Los Angeles City Council to consider tax to benefit library system today

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled today to consider whether to place a $39 parcel tax on the November ballot to help fund libraries.

City Librarian Martin Gomez told the council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee last week that recent budget cuts and layoffs have reduced his staff from 1,100 to 800 employees.

As a result, by mid-July, virtually all of the city's libraries will operate only five days a week instead of the usual six.

If approved by voters in November, the proposed "Neighborhood Public Library Emergency Funding" ballot measure would raise $30 million a year – enough to keep libraries open six days a week, and fund after-school programs and book purchases, Gomez said.

An independent poll commissioned by the city and conducted May 14-18 found that 68 percent of Los Angeles voters would be willing to pay a $39 tax per parcel per year – or $3.25 a month – to support their libraries, Gomez said.

A two-thirds majority would be needed for passage.

Nearly 75 percent of voters in 1998 approved a bond measure that helped build several city libraries.

"We believe the community values our libraries and would be very willing to support this [new ballot measure], as well," Gomez said.

Voters in the Los Angeles Unified School District rejected a parcel tax on the June 8 ballot.

The Library Commission recommended the proposal on June 16. Gomez said the deadline for the council to approve it is Wednesday, to give the City Attorney's office enough time to draft the measure for the Nov. 2 election.