Boulder Public Library District headed toward fall ballot as petition signatures roll in

Library Champions celebrate surpassing signature requirement to place question of creating, funding of Library District on Nov ballot

BOULDER — Supporters of a years-long effort to deliver stable funding for area libraries held a petition-signing event on Saturday and celebrated surpassing the 100-signature milestone needed to place the question of creating and funding a library district on the November ballot. 

“Throughout Boulder’s history, citizens have driven the creation, expansion, and improvement of our library system — and this effort is no different,” said Joni Teter, a member of the Boulder Library Champions Executive Committee. “Collecting signatures is hard work, but it’s also a great opportunity to educate and build community — two things that libraries do so well.”

Creating and funding a new Boulder Public Library District will deliver:

  • restored and improved literacy programs, including partnerships with schools to reach students who fell behind during the pandemic;
  • additional free and safe public spaces for community meetings, workshops, and programs;
  • updated and improved collections of books and materials, including bilingual materials and downloading of e-books, movies, and music; 
  • extended hours at existing libraries and a new branch library in Gunbarrel;
  • expanded access to STEAM programs, makerspaces, and free internet for young people, underserved communities and seniors;
  • and improved maintenance, cleanliness, safety, and security at all library facilities;

On April 5, the Boulder City Council passed a resolution to form the Boulder Public Library District, paving the way for a community vote on funding this fall. Unfortunately, the Boulder County Commissioners rejected the resolution, preventing Council from moving the question forward to the ballot.

As a result, the Boulder Library Champions moved ahead with plans to place a library district question before voters via petition. The petition requests that voters in November be asked to create and fund — through a dedicated property tax of up to 3.5 mills — the Boulder Public Library District. 

A property tax of 3.5 mills will yield an estimated $18.78 million in its first year. That is less than the proposed level of up to 3.8 mills to raise the $19.5 million needed to "fully fund" the library master plan that was called for in the city-approved resolution. 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. 

“Our libraries, and the people and businesses who depend on them, cannot thrive on a model that relies on philanthropy alone to fill enormous budget shortfalls,” said Chris Barge, Executive Director of the Boulder Library Foundation. “This level of funding can deliver programs and services that meet the needs of the community — particularly the most vulnerable — while being considerate of current economic pressures.”

Property taxes are more equitable and less susceptible to economic swings than sales tax, which provided the majority of existing library funding. 

Decades of stagnant funding and budget cuts under the current funding model have hobbled the library system, notably its ability to:

  • provide 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; 
  • and increase the collection of books and materials – including bilingual materials – on which so many rely.

“An over-reliance on sales and use taxes to fund city operations creates boom-and-bust cycles that have resulted in years of funding reductions for the library during economic downturns and limited its budget to levels that do not reflect our community values,” said Mayor Aaron Brockett. “I support creating a library district to provide a single, more reliable and equitable stream of revenue for our libraries that will allow them to flourish and provide the important services our community relies on.”

Added Council Member Lauren Folkerts: “I'm so proud of the diverse opportunities our libraries continue to provide for our community, despite challenging circumstances. The formation of a library district will ensure this critical piece of social infrastructure has the foundation it needs for future success. I hope everyone will join me in supporting stable long-term funding for our libraries.”

The Boulder Library Champions are unequivocally committed to following the guidance of Boulder City Council as far as what becomes of existing library facilities. A majority of Council decided that long-term leases of the library buildings to a library district made the most sense, should a library district pass this November.

The Boulder Library Champions plan to submit petitions to the County by May 25th — and are eager for a successful outcome in November.

“As we’ve gathered signatures, our volunteers have been heartened by the overwhelming support for creating and funding a library district to serve the community’s needs — particularly seniors, children, and people from low- or fixed-income households — now and in the future,” said Campaign ManagerClaudia Hanson Thiem.

Boundaries of the proposed library district can be viewed here.

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