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Durango library district would create stable funding source, free up sales tax dollars

Voters may be asked in 2024 to approve taxing entity
The Library Advisory Board recommends pursuing a ballot initiative next year to create a library district to fund the Durango Public Library, which would provide a more stable funding source and free up sales tax dollars currently being spent on library operations. (Durango Herald file)

The formation of a Durango Public Library taxing district has been on the city’s radar for at least four years, but residents might finally have a chance to act on the idea.

City Council is exploring timelines for getting ballot issues in front of voters next year.

A library district would not only provide more reliable funding for the library, it would also free up city and county joint sales tax dollars that are currently appropriated to the library, said Bill LeMaire, chair of the city’s Library Advisory Board.

Luke Alvey-Henderson, Durango Public Library director, said library districts are funded by property taxes paid for by residents who live within those districts, and the tax amount is approved by voters.

Library districts tend to receive greater funding over longer periods of time than those funded by sales taxes, which translates to extended services and financial wherewithal to pursue more projects that benefit the public, he said.

LeMaire said a library district would create a more reliable and sustainable funding structure, which would allow for hiring more staff, possibly increasing operational hours (including the return of Sunday hours) and providing additional services. One service could include a book mobile to deliver books to underserved areas.

As it is now, all residents who pay sales taxes in La Plata County or the city of Durango help support Durango Public Library. But residents who don’t live near the library don’t necessarily benefit from the library’s services. A property tax that targets residents who live near the library would be more equitable, said La Plata County Commissioner Clyde Church, who serves as the county’s representative to the Library Advisory Board.

LeMaire said some questions remain unanswered, including how the joint city-county sales taxes currently being used to fund the library would be spent if voters approve a taxing district.

“Knowing where that money is going to be spent, to me, is what’s going to decide the success or failure of this specific ballot initiative, because it’s the real story,” Alvey-Henderson told City Council on Tuesday.

He said the Library Advisory Board recommends waiting until April 2024 to start the pursuit of ballot questions related to a library district to ensure that voters are as informed as possible about a possible mill levy and the planned use for freed up joint sales tax dollars.


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