Poll shows support for tax to fund Pitkin County Library expansion
July 25, 2012
ASPEN – A recent poll of Pitkin County Library District voters shows public support for a tax question to fund the proposed expansion of the library.
County commissioners, after reviewing the polling results Tuesday, voiced no qualms about moving forward with a tax question that would be put before voters in November.
“I think they’re enough to merit moving forward with a ballot question,” Commissioner Rob Ittner said.
“We were very pleased by the results and are excited about the prospect of moving ahead,” said Kathy Chandler, library director.
A survey of 300 active voters within the district indicated 59 percent of the electorate would vote for a property tax increase equal to an additional $16 or $17 annually on a home valued at $1 million to renovate and expand the library. Another 35 percent said they would not vote for the tax, and 6 percent said they didn’t know.
“There are a lot of positives going on,” said Keith Frederick, of FrederickPolls, which conducted the telephone survey July 9 through 17.
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Commissioner Michael Owsley urged Chandler to share the results of the poll with Aspen City Council members in advance of their meeting Monday, when the council resumes its review of the expansion plans.
“I think you should show them this. … This is a representation of a constituency that’s even bigger than theirs,” said Owsley, who also objected to the council’s request that the library board drop the expansion plan if a ballot question fails in November.
Commissioner Rachel Richards compared the request to asking the city to forever forgo addressing the entrance to Aspen because a proposal fails at the polls.
The library already has the ability to expand 44 feet onto Galena Plaza on its east side, Commissioner George Newman said, leaving only the further extension of 16 feet for a canopy as the real issue. The 44 feet could have been reserved for the library from the get-go, making it unavailable for both the Rio Grande parking garage and the plaza, Richards added.
The expansion, and particularly the proposed canopy, have been the focus of several discussions before the council. On Monday, a proposal that reduces the height of part of the roof in the proposed expansion, as well as the canopy, will be shown to council members, Chandler said.
Among poll respondents who said they would vote against the tax, most said it was a combination of the additional taxes and the building design that they didn’t like, while 22 percent zeroed in on the design, according to Frederick.
County government in general, and the library in particular, received high marks from respondents. Groups that showed strong support for the library-expansion tax included Democrats, parents, young adults, renters and Snowmass Village residents, while more Republicans, older adults and homeowners with residences valued at $2 million or more said they opposed the tax.
“As age increases, support decreases pretty dramatically,” Frederick said.
Support for the tax dropped significantly in the 65-plus age group, according to the poll results. That could be because use of the facility by children was a key consideration among supporters, and parents of children are likely to be in the 18-to-39 age group, he speculated.
Poll respondents also were asked to react to various statements about the expansion. Upgraded computer and wireless Internet services and a new, larger children’s area were among components of the library project that resonated most favorably with voters.
Arguments against the project – the impact of the canopy on the plaza, higher taxes and a sentiment that a library built in 1991 should last longer than 20 years – also struck a chord with some voters.
More respondents reacted strongly to the positive components of the expansion than to arguments against the project, Frederick pointed out.
The expansion would add about 7,200 square feet of space to the library. The roughly $10 million project, about half of which would be covered by an existing library endowment fund, would include a significant renovation of the existing interior.