Voters in Red and Blue States Support Smart Taxes for Local Libraries in 2020
EveryLibrary, the national political action committee for libraries, is releasing preliminary results from 37 local ballot measures and referendums for public libraries across the country. While all results are uncertified as of today, EveryLibrary is happy to report that 28 measures for libraries were approved by voters in 17 states. As of now, 3 library measures failed and 6 additional questions are too soon to call. This includes at least $728 million in bonds for new construction and renovation of library buildings and hundreds of millions of dollars in operating levies for collections, programs, and staffing.
“Despite the rancor around the presidential and congressional elections, voters in towns, cities, and counties - in both red states and blue states - support smart taxes for their local libraries,” says John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary. “It is a testimony to how important libraries and librarians are that even during COVID voters want to see strong libraries and proper funding in place.”
Notable results from Election Day 2020 for libraries this year include:
- In Oregon, voters approved Measure 26-211 for the Multnomah County Library. This $387 million bond will finance library renovations by imposing a property tax of $61 per $100,000 of assessed value to repay the bonds. The Deschutes Public Library District likewise passed a $195 million construction bond by a large margin. In Eugene, the voters renewed their library’s $2.85 million operating budget. EveryLibrary provided direct assistance to the Libraries for Everyone Committee there.
- Voters across Ohio voted to renew all the local library levies we could track have. In Cuyahoga County, voters did agree to a new 1-mill tax increase which will raise an additional $18 million per year for library operations. Passing this levy avoids significant cuts to programs, building maintenance, and their budget for books and other materials. Unfortunately, voters in Portage County have again rejected a proposal to establish a new local levy for the library district. With state aid to libraries being cut significantly in the state, this will force some hard budget choices there. This is the second time EveryLibrary has provided direct support to the Get Out the Vote efforts in the county.
- In Hampshire County, WV. approved reestablishment of the core funding levy for the library 75% to 25%. The tax, which had been first established in 1987, had failed to be renewed on the spring 2020 ballot. In Taylor County, WV., fully 87% of the voters said yes to renewing their county library’s operating levy.
- Voters in historic Woodstock, NY rejected a measure to replace their library with a new building. In Antioch, IL, voters appear to have defeated a proposal to repair, improve, and enhance their library building. In the town of Castle Rock, WA. it is too soon to call whether voters will pass the 60% threshold to reinstate the library’s basic operating levy, which has failed twice on recent ballots.
- In New Mexico, the statewide biennial “GOBond for Libraries” passed with 66% of the vote. This $9.7 million bond provides funding to public, academic, school, and tribal library operations and facilities. In California, Prop 15, which would raise anywhere from $10.3 billion to $12.6 billion annually for cities, counties and schools if it were to pass, is too close to call.
- Arizona voters embraced Prop 208, the statewide Invest in Education Act, means new funding for education that will positively impact school librarian jobs in the state. EveryLibrary was proud to partner with our colleagues at the Arizona Library Association in support for their coalition work on behalf of school libraries.
Since 2012, EveryLibrary has provided direct support and technical assistance to 115 communities when their public library is on the ballot and ecosystem-building support to several state library association partners for statewide campaigns. Fully 94% of all funding for public libraries comes from the will of the local voters and local legislators. For libraries that go to the voters for statutory reasons, Election Day is critical to their future stability and success serving their communities. “When millions of Americans rely on libraries every day to get ahead, we’re really proud of the work we’ve done to help those communities keep their library’s doors open and serving their communities,” said PC Sweeney, EveryLibrary’s Political Director.
As the only national political action committee for libraries, EveryLibrary is uniquely positioned in the library advocacy ecosystem with our focus on Election Days. Throughout 2020, we provided pro-bono training, coaching, and advising to 8 library boards and staff on their Informational Communications Campaigns. Likewise, throughout the 2020 primaries and on November 3rd we supported several local Vote Yes committees with direct donations and campaign advice. All of this pro-bono work for libraries is possible because of our individual donors.
EveryLibrary is dedicated to keeping public libraries open and financially stable during and after COVID-19. We are committed to going beyond Election Day and outside of the beltway to build use and in libraries in communities and neighbors throughout the nation. Because we prioritize equity and access, we are focused on ensuring that libraries have the funding they need to serve their communities.
EveryLibrary is a 501c4 political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries. Since 2012, EveryLibrary has provided donor-supported pro-bono advising and consulting to 115 library campaigns helping to win over $1.8 billion in stable tax funding. Beginning in 2016, EveryLibrary has provided strategic and tactical support to school library communities on education and tax policy, along with supporting dozens of challenges to school library budgets and school librarian positions in schools and districts across the country.
John Chrastka, Executive Director, EveryLibrary and the EveryLibrary Institute: [email protected]
Kosi Harris, Publicist: [email protected]