Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 | 4:59 p.m.
Now that voters have rejected the Henderson Library District’s tax initiative, plans to shutter two of the district’s six branches have begun.
The branch within the Sunset at Galleria mall will close Nov. 21, and the Malcolm Library in Anthem will close Nov. 30.
Combined, the two branches circulate about 200,000 items a year, said Thomas Fay, the district’s executive director. Some of the most popular materials will be redistributed to other libraries, while some will be put into storage at the Malcolm building, which the district owns.
Approximately 15 positions will be lost because of the closures. The tax initiative and potential fate of the two libraries were announced in April, and the staff at the two branches slated for closure had time to find new work outside the district or transfer into open positions at the district’s other four library branches. Fay said six employees remain without alternatives. Two of them are ready to retire from work, but the other four positions will be eliminated at the start of the new year, and those employees are looking for new jobs.
The district receives the majority of its roughly $7 million budget from property taxes. As property values in Henderson took a nosedive in the past four years, funding for the district dropped from its prerecession budget of nearly $10 million. The district projects its property tax revenue will continue to decline, along with property values, during the next two to three years.
The library district is independent from the city of Henderson, but has the same boundaries. The final tally showed just short of 55 percent of voters were against the tax initiative, which would have raised property taxes by 2 cents per $100 in assessed value ($14 per year for a home worth $200,000).
Nevadans rejected every ballot initiative that would have raised taxes on Election Day, including a Clark County School District tax for building maintenance and capital improvements. Fay said he felt like the library district did the best it could in explaining to the public the need for the tax increase, but Nevada’s cultural aversion to new taxes coupled with the sputtering economy were too much to overcome.
“I went into it saying it was a 50-50 proposition,” Fay said. “I knew it was very, very hard to try and get this through. I guess it’s depressing to some extent, but when you look at it I think we did all we could. We had great endorsements and great community support. There’s not much else we could do. I think we left it all on the field.”
Had the initiative been approved, the district estimated a revenue boost of approximately $1.5 million in the first year of collection, fiscal 2013-2014. The district wrote the initiative to emphasize funds would be used to maintain the current level of services, and was meant for boosts in employee salaries and benefits, but the tax initiative met the same fate as two previous proposals in 2001 and 2002 that would have raised taxes for library expansion.
A political action committee set up to support the tax initiative, Citizens for Henderson Libraries, raised $38,220 between May and November to distribute fliers, signs and information on the tax.
Imagine Communications and its creative director Alex Raffi, agreed to work pro bono on a publicity campaign in favor of the initiative. Raffi developed signage to promote the initiative and set up a Facebook page, which received 945 “likes,” to help engage the community.
Raffi said the defeat “hurt,” but the dialogue the proposal generated encouraged him. He found that many voters mistakingly believed the funding for the libraries was tied to the city of Henderson.
“I always knew it was an uphill battle,” Raffi said. “I knew we would have to educate people. … I think a lot of people don’t understand that it’s not part of the local government and it relies on community involvement to stay open.”
Raffi said some people he communicated with simply were not willing to approve a tax increase. Going forward, he would like to parlay the energy created by the tax campaign into programs that will help the library, such as fundraising campaigns and initiatives to boost library usage and participation.
Fay said the district’s two options for increasing revenue through an initiative were a bump in property taxes or sales tax.
“It’s one of those issues where people always want you to do it some other way,” Fay said. “It’s a false assumption when homeowne’s say they shouldn’t have to pay when the guy renting an apartment doesn’t pay. That’s false. An apartment dweller will pay property tax through rent, and no one should think the landlord will pay taxes for you.”
Fay said the other option, a request to add to the sales tax, was seen as a tougher sell since sales taxes in Southern Nevada already are relatively steep and an increase could be viewed as a hit to tourism and local businesses.
In terms of impact on library users, Fay said the Galleria Mall branch serves a lot of apartment complexes in the area.
“Malcolm is very much a neighborhood library,” Fay said. “It’s nestled into the bottom of the Anthem and Seven Hills area, and a high school, middle school and elementary school are all in walking distance. In that neighborhood a lot of people can walk to the library and now they’ll have to get in a car and drive. For those kids that can’t drive, they won’t be able to go without parents or someone to drive them.”
The district has reduced library hours several times since the 2008 recession, and the library board made the decision to start closing the libraries on Mondays this past summer. Fay said efficiencies and staff cut backs were exhausted before the district took the tax initiative to voters, and there are no more clear-cut areas from which to trim.
Those who use the Galleria or Malcolm Libraries and need to have a materials request transferred or have any questions about the closures should contact library staff, Fay said.