What to expect on your ballot, line by line

Ballot issue 6C will appear on the ballots Boulder residents, both City and unincorporated areas. This year, we have the opportunity to give our libraries firm footing for the first time since 1987. We can't keep our libraries in cycle of underfunding. The full text is viewable here. Let's go line by line on the ballot language to explain what all this means: 

SHALL THE BOULDER PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT TAXES BE INCREASED $18,780,000 ANNUALLY FOR COLLECTION BEGINNING IN 2023, AND BY SUCH ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS RAISED ANNUALLY THEREAFTER BY AN AD VALOREM PROPERTY TAX MILL LEVY IMPOSED AT A RATE OF 3.5 MILLS TO PROVIDE FACILITIES AND SERVICES WHICH MAY INCLUDE

The above text is TABOR language because this is a tax measure. It explains the amount that is expected annually ($18.78M), at 3.5 mills ($23 per $100K of assessed value). The mill rate is a roughly 4% increase, which is a flat increase for everyone in the district, across the board. You can view what your annual increase would be by using this map created by the City of Boulder. Note that City residents will pay a little less than this, as measure 2E repeals the existing City levy dedicated to the library. 

  • RESTORED AND IMPROVED LITERACY PROGRAMS, 

    BoulderReads is currently without staffing, due to 2020 layoffs that resulted in 66 staff positions being eliminated. Issue 6C would restore these positions so that the nearly 40-year adult literacy program can resume its operations. Additionally, the Reading Buddies program pairs K-3 aged-children with college-aged students and above to improve their reading scores. Book-Rich Environments is a partnership with Boulder Housing Partners to distribute free books to low-income families.

  • INCLUDING PARTNERSHIPS WITH SCHOOLS TO REACH UNDERSERVED STUDENTS AND STUDENTS WHO FELL BEHIND DURING THE PANDEMIC;

    The library partners with BVSD to provide services to students, and these services are all either grant-funded, paused, or very limited due to funding woes. The Student One program works with BVSD to give all 13,000 students in the Boulder region free access to databases and homework help through their student ID card. The Summer of Discovery isn’t just the library’s summer reading program: it also provides individual support for BVSD’s 700 students in summer school. 


  • ADDITIONAL FREE AND SAFE PUBLIC SPACES FOR COMMUNITY MEETINGS, WORKSHOPS AND PROGRAMS;

    The Canyon Theater, which has been closed for two years due to lack of funding, would also be activated and re-opened to the public as a meeting and performance space. BLDG 61 could resume pre-pandemic hours as well. Additionally, NoBo library will break ground this year, and when it is built and open, it will have the first and only free community meeting space in the northern neighborhoods, located between the Meadows and Ponderosa mobile home parks. There is no dedicated funding in the City's budget for operations for this library. A library district dedicates the funding. 

  • UPDATED AND IMPROVED COLLECTIONS OF BOOKS AND MATERIALS, INCLUDING BILINGUAL MATERIALS AND DOWNLOADING OF E-BOOKS, MOVIES, AND MUSIC;

    Boulder Library's current materials budget is well below the average per capita budget when compared to other libraries of similar size. If you've ever put a book on hold and saw that there is a waitlist of 5, 10, or 30 people, this is the sign of an underfunded library. Adding funding via a library district will allow Boulder Public Library to increase its spending on materials (including books and also digital) that people want and ask for. 

  • EXTENDED HOURS AT ALL EXISTING LIBRARIES AND A NEW BRANCH LIBRARY IN GUNBARREL;

    Gunbarrel has been asking for a library for decades, and this feedback can be seen in the 2018 Boulder Library Master Plan. There is no money in the City's budget to establish a Gunbarrel library, and the way we know this is because Boulder's current libraries are operating on reduced hours already. George Reynolds branch is now closed every Monday. NoBo branch does not open on Thursdays or Fridays, and had to close on Mondays over the summer of 2022 due to budget limitations. The Makerspace is only open 2 days a week, and the Carnegie branch library, where all of the City's archives are held, is not open at all anymore, since the 2020 budget cuts forced it to close. A library district would restore all these hours and also allow for the lease of a corner library space for the community of Gunbarrel. 

  • EXPANDED ACCESS TO STEAM PROGRAMS, MAKERSPACES, AND FREE INTERNET FOR YOUNG PEOPLE, UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES AND SENIORS;

    As mentioned above, the Makerspace sits behind a locked door 5 days out of the week, despite demand, as well as a waitlist, for the programs and use of equipment that it offers to the community for free. Additional programs for underserved groups, including wireless hotspot loans, could restarted and scaled up to provide low income families with school-aged children more reliable (and free) access to the internet. The library would work with Boulder Housing Partners to increase programming to other underserved groups. 

  • IMPROVED MAINTENANCE, CLEANLINESS, SAFETY, AND SECURITY AT ALL LIBRARY FACILITIES;

    The library's buildings are old. They have roof problems, HVAC problems, and infrastructure needs. There is currently no money in the budget from the City to address these problems. A library district will provide funding for the library to care for and upgrade its buildings, including bringing them up to green building standards. In addition, the library district will provide funding for the library ensure full-time safety and security at Main and, as needed, at the branches. 

AND SHALL THE DISTRICT BE ENTITLED TO COLLECT, RETAIN AND SPEND THOSE REVENUES IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER TAXES, FEES OR OTHER REVENUES OF THE DISTRICT, NOTWITHSTANDING ANY LIMITATION OR RESTRICTION OF ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION, OR WITHOUT REGARD TO THE 5.5% PROPERTY TAX REVENUE LIMITATION OF SECTION 29-1- 301, C.R.S., OR ANY OTHER LAW, AND SHALL THE DISTRICT BE FORMED?

This section is standard "de-brucing" language, found in ballots and measures across the state. The phrase "de-brucing" refers to Doug Bruce, a former member of the Colorado General Assembly, and author of TABOR. Much of the state and the front range has already de-bruced. For more information on de-brucing, the Bell Policy Center has an informative writeup here, which includes a map showing all the Colorado counties that have already de-bruced. Colorado Fiscal Institute also writes about what de-brucing is in their analysis of the 2019 statewide ballot measure, and you can read that here. The final line in this ballot issue language establishes the district itself.