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Voters will be asked to create property tax for libraries

Petitioners gather sufficient signatures to place question on ballot
Nycole Eoff, left, a substitute librarian, and Rebecca Benally, branch library manager at Sunnyside Elementary School, show a map of a proposed library district that would oversee the libraries at Sunnyside and Fort Lewis Mesa elementary schools.

Voters in southwest La Plata County will be asked in November to save the libraries in the Sunnyside and Fort Lewis Mesa elementary schools by implementing a new property tax.

Petitioners submitted 345 valid signatures in July to place the question on the ballot, far more than necessary, said La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker.

Without the tax revenue, the libraries will run out of grant funding in June, said Roy Horvath, a resident working to save library services.

The libraries provide an alternative to “pretty paltry internet” available in some rural areas and an educational resource during the summer for students, Horvath said.

“We feel like it’s a huge thing educationally,” he said.

The ballot question is expected to ask voters for 1.5 mills, which would generate $207,165 in 2020 for the libraries.

The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $32 more in property taxes annually if the measure passed, County Assessor Carrie Woodson said previously.

A new library district, called Southwest La Plata Library District, is planned to oversee the two libraries and new tax revenue, Horvath said.

La Plata County commissioners informally agreed to form the district through a resolution this week, said county spokeswoman Megan Graham.

The commissioners will formally vote to form the new district Sept. 5. If commissioners don’t approve the new district, a question could be placed on the November ballot to ask voters to approve it, said Cynthia Loebig, who is helping create the district.

The district is needed because La Plata County eliminated funding for the libraries as one measure for dealing with declining oil and gas revenue through property taxes. For the last two years, grant funding from Durango School District 9-R has helped keep the libraries open, but that funding is going away.

“This was a last opportunity to try to get a district formed to maintain the continuity of the libraries,” Horvath said.

A newly formed committee, Southwest La Plata Library District Issue Committee, plans to organize the campaign for the tax increase, he said.

The group is also responsible for raising $2,000, which will be held by the county to cover half the election costs associated with the question, he said. If the question passes, the district will be responsible for covering all the election costs related to the question, about $4,000, Loebig said.

If voters don’t approve funding but the district is formed, the district would have three election cycles in which it could ask residents for funding before the district is dissolved, Graham said.

The library campaign committee will meet for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday at Escalante Middle School.

For more information, call Loebig 799-4914.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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