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Council offers support for library-tax renewal


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Sophia Chen browses the stacks at the Los Altos main library Monday. The Los Altos City Council voted to support renewal of the Santa Clara County Library District tax.

The Los Altos City Council last week approved a resolution supporting a measure that would renew the soon-to-expire 20-year-old county library tax.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 June 25 to support ballot Measure A, scheduled for the Aug. 27 Special Election, which would extend funding for the Santa Clara County Library District for an additional 20 years at its existing annual rate of $33.66 per single-family home. The Los Altos Hills City Council also supported the measure with a unanimous vote June 20.

Voters in the library district, which includes the Los Altos main and Woodland Branch libraries, are slated to decide its fate via mail-in ballot. District members include Cupertino, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Campbell, Gilroy, Milpitas and unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.

The measure requires approval from two-thirds of voters to pass. Los Altos City Councilwoman Jan Pepper told the Town Crier that the measure would provide approximately $5.6 million in annual funds to the district.

“I think it’s great that the council supports it,” said Pepper, the city’s representative on the library district’s Joint Powers Authority Board. “The libraries are one of the more important assets that we have in our town. … This special tax represents 18 percent of the district’s (annual) budget.”

The council voted to support the measure after a presentation by Los Altos community librarian Jane Cronkhite noted that the tax would help district libraries maintain their current levels of service.

Specifically, Cronkhite listed ongoing needs such as maintaining library services and summer reading programs, retaining qualified staff and purchasing books and updated research materials. Without continued tax support, she added, local libraries would be forced to reduce hours by a day or more each week and potentially eliminate programming that benefits seniors, children and teens.

“There are more than 100,000 school-age and preschool children who attend library programs each year,” Cronkhite said during a prepared speech before the council. “School libraries are often open only a few days per week, making public libraries more important than ever for children’s education.”

Cronkhite added that the new measure would alter the way tax dollars are distributed among district members.

“Every Measure A dollar raised within the city is returned for the benefit and operation of the local library in that city,” said Cronkhite, who noted that the measure was not a tax increase, but simply a way to continue an existing level of support for the library district.

Under the soon-to-expire tax, the district applied a funding formula that equally weighs each member municipality’s population, property-assessed valuation and library circulation to allocate costs. The formula was a source of contention among some local officials, who claimed that cities received disproportionate amounts of funding compared to the tax dollars collected from Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents.

Pepper reiterated Cronkhite’s assertion, noting that locally collected taxes would “go directly to the operations of the Los Altos and Woodland libraries” – an estimated sum of $636,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, should the measure pass.

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