September 30, 2014

Multnomah Levy Wins in Landslide

Voters overwhelmingly approved a renewed levy for Oregon’s Multnomah County Library on May 15.

Support for the measure ran a whopping 82 to 18 percent, according to The Oregonian.

“We didn’t expect this kind of a margin,” The Portland Tribune quoted Brian Wilson, chairman of the Libraries Yes Campaign, as saying. “We thought it would be a sizable win, but we didn’t think it would be this big.”

The measure will renew a three-year levy of 89 cents per $1000 in assessed property value to raise about $32.6 million in 2012–13, $34.5 million in 2013―14, and $36.5 million in 2014―15. Those funds pay about two-thirds of the bills for the Central Library and 18 branches. If the levy, which expires June 30, hadn’t been renewed, library officials said most branches would have had to close.

County Chair Jeff Cogen said Wednesday morning that he summoned political leaders and people active in the Library Foundation and Friends of the Multnomah County Library to discuss whether county commissioners will put a countywide library district on the ballot in November. Such a district would mean the library would no longer have to renew the levy every three to five years.

According to the Tribune, a library district would cost $1.18 in property taxes for every $1000 in assessed value, enough to replace both the levy and supplemental dollars from the county general fund.

Multnomah County made it easier to form a district by approving a charter amendment in 2010.

Vailey Oehlke, Multnomah’s director of libraries, said in a thank you letter to voters, “you have provided a crucial safety net for library services.”

Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.

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