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November 28, 2014

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Taxes:

Henderson Library District will ask voters in November to increase funding

Director says branch closures loom if tax is not approved

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Maddy Kossman, 8, helps her 2-year-old sister, Milla, right, make a “Cat in the Hat” craft during the 2009 grand opening of Henderson Libraries’ branch inside the Galleria at Sunset Mall.

Henderson Libraries

Storyteller Mike McCartney, also known as Launch slideshow »

With forecasts predicting further budget cuts on top of previous reductions, the Henderson Library District plans to put a tax initiative on the November ballot to stave off branch closures, reduced hours and layoffs.

The district receives the majority of its roughly $7 million budget from property taxes. As property values in Henderson took a nose dive in the past four years, funding for the district dropped from its prerecession budget of nearly $10 million.

Thomas Fay, Henderson Library District executive director, said projections indicated Henderson property values would continue to fall through the next few years, and the district embarked down the path of a tax initiative after careful consideration.

“I hope people will see it as a reasonable request,” Fay said. “We’re not going for the whole $3 million that the budget has been reduced by. This is what we need to keep the current services. In other cities, libraries have closed due to cuts, and I think the taxpayers and voters have a right to choose.”

The Henderson Library District has the same boundaries as the city, and all registered voters in Henderson will be eligible to vote on the initiative in November. The proposal calls for a tax rate increase of 2 cents per $100 in assessed property value. The owner of a home worth $200,000, for example, would pay an extra $14 per year if the plan is approved.

The increased revenue will only be used to maintain current services and will not go toward expansion or any increases in staff positions, salaries or benefits, Fay said.

If the tax is voted down, Fay said he will be forced to close at least two branches; Galleria Library and Malcolm Library will be shuttered. A third, Heritage Park Library, could also close. He estimated 15 positions would be eliminated.

“Those are the three smallest libraries, and that would be the best plan for maintaining a core of services,” Fay said. “But those libraries are busy and well used.”

Demand for library services increased after the recession pummeled Southern Nevada with layoffs and foreclosures. Visitors and circulation at the district’s six branches jumped as residents used library services to research and apply for jobs, he said.

“A lot of people ended up rediscovering libraries during the recession,” Fay said. “They realize all the services we provide, for adults and children, and they won’t go back to their old ways once they find out what we do have.”

The district already has executed some cuts in recent years, including closing on Sundays, reduced hours other days, cutting programming by about 25 percent and laying off nearly a quarter of the staff.

“Now, if we have someone out on leave — for pregnancy, for example — it’s a struggle to find ways to cover those shifts,” Fay said.

The district opened the James Gibson Library on Lake Mead Parkway in 2010, but despite the appearance of bad timing, Fay said it was a good deal for the district. The new building replaced a property that was sold to the city in 2007, and the library district spent $1.2 million less on construction of the new facility than the sale price of the old property.

The seven-member district board of directors voted unanimously on April 19 to place the tax initiative on the November ballot.

“A tax initiative is not an easy thing to talk about, especially in the Henderson economy,” said board member MJ Maynard, assistant general manager at the Regional Transportation Commission. “This is one of the most challenging economies, but we came to a consensus that the reasoning behind the ballot initiative wasn’t self serving. This isn’t about what would be nice to have. This is mission critical, but of course we are concerned about the timing and sensitive to the residents of Henderson. The economic impact for most will be about $10.50 a year; that’s like two trips to Starbucks.”

In 2001 and 2002, the library district asked Henderson’s voters for tax increases to fund expansion plans, but those were rejected. Fay and the board hope the new initiative to solely maintain current services will fare better, and Maynard said it was incumbent of the district to get information about the tax out to voters.

The district does receive money from donations and fundraisers, including the Friends of Henderson Libraries, but it is not enough to close the budget gap, Fay said. The “1 for a Million” campaign, which asks visitors for $1 donations, ended in April and brought in about $100,000, Fay said, acknowledging that he and the board never truly believed they would raise $1 million in the first year.

The library district last received a tax rate increase in 1991, when Henderson had 65,000 residents. Today, the city has 265,000 residents and the library district property tax rate is lower than the rate for Las Vegas-Clark County, Boulder City and the North Las Vegas library districts. Las Vegas-Clark County’s rate is the highest of the four districts, at 9.42 cents per $100 in assessed property value, while Henderson Library District’s current rate is 5.75 cents per $100.

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  1. I understand the dilemma and your explanation is very good.

    I'm sorry, but those Henderson residents that are barely hanging on to their homes and seniors are at the mercy of those who have no financial problems.

    Every "nickle and dime" request for more taxes, by one, two, three or more entities adds up to going without food or other necessity, and I mean necessity, not Starbucks.

    Can't we wait until the economy improves before we add more parks and recreation facilities? Can't we forego stadiums, and other big money gobblers? Can't we move money from one area to another based on the greatest need of the residents?

    Unemployment statistics don't reflect the true figures since they are only based on those currently receiving unemployment. There are thousands more who no longer receive benefits. The real figure could actually still reflect a depression, not a recession, in our area.

    There are multiple sources for computer use, and if branches close, then move the computers into the larger facility. People can go there to look for the limited jobs available. I'm sure that if the unemployed are the priority, there is a way to figure out how to meet their needs.

    I am angry about all the plans for spending money, and asking for more taxes when too many people are in dire straights.

    With utility monopolies increasing rates, and more taxes being asked for schools, and now libraries, what is next?

    It may not be much to people who are weathering the bad economy, but people with minimum incomes, or fixed incomes struggling to keep their homes are strapped. Don't send them into further poverty, or rents higher than their mortgage. They may end up homeless as a result.

    Today, that possibility is greater than in a time of economic stability, and it becomes an issue of morality.

    Government projects and services need to cutback just as residents have had to cutback.

    It is the totality of increases from all sources, not just a single entity that is the problem. There is no means testing related to increases during a bad economy.

    My reply is addressed to all government entities that want to ask for more tax money, as well as the monopolies that are banking profits and giving big bucks to the bosses.

    Perhaps if all the entities would keep their sights on keeping people in homes rather than emptying the homes with requests for increases there would be more income coming into the entities.

  2. If I were to vote for any increases, it would be for the library. BUT...it is ridiculous that we have a Henderson library district, a Boulder City library AND a LV Clark County library. Combine them. Combine the books, combine the computers, combine the administrations. Save some money first and then come back to the taxpayers after you've shown good faith. Also, there are now two Henderson libraries within just a few miles of each other. Paseo Verde and Green Valley. That is because the GV lib used to be part of the LV Clark County system. So silly. Close one, we can drive that little distance to the other.

  3. I love libraries but would not vote for an increase for what I see as a bloated system. Our libraries are not run efficiently by design (huge ceilings, large open air foyers) and by intent (the staff are surly and not customer friendly). They have not kept up with the changing times with their computer websites a joke and computer on line book renewal is hit and miss. Give me a tiny neighborhood library with a computer based card file system for finding books that I might need and a good cup of coffee and I might return. OOPS! That's my Borders I just described isn't it?

  4. People with no children, or whose children have grown and are long gone pay for schools for other people and have no reprieve when they are on fixed incomes. Those fixed incomes can be so small they can do little else but sit at home. Transportation to anywhere is not an option due to costs and age related disabilities and illnesses, except to the doctors office.

    They get little to no benefit in increased taxes for libraries, parks, or schools they can never use. They are forgotten or don't count any longer.

    When can we give these people a break? There are many in this category. They did their job, but no break for them when they need it.

  5. EHALL: As I stated I love libraries and you have a good point about services being for everyone, etc. but my point is that they are not efficiently run, not built for conservation of resources and that with proper management they would not be in a state of crisis.

  6. No, simply-put, you did NOT describe your Borders. All the Borders stores closed a long time ago. Maybe the library isn't the only one behind the times.