Library tax measures pass
Pitkin County voters approved a property tax increase that will add $385,000 to the library’s operating budget of approximately $2 million. And voters in the Basalt Regional Library District overwhelmingly approved a property tax hike that will nearly double operating funds next year. The Pitkin County money will fund three-and-a-quarter more employee shifts, eight new computers for accessing the Internet, and a new radio wave detection system for tagging books.”This is huge for us,” Pitkin County Librarian Kathy Chandler said before the election. “We’ve been planning this for 11 years.”Referendum 5A asked voters in Pitkin County’s library district for a mill levy increase of .23 mills, or $1.83 per $100,000 of property value. It passed with 5,084 votes in favor and 2,099 votes against.The library will install a state-of-the-art radio tagging system for its books, according to Chandler. As well as decreasing incidents of theft, the radio tag system helps the library’s cumbersome shelving process by alerting staff when a book has been shelved incorrectly.Once the tags are installed – a two-year process – Chandler said the librarians will have enough free time to open the library an hour earlier, at 9 a.m.In the Basalt district, voters approved an increase from 0.92 to 2.06 mils. That will boost operating funds for the Basalt library from $260,100 to $550,300 annually.The district is split between Eagle and Pitkin counties. Voters in Pitkin County approved the proposal by 932 to 419 votes. In Eagle County, the measure passed 2,014 to 931.The combined vote was 2,946 to 1,350 or a margin of 68.5 to 31 percent in support.Library proponents were able to convince voters that the increase was needed just to keep basic services. The library hasn’t received a property tax increase in nearly 20 years.Without the increase, the library would have been forced to close an additional two days per week, leaving it open only four days per week, according to director Robb Heckel.The extra revenues will allow the library to stay open six days per week, allow the facility to increase and update its computers and add other services.Heckel stressed during the campaign that the tax hike wasn’t about adding “frills” or “bells and whistles.” It was simply about offering services that are standard elsewhere.
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