Library Measure 26-114 passes, paving the way for future vote on creation of library district

PORTLAND, Ore. — Nov. 2, 2010 — Measure 26-114 was approved by Multnomah County voters today by a preliminary count of 71.6 percent to 28.4 percent. The approval of this measure amends the Multnomah County charter to allow the board of county commissioners to refer a measure to a future election so that voters can decide whether to form a library district. The permanent tax rate would also be set in that potential future election. There is no tax increase or financial impact associated with the passage of Measure 26-114.

"Multnomah County Library is grateful for the support of Multnomah County voters in moving toward a single, stable source of funding for the best-loved public library system in the country," said Director of Libraries Vailey Oehlke. "The library will now look at all relevant details and work closely with the board of county commissioners to develop the best course to secure stable funding for Multnomah County Library. Our goal is to continue to provide the outstanding level of services, programming, efficiency and value that patrons have come to expect."

The library recognizes the charter amendment as a critical step in creating a sustainable, permanent funding source. Creating a library district in a future election would provide a permanent, single source of funding that would ensure predictability in budget planning and continuity of services and resources. A library district would remove the uncertainty of passing a levy every five years, reduce the compression issue, and extract the library from competition for limited county general fund dollars.

Currently, the library is funded mainly from two sources: 24 percent county general fund and 66 percent library levy. The remaining 10 percent comes from a variety of non-tax sources such as fees, fines, grants and so on. The current local option library levy expires in June 2012.

Background

Although Multnomah County Library became a county department in 1990, discussions regarding stable funding for library services have been documented as far back as June 1983. Since the late 1970s, three- or five-year local option levies have been used in conjunction with the county's general fund to operate the library system. Over the years, the percentage of the library's funding from the general fund has declined and the percentage of library funding from the levy has increased correspondingly, with the result that the current levy is providing about 66 percent of the library's total operating revenue. Library supporters and staff have long had concerns that this funding model is not sustainable, and there have been several efforts over the years to identify and move forward alternate funding models.

The latest effort, embodied in Measure 26-114, was the work of the citizen-led Library Funding Task Force, a group created by board of county commissioners resolution with the primary mission "to assess the feasibility of all funding options and recommend the best option for funding Multnomah County Libraries." This group met during 2007-08, and its final report recommended the formation of a library district through an amendment to the Multnomah County charter. On the basis of that recommendation, Commissioner Diane McKeel last fall asked the Charter Review Committee to study the possibility of a charter amendment that would allow for the formation of a library district. The Charter Review Committee formed a Library Subcommittee to review this issue and, as a result of their study, the entire Charter Review Committee decided to forward to the voters a library district amendment. That measure, along with five other measures from the Charter Review Committee, was certified by the Board of County Commissioners on July 8, 2010, for the November ballot.

About Multnomah County Library

Multnomah County Library is the oldest public library west of the Mississippi, with a history that reaches back to 1864. Today, Central Library and the other 18 neighborhood libraries that make up the library system house a collection of two million books and other library materials. As Oregon's largest public library, Multnomah County Library serves nearly one-fifth of the state's population with a wide variety of programs and services. Over 35,000 people use the library each day, either online or in person.