This is a book-loving town, no two ways about it. But as the Multnomah County Commission decides this week whether or not to refer the plan to create a tax-paying "library district" to voters this fall, the big question is whether locals love books to the tune of about $50 a year in new property tax.
Some quick facts about our local library system:
• 35,000 people use the Multnomah County Library system every day.
• That means it's the second busiest library system in the country, second only to New York.
• The New York public library has way better lions than Portland, but we have better steps.
Despite this greatness, for nearly 40 years the library system has a rather shaky funding model. I assumed I was single-handedly keeping the library system afloat by always managing to lose one goddamn disc of some six-disc movie collection, but it turns out the library is actually mostly funded by levy that expires in three years. That levy makes up 55 percent of the library's revenue for this upcoming fiscal year, county general fund money makes up 25 percent, emergency one-time money makes up six percent, and the rest comes from fees, grants, and the library reserve.
The idea for replacing this funding system is essentially a permanent tax increase that will fund the library system. If it goes to the ballot and passes, the library district would levy $1.22 per $1000 in assessed home value. With that county's average home price, that's about a $50 increase per year above the rate of the current three-year levy. That's roughly the cost of two new hardcover books, but the library district will likely be competing with at least two other tax increases on the November ballot.