Friday, January 31, 2014

Loving Our Libraries: Stop HB 2379

Posted By on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM

All those hipster lists about best cities and all the cool restaurants and shopping areas—well, yada, yada. They've missed pointing out what know in Tucson, our libraries rule and we have some amazing librarians that seem to love dishing out those books and community in Tucson, too. You know who you are, and yep, we love you.

Anyway, if you feel the same, perhaps you should take some time this weekend calling our lovely state lawmaker and ask them as nicely as you can to stop HB 2379, introduced by Republican Justin Olson.

From our lovely librarians:

The bill would put levy caps on library districts and seriously impact budgets. ... The bill will likely go to Rules, caucus, Committee of the Whole, and possibly a floor vote in the House next week.

Librarians and advocates should email and call their legislators expressing opposition to HB 2379: special districts; secondary levy limits. AzLA opposes HB 2379, a bill that places levy caps on Library Districts. Under the bill, levy growth for library districts is restricted to the same percentage growth as the annual increase in the county’s primary levy limits (maximum of 2 percent plus new constructions, annually).

◾Ask your library advocates, friends and staff to email your Representatives by Monday, February 3rd, at 5:00pm. Legislative contact info: http://www.azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp
◾Whenever possible, please copy or forward AzLA Legislative Chair Brenda Brown (brenda.brown@chandleraz.gov) and and AzLA lobbyist Jessica Rainbow (jessica@pivotalpolicyconsulting.com) onthese e-mails
...
◾Follow-up with a call to make sure they received the email and offer to discuss the issue further

Talking points:

In the past six years similar bills have been introduced in the Arizona legislature, the bills attempted to remove local flexibility of library districts in rural Arizona.

Currently, library districts work with regional libraries to determine what resources are needed, then levies a property tax in order to meet those needs.

This year House Bill 2379 would remove that process and force Arizona library districts to conform to a limited funding method.

Please contact your legislators now to communicate the importance of a library district in your region, and ask them not to vote on legislation that would be disproportionately harmful to rural libraries because new construction is the only real generator of an increase in levy limit

Visit www.azleg.gov to findcontact information for your legislators.

What the Bill Does: HB 2379, Special Districts; Secondary Levy Limits would limit the Library Districts to raising their levy limit by a total of 2% plus new construction. We know that new construction has been down for all counties, including the urbans. But even as the economy improves, the rurals never see the kinds of increases for new construction.


The talking points: The Library Districts have such a low levy rate to begin with, a 2% increase generates such limited capacity that the benefit is negligible (any examples on how this directly impacts your library districts would help).


This disproportionately hurts rural libraries because new construction is the only real generator of an increase in levy limit. New construction in rural areas even in a good economy is a small bump in county valuations.


Property evaluations are still decreased around the state. As this impacts the counties it will disproportionately impact the libraries as they are tied to the county growth calculation in this bill.


Library Districts are good stewards of public funds. They are answerable to the voters through the County Supervisors. They have not abused their taxing authority and have not been the subject of taxpayer concern or complaint.


This is a very small issue for taxpayers, yet a critical one to the already beleaguered Library Districts. All Library Districts are cutting their budgets, laying off and eliminating staff, reducing hours and access to resources, along with all other state and local governments.

This would significantly limit library resources across the state.

HB 2379 would limit library district property taxes to an annual increase of 2% plus taxes on new construction in the district. If this limitation had been in place four years ago, library district revenues would have been cut by anywhere between 6% and 41%.


Libraries should not be arbitrarily limited by the state; resource levels should be locally-determined.

Libraries serve local needs, and should be controlled at the local level. They provide vital services to the citizens of rural areas, where growing populations create the need for additional library resources.


These proposals would dramatically increase pressure on Friends of the Library and other fund-raising groups.

If library district resources are cut, either the funding must be subsidized by other sources or services must be cut. Currently, library districts provide the following resources to help regional libraries:
◾Augment library materials budgets, allowing rural libraries to purchase books, newspapers and database resources.
◾Provide technical expertise, such as highly-educated librarians and library knowledge, to rural libraries.
◾Provide circulation and catalog systems to rural libraries, which allows libraries to organize their resources and share the resources of other libraries.

The Governor vetoed a similar bill three years ago.


· Governor’s veto stated that mandating these types of restrictions would affect counties inequitably in their efforts to respond to community needs. Rural counties in particular, who already have low existing levels, will be penalized with the statewide cap.


· However, she believes a system of limits could be in place if the varying county circumstances were taken into account. This unfortunately, is not addressed in HB 2379 and ATRA has not yet been willing to work together on reasonable legislation that is acceptable to all parties.

Every citizen of Arizona benefits from the services offered by libraries.

Libraries provide services that are valuable to every group and individual of rural Arizona, including:

◾Research: The research tools offered by libraries provide resources to teachers, students of every age, scholars, and anyone wanting to learn new skills, job training or information.


◾News and Information: Libraries subscribe to worldwide newspapers and periodicals that provide extensive knowledge which would otherwise not be available to Arizona’s residents.


◾Genealogy: While many online genealogy tools are far too costly for individuals to access on their own, libraries are able to provide the unique resource to the public.


◾Technology: Much of rural Arizona still has limited Internet and telecommunications resources. Libraries provide Internet access, fax machines and other valuable tools to residents.


◾Meeting Space: Libraries provide room for meetings and gatherings, which is a valuable resource particularly in rural Arizona. Girl and Boy Scout troops, 4-H groups, and senior citizen programs regularly take advantage of this public service.

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