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Board urges higher library tax

Photo Elliott Burr/Town Crier

Los Altos Hills Councilman Jean Mordo said an annual parcel tax of $70 to $90 is needed to maintain hours for Los Altos libraries.

To maintain current operating hours at the Los Altos Library, residents will have to pay more. But in an economy gone sour, Los Altos Hills City Councilman Jean Mordo, a North County Library Authority (NCLA) board member, said inaction is not an option.

After meeting with Los Altos Finance Director Russ Morreale, Mordo and fellow NCLA board member Roy Lave recommended renewing and increasing the annual parcel tax charged to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills households from the current tax of $52 to a rate of $70-$90 to supplement current operating hours and maintain its book quantity.

The current tax, established 20 years ago, is set to expire in 2011. The initiative was implemented in 1991 to finance physical expansion of the library, but inflation has taken a toll and the yearly $52 tax is insufficient to support the library's services.

"If we do nothing, the parcel tax expires, and that's it. We would have to drastically reduce operating hours at the Los Altos Library and/or possibly close the Woodland Library (on Grant Road)," said Mordo, a parcel-tax subcommittee member.

The renewed tax would supplement the annual $33.66 parcel tax the Santa Clara County already collects from residents for the library. Part of a joint power of authority with the county, the Los Altos Library needs more than the county tax to function.

"I'm a proponent of telling the truth," Mordo said. "This is not a lot of money."

The library would maintain service as is with the tax – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Hours could be drastically reduced if the measure doesn't pass.

Passing the measure is a careful balancing act – a lower tax might be easier to pass but would likely not allow the library to function adequately.

"If we try to pass a ‘sure-thing' measure with a low tax, we would have to reduce hours in the future and people would complain. If people want to continue with current hours, it's going to cost ($70-$90). We need to provide a reasonable allowance for inflation. Salaries and book costs are not going to remain constant."

Morreale said the board is scheduled to finalize details Nov. 16. It is likely, according to Mordo, the board will opt to send a mail-in parcel-tax ballot to residents in June 2010. Putting it on the ticket in the March or November elections – other options considered – would end up costing more.

Another alternative is to adjust the tax for inflation annually over the next 20 years, but that option would require separate elections every time the tax increases.

"If we want sure service for the next 20 years, we need this parcel tax," Mordo said.

Contact Elliott Burr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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