Libraries and senior populations

We know that property taxes can be a challenge for some seniors on fixed incomes, and we know how important the library is to seniors as a source of connection, community, and learning. 

Senior citizens are heavy users of library services, from book-borrowing to computer classes and events at the Canyon Theater. The library’s home delivery program serves seniors and those with mobility issues directly, so that they can access materials without needing to visit in-person.

Our libraries and librarians keep seniors connected, and for many are an important source of social contact. When the pandemic hit, Boulder library staff attempted to call all cardholders over the age of 65 to ask how the library could be of service. It was a kind of welfare check that no other city department was positioned to do. And many retirees find meaning and purpose as library volunteers, filling positions that make up 14% of the library’s entire workforce

Now, however, as we work towards rebuilding our community after the pandemic, many library services have been reduced or paused. The Canyon Theater sits empty, and all branches have cut their hours. There’s no budget to do more.

Can seniors afford a library district? A district would be funded through property taxes, much like school and transportation. And two existing state and county property tax relief programs can help defray the costs:

  • Senior tax exemption: Homeowners 65 or older can apply for a property tax deferral on their primary residence. Taxes and interest (a low rate) are paid only when the property sells or changes ownership. Seniors apply to receive or renew a deferral each year, so they can always reevaluate their needs (Need a new roof or boiler? It might be a good year to defer).

  • Senior homestead exemption: Homeowners 65 or older who have owned and lived in their home for at least ten years can have 50% of the first $200,000 in actual value (as calculated by the County Assessor) of their primary residence exempted from property taxes.

In our recent poll, 84% of likely voters over the age of 50 had a favorable view of the Boulder Public Library, and 64% said they would support a library district. A library district would provide the stable budget needed to restore services and hours, and expand the programs our seniors rely on.

In an aging community, we think that’s a great investment in our future.