Published Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 | 4 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 | 11:03 p.m.
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A tax initiative to boost revenues at the Henderson Library District was defeated for the third time since 2001.
Nearly 55 percent of Henderson voters opposed the tax initiative, Question 1 on the ballot, which would raise property taxes by 2 cents per $100 in assessed value.
Library district leaders have warned that if the initiative doesn’t pass, the Galleria and Malcolm branches will be closed. Similar tax initiatives were voted down in 2001 and 2002.
The library district is independent from the city of Henderson, and the majority of its $7 million budget comes from property taxes. The district’s prerecession funding high was roughly $10 million. The district expects property values to continue to slide in the next few years, further decreasing funding.
The ballot initiative was bolstered by the political action committee Citizens for Henderson Libraries and the “Rescue My Library” public advocacy campaign, which have been working in support of the initiative. The supporters set up a Facebook page and peppered Henderson with distinctive yellow-and-black signs: “Vote Yes on Henderson Libraries Question 1.”
The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a local libertarian think tank with a mission to reduce taxes and government regulation, said tax proponents were being sensationalist and believed the libraries were relatively healthy given the current state of the economy.
Thomas Fay, Henderson Library District executive director, has said cost-saving efficiencies have been exhausted. The library reduced hours several times before this year. Then, in October, district libraries started closing on Mondays.
In fiscal 2011, the Henderson district had the equivalent of 86.5 full-time employees, down from a high of 101 in 2009. Fay said staff from the Malcolm and Galleria branches have been finding new jobs amid the uncertainty, and the total staff currently stands at the equivalent of 77.5 full-time employees. He is holding off on hiring anyone until after Election Day.
The district was estimating a revenue boost of approximately $1.5 million in the first year of collection, fiscal 2013-2014.
The last time the library district received a voter-approved tax rate increase was 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.
Sun reporter Conor Shine contributed to this report.