits and a 26% increase in material circulation. Renewing Measure A is critical to protecting services that are relied upon by many, including children, seniors and people with disabilities. Thanks to Measure A, there were 38,886 participants in youth and teen programs in 2013 alone. Measure A funding allows our libraries to provide computer access for those without home access, and offer critical job-training and employment assistance services. Most importantly, Measure A ensures that all branches remain open and available to the public. Without Measure A this essential source of local funding will expire and our libraries would be forced to cut hours, collections and services. All Measure A funds will remain under local control to support Marin County libraries + nothing can be cut by the State or redirected for other purposes. Vote Yes on A:

  • Maintain library hours and prevent closures
  • Enhance and maintain collections of books and dig- ital materials
  • Maintain programs and services for children
  • Protect services and ensure access for people with disabilities
  • Provide access to computers and job training pro- grams for all residents

Fiscal Accountability is Required:

  • All funds stay under local control to support our libraries + nothing can be taken or redirected by the State
  • Oversight and reports by a newly appointed independent Citizens' Oversight Committee
  • Seniors are eligible for an exemption from the cost

Measure A has been critical to maintaining hours, preventing closures, and protecting important programs. Vote YES on A to renew this funding and protect our local libraries! [5]

Jared Huffman (D-2), Robert Berner, Alison Dana Howard, Dietrich Stroeh and Elisabeth "Suki" Sennett[4]

Editorials

  • The Marin Independent Journal editorial board wrote an article calling for voters to approve the Measure A tax, despite the problems that have been found in oversight of the revenue provided by the parcel tax. The editorial pointed out that the library system had taken steps to strengthen spending oversight and was in genuine need. An excerpt of the editorial follows:

WE TEND TO TAKE our public libraries for granted, assuming these valuable community institutions that have always been around will continue to be open and freely accessible.

And they will continue to be around — but only if taxpayers maintain steady, strong support.

[...]

Renewal of Measure A will assure that the Marin County Free Library — used by some 53,000 patrons ranging from preschoolers to senior citizens — will continue operating on solid financial footing.

Because of that, we urge a "yes" vote on Measure A on the June 3 ballot. [5]

Marin Independent Journal editorial board[6]

Opposition

No official arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure A. If you have an argument that you would like to see posted here, please email the Local Ballot Measure Project staff writer.

Revenue oversight

In 2013, a civil grand jury investigated the Library Commission's oversight of the revenue from this parcel tax and concluded that it was inadequate and that the commissioners had a "lack of involvement" that left expenses difficult to track. Tax supporters promised in 2010 that the tax revenue would be closely audited by a commission appointed by the county supervisors. The 2013 jury said that the library commission largely failed in its role and only reviewed reports from the library administration twice a year. The county supervisors reappointed the incumbent commissioners despite the jury's conclusion, reportedly relying on library chief Sara Jones for needed oversight.[2]

Polls

In a poll done by Godbe Research, a sample of 422 likely Marin County voters were surveyed about Measure A. The results of the poll showed support for the measure at an even greater level than the 74 percent majority that approved the original parcel tax in 2010. Bryan Godbe of Godbe Research indicated that the poll showed the tax renewal to be nearly a sure thing. He said, "Even with the (polling) error rate, we're above the threshold we need to be at." Godbe also commented on how his survey showed Marin residents to believe quality education was the most important local issue and that they were, on the whole, more concerned with library improvement than with improving the local economy or preventing tax increases.[2]

Similar measures

Related measures

Approveda Marin County Free Library parcel tax, Measure A (June 2010)

See also

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