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Boulder Library Champions announces 2020 plans

 

January 29, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Eliot Popenhagen, Joni Teter, and Michael Carcaise from the Boulder Library Champions address a group of supporters at the group's 2020 kickoff celebration on Jan. 24.

A proposal to create a library district is gaining steam with Boulder City Council, but the question of whether to raise property taxes to pay for it is ultimately one for the voters. At a 2020 kickoff celebration on Jan. 24, the Boulder Library Champions announced that it is seeking volunteers and donations to help win over those voters before November.

"If you have energy, and are wondering what to do right now, it's a great time to get involved in fundraising," BLC's Michael Carcaise said. "We're in the on-year of a presidential election, there's a senate race in our state, and up and down the ballot, there's a lot of energy, and there's going to be a ton of noise. We have to break through, and to communicate to voters is an expensive proposition, whether that's through the mail, digital advertising, or putting bodies on the doors."

The group is seeking to raise between $50,000 and $75,000 for the upcoming 2020 bid, which will go towards expenses such as advertising, events, and direct mail. The BLC is also asking for assistance in "knocking on doors, canvassing people, and talking to neighbors," and put out a special plea out for volunteers proficient in "marketing magic" and social media outreach.

"A lot of it is going to be a ground game," BLC founding member Joni Teter said. "A place where we could really use some help is with our communications and messaging. The people who are in here right now are policy wonks, and don't have that skill."

Teter acknowledged that there are still some major unknowns about the campaign, largely because they are awaiting city council action on the proposal. Earlier this month, council agreed to fast-track its discussion of the potential district, and Teter takes that as a hopeful sign that they will vote to create the district by resolution at its study session in February. If council rejects the proposal, however, the BLC is prepared to go forward with a 2020 ballot initiative to create the district, after a petition drive in the spring of 2019 gathered the required number of signatures.

"The better way is for city council and the county commissioners to form it by resolution, so it's done up front," Teter said. "The intergovernmental agreement is done before the election, so we know how facilities will be transferred to the district, how employees will be transferred, and come fall, the only thing to vote on is the funding."

In either event, BLC members said their messaging will focus on the benefits of a dedicated source of revenue for the library, both for patrons and the city.

"If we could get a fully funded district done, we can add better services for our youth; we can have better services for our Lantinx community; we can do better outreach, and-this is kind of unsexy-but we can also work on the maintenance backlog," council member Aaron Brockett told the gathering. A self-described "huge supporter" of the district proposal, Brockett is a member of the BLC, and co-hosted the event. "There are all kinds of needs the library has, and when you think about our community and how we can make it better from an equity standpoint, the free services that the library offers for education and getting knowledge out to members of our community are enormous."

The property-tax funded district would also free up to $10 million per year in the city budget. According to Brockett, that is enough money to pay for upgrades to Boulder's aging fire stations and systems and to fill some gaps in the transportation budget.

"The city has some significant unfunded needs in our future that we're hoping to take care of," he said. "The library is supported almost entirely out of the city's general fund, so that money could be used for literally any other function of city government."

Still, the group knows that a tax increase to fund the library could be a "tough" sell to area voters. The proposed entity will be funded by an estimated 3.85 mill levy on property owners in the city and in unincorporated areas to the north, which translates to just under $180 annually for the median home within the boundaries ($648,000). For businesses with a commercial value of $1 million, it will be an additional $1,116.

"The City of Boulder is relatively friendly to tax increases, but it's never easy," Brockett said. "And it does have an impact for some folks. It will take some convincing."

Courtesy of Boulder Library Champions

The estimated tax impact of various library district funding scenarios.

The Champions hope to start the process of convincing voters in earnest later this spring, and are optimistic about their chances of convincing both the council and the electorate that the benefits of "long-term, sustainable funding for the library" are worth the cost.

"One tax that isn't hard to pass in Boulder is open space," BLC member Michael Caplan said. "What we're actually working for is to create open space in people's minds."

If you would like to help bring a library district to Boulder, the Champions urge you to contact members of the Boulder City Council and the Board of County Commissioners and voice your support in the coming weeks. They are also recruiting volunteers and supporters for the 2020 campaign. For more information or to make a donation, visit boulderlibrarychampions.org

 

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