Our Boulder libraries are both beloved places and critical social infrastructure.
But we’ve been asking our libraries to do too much for too many people, with too little, and for too long. This November, voters will have the opportunity to approve and provide stable funding for a Boulder Library district.
The benefits of a library district
See who endorses the district
We’re extremely grateful to the organizations, current and past elected officials, and community leaders who endorse the library district measure. We want YOUR endorsement too. Click here to endorse the library district, and also see who’s already endorsed.
Why current funding isn’t working
Our community values the vital services the library provides — for free and open to all. But our municipally-funded library system is over-reliant on sales and use taxes — causing the library to suffer disproportionately in economic downturns compared to other city services. And sales taxes are regressive, meaning they take a larger percentage of income from low-income earners. Decades of stagnant funding and budget cuts under the current funding model have hobbled the library system, notably its ability to: Deliver literacy programs; Offer community workspaces with access to tools and technology like 3-D printers, woodworking tools and software programs; Provide safe public spaces for community meetings and programs; Increase the collection of books and materials – including bilingual materials – on which so many rely; Address overdue maintenance
The library’s budget has not been restored to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, before the pandemic the library was operating at 2002 funding levels — with fewer staff. The Main library, Reynolds, Meadows, and NoBo branches are all operating with reduced hours, and the Carnegie Library for Local History is closed, all due to staffing cuts. Critical social-equity programs like Reading Buddies and Boulder Reads are reduced because staff have been eliminated. The collection budget, which was already low relative to peer libraries, is below pre-pandemic spending, even though patron demand remains high. Our community of users has also grown, with 30% of active cardholders living outside the city limits where they don’t pay as much for library services as Boulder residents — and don’t have easy access to programs and services that could be offered in a Gunbarrel branch operated by the district. A library district levels the playing field by charging property owners within the district a consistent rate.
What Will It Cost?
Voters in the proposed Library District (see map) will be asked to approve a dedicated property tax of 3.5 mills, which will yield an estimated $18.78 million in its first year (that is less than the originally proposed 3.8 mills to raise the $19.5 million needed to “fully fund” the city-approved library master plan). At 3.5 mills, the owner of a home with a taxable value of $500,000 would pay $9.62 per month for the library district.
Library Districts Are a Proven Model
Library districts are the most common form of library governance in Colorado, and Boulder’s would follow established state law that currently governs 56 other library districts in the state. Nearly every other library in Colorado similar to Boulder in size and patron base — including those in Fort Collins, Berthoud, Greeley, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo — is now a library district. A library district provides a stable funding source (property tax) that is less susceptible to boom and bust cycles. Of note, libraries in districts were not forced to shut down or make drastic cuts during the pandemic — unlike our municipally funded library. The Boulder Public Library District will be governed by a Board of Trustees that will always be appointed — and can be removed for cause — by local elected officials. And library districts ensure transparency, including twice-yearly financial reports to the City and County and an annual report to the community. Library districts are the most equitable, reliable, and accountable approach to library funding. It’s a tried and true method for library systems, and ensures lasting, stable funding.
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