November ballot won't have a proposed parcel tax for libraries

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Los Angeles' Central Public Library is illuminated on the night of December 1, 2009 in downtown Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council balked today at putting on the November ballot a $39 parcel tax to help fund libraries.

About 100 library employees were laid off July 1, and library hours were scaled back from six days per week to five days per week.

The City Council could revisit the issue and put the parcel tax on the March 2011 ballot.

Councilman Tom LaBonge initially championed the idea but later conceded, "the timing isn't right.''

The county of Los Angeles will be running the November election and is expected to charge $4.2 million to add a ballot measure to its election materials.

"It was too big of a cost,'' LaBonge said. "There's a lot of love for the library, but to get on the county ballot, there's a requirement of $4 million to pay for it, and ... that $4 million would go a long way toward fixing something else in the city.''

Placing the measure on the March ballot would come at minimal cost, because the city is scheduled to run that election.

If approved by two-thirds of voters in March, the parcel tax would take effect in December 2011.

In the meantime, LaBonge and Councilwoman Janice Hahn vowed to come up with other fundraising proposals.

The city's Board of Library Commissioners last month endorsed a ballot measure seeking $39 tax on each parcel of property in Los Angeles annually for five years to help keep libraries open. The revenue would also be used to restore after-school programs and purchase new books.

The plan was approved the council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, chaired by LaBonge, but merely "noted and filed'' by the full City Council.

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