Library District 101

Boulder already has public libraries, so why are we voting on a library district? What is a library district, anyway? Even amongst library lovers, this is one of the most common questions we hear when introducing our campaign. Get up to speed here with our quick Library District 101:

  • What is a library district? 
  • Why is a district right for Boulder?
  • Who gets to vote on the district proposal? 
  • How much would I pay?
  • What happens if the library district passes/fails? 


What is a library district?

A library district is a special governing district that exists specifically to provide library services to a community. Library districts often serve a regional population, rather than a single town or city. 

The State of Colorado passed laws allowing and regulating these districts in recognition of libraries’ importance in our communities. Library district law governs set-up, accountability, and funding, and to date has been used to create 56 library districts across the state!

Because of this, we like to say that Boulder’s library district proposal isn't special. It builds on successful models and follows established state law.

Why is a library district right for Boulder? 

Library advocates — as well as multiple city working groups — have proposed a library district because the cost to provide city services has been rising faster than revenues for more than 20 years. And the library, in particular, has often been the first city service to be cut when budgets are tight, and the last to be restored when fortunes improve. In 2019, the library was operating at 2002 funding levels, despite significant growth in use. And while it represents only three percent of the City of Boulder’s budget, the library took 17% of the city’s budget cuts during the 2020 COVID budget crisis.

Stable funding through a library district would allow for significant improvements that our community needs and expects, and in some cases has requested for years:

  • Strengthened partnerships with schools to increase literacy, particularly with underserved and students who fell behind during pandemic;
  • Restored and improved social-equity programs like BoulderReads and Reading Buddies;
  • Providing additional, free and safe public spaces for community meetings, workshops and programs;
  • Expanding services like literacy and STEAM programs, and access to free wi-fi for young people, underserved communities and seniors;
  • Updated and improved collections of books and materials, including bilingual materials and downloading of e-books, movies and music;
  • Expanding community workspaces - known as makerspaces - at Main and branch libraries;
  • Expanded hours at the Main and branch libraries to meet increased demand;
  • Re-opening of the Canyon Theater and Carnegie Library for Local History for public use;
  • Repairs and renovations at Carnegie and Reynolds branches;
  • Full funding of the North Boulder branch;
  • A new branch library in Gunbarrel;
  • And improved cleanliness, safety, and security at all library facilities.

Who gets to vote on the district proposal? 

If you are a registered voter living within Boulder city limits or within the proposed district boundaries in Boulder County, you will get to vote on the district proposal on November 8, 2022.

How much would I pay? 

A library district would be funded by a property tax of $23/year for every $100,000 of taxable value of a residence, which the County Assessor calls “actual value” for assessment purposes (see Boulder County Assessor explanation for the difference between “actual value” and “assessed value”). Please note that this value is not what you - or Zillow - think your home is worth, and it is not the market value of your home. It’s the taxable value of your home as assessed by the county.

  • A home with an “actual value” of $500,000 would pay $9.62/month or $115/year.
  • A home with an “actual value” of $900,000 would pay $17.25/month or $207/year.

For commercial properties, the cost would be about $97.60 for every $100,000 of actual commercial value. We believe, for most office type spaces, this equates to an additional $0.15 - $0.18 NNN cost per square foot per year.

At 3.5 mills, funding would be on the low end compared to library districts in communities of similar size (and property values) and in the other library districts operating in Boulder County. 

  • Nederland Library District - 6.415 mills (4.4 mills for operating, remainder for a capital bond)
  • Pueblo City-County Library District - 5.889 mills
  • Arapahoe Library District - 5.875 mills
  • Lyons Public Library District - 5.85 mills
  • Jefferson County Library - 4.5 mills
  • Douglas County Library District - 4 mills
  • Pikes Peak Library District (Colorado Springs) - 3.934 mills
  • Rangeview/Anythink Library District (Adams County ) - 3.69 mills
  • High Plains Library District (Weld County plus Erie) - 3.249 mills
  • Poudre River Library District - 3 mills

What happens if the library district passes/fails? 

If the measure passes, the city and county would appoint a board of directors, and the district will begin operation in 2023 with voter-approved funding. Current users will not notice any disruptions to service. 

If the measure fails, community members can collect signatures to place it on the ballot again in a future election, or ask the Boulder City Council and Boulder County Board of Commissioners to establish a library district and place a funding measure on the ballot. Until a district is formed and funded by consent of the voters, the library will continue to compete for funding from Boulder’s sales tax-dependent General Fund.