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May 6, 2015

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NPRI argues against Henderson Library tax initiative

District says closures imminent; policy institute claims system is healthy


Leila Navidi

Tarik Madanat of Henderson listens to music at one of the computer stations at Green Valley Library in Henderson on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

The Henderson Library District is asking residents for a bump in property taxes to stave off branch closures and additional cutbacks, but the Nevada Policy Research Institute says the district is relatively healthy financially and proponents of the initiative are misleading voters.

The political action committee Citizens for Henderson Libraries and the “Rescue My Library” campaign have been working in support of the tax initiative. On one campaign poster, a girl, head in hands, is standing in the middle of a barren desert, surrounded by empty, toppled-over bookshelves and a sign that reads: “Notice: Henderson Library is Permanently Closed.”

The text of the poster reads: “Don’t let this happen: Without your vote libraries will close. Programs and services will be reduced and eliminated. Once this happens, it will be too late to save them.”

Victor Joecks, communications director for NRPI, a local libertarian think tank with a mission to reduce taxes and government regulation, said tax proponents are being sensationalist and he believes the libraries are relatively healthy given the current state of the economy.

“It’s not this all-or-nothing proposition that’s being put out there,” Joecks said. “The system has grown very healthfully, faster than population growth would dictate. They take the high-water mark for funding, then say they have been cut so much from that high-water mark and now we need a tax increase. ... The library system is doing very well. This is a choice between growing at a rapid rate or an exorbitant rate.”

The library district is independent from the city of Henderson, and the majority of its $7 million budget comes from property taxes. The district’s prerecession funding high was approximately $10 million. The district expects property values to continue to slide in the next few years, further decreasing its funding. It argues the Galleria and Malcolm library branches will be shuttered if the tax initiative, which would raise property taxes by 2 cents per $100 in assessed value, does not pass.

Thomas Fay, Henderson Library District executive director, said efficiencies have been exhausted. The library has cut hours numerous times, and at the beginning of October, district libraries started closing on Mondays. The number of full-time equivalent staff hit a high of 101 in 2009, just after the district reopened a renovated Green Valley branch that had been transferred in 2005 from the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. In fiscal 2011, the Henderson district had the equivalent of 86.5 full-time employees. Fay said staff from Malcolm and Galleria branches have been finding new jobs amid the uncertainty, and the total staff currently stands at the equivalent of 77.5 full-time employees. He is holding off on hiring anyone until after the tax initiative vote.

If the initiative is approved, the district is estimating a revenue boost of approximately $1.5 million in the first year of collection, fiscal 2013-2014.

“This doesn’t fix everything,” Fay said. “We’ve lost $2.5 million, heading toward $3 million, a year. We feel we have put in a lot of efficiencies, and this is just enough to get us through the next 10 years.”

Joecks, though, points out salaries and benefits for the library district have increased faster than the rate of inflation. From 2000 to 2011, the average salary of district full-time employees rose 12 percent after adjusting for inflation, or 1 percent faster than the rate of inflation per year. Joecks also singles out Fay for his combined salary and benefits of $146,388 in 2011. For comparison, Kathy Pernell, director of the North Las Vegas Library District, took home $191,521 in salary and benefits in 2011 while Jeanne Goodrich, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District executive director, received $212,540 in salary and benefits in 2011, according to Transparent Nevada.

Henderson district employees took a 10 percent pay cut in 2010 that is still in effect. Meanwhile, the average cost of health insurance doubled during from 1999 to 2009. The district picks up 100 percent of an employee’s health insurance costs, but employees must pay to add spouses or dependents to their coverage.

“It’s fair to say a good chunk of the increase in salary and benefits over that time span was from the rising costs of benefits,” Fay said. “Health care costs would rise 7 to 8 percent in some years.”

In 1997, the district collected $19.12 per resident in tax revenue adjusted for inflation, and in 2012, it received $24.96 per resident, a 30.5 percent increase.

During that 15-year span, the district grew exponentially. Library branches tripled from two to six. Henderson’s population nearly doubled while circulation rose 424 percent and the number of library materials jumped 254 percent. Also, in the past decade, Henderson, like libraries across the country, has raced to catch up technologically, offering e-books and more computers for public use.

According to the American Library Association, the national average for library district expenditures is $38.59 in revenue per resident, and the range goes from a low of $16.46 per person to $77.34.

Joecks believes voters are being misled on the ramifications of the tax initiative. The tax would last for 30 years but can be lowered from the maximum of 2 cents per $100 in assessed value at the discretion of the district. Language on the tax initiative, which is called Question 1 on the ballot, says the tax will be levied for “purposes including, without limitation, operating and maintaining library facilities (excluding employee salaries and benefits), and acquiring, constructing, equipping and improving library facilities ...”

NPRI argues that because the money that was previously used for services and materials could be shifted to salaries and benefits, the promise of not putting increased tax revenue toward employee salary and benefits is empty.

“It’s so disingenuous,” Joecks said. “They get the money for supplies and services, and that sounds good to voters, but it really has no meaning. They can’t say for certain that additional money won’t go to salaries and benefits. I predict that they will expand the library with the (increased revenue), and then because they are dealing with extra material, they’ll say they deserve a pay increase.”

The district counters that the tax is for maintaining the status quo and the board’s primary goal is to return some of the lost hours and services. If the libraries were to reopen on Mondays, for example, some money not currently spent on salaries would have to be moved.

Joecks also argued that there will be no accountability to the voters over a 30-year span as few in the public will have the diligence to keep track of the how the revenue is spent.

Joecks and NPRI argue that closing the Galleria and Malcolm library branches would be an appropriate market adjustment to the current economic situation.

“People are always willing to close a branch when it’s not the library you are going to or not the branch near you,” Fay said. “But for the people that branch serves, it’s critical to them. The Malcolm branch is six times smaller than Boulder City, but it circulates more material than Boulder City’s library. The Galleria mall serves the east-central side of town and allows some people who aren’t always reached by library services to access them. It’s not about the size of the library, it’s about access to materials and access to a gateway to matetials through online services.”

By statute, the library district cannot charge for general services and under state law the mission of each public library is to “to meet the informational needs of all citizens.”

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  1. The only people I know who go to libraries these days are addicted gamblers who want to check their E-Mail. With E Books and the Internet, libraries are becoming dinosaurs, fading away. The Dewey decimal system is so yesterday. Vote no...

  2. If NPRI is telling us we shouldn't, then by all means, we NEED to do it. NPRI should change their name to Not Really A Non-Profit Organization and quit pretending they're some kind of non-partisan group acting in the best interests of the public.

  3. I think the Henderson library should get taxpayer money. The internet is not the key to everything. There are still plenty of people who enjoy reading a book. The excellent Henderson library on Green Valley Parkway provides some professional journals and other research material that is just not on the internet. The increase in taxes is tiny. Really tiny. They spend the money wisely as well.

  4. @doogie should visit a library if only to meet a different class of people than "addicted gamblers who want to check their E-Mail."

    NPRI is nothing but a Libertarian lobbying group that gets way more publicity than ignorance deserves.

  5. There is a simple fact that people need to understand. The NPRI hates when people get educated and learn something. Because the NPRI wants people dumb and gullible so they can tell them anything that will fit in with their ultra-conservative fantasy land agenda.

    They prefer to close libraries. Then when you need to do research and look up something, they want you go to a casino or get with a hedge fund manager.

    No thanks. Extend the life of libraries. I'd rather do my own research on things. Rather than ask knuckleheads like Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson who are more interested in an agenda than in the truth.

    The data memory chip in the computer at the library is way, way more important than a gambling chip at the Wynn.

  6. Anything that helps the poor, minorities and working people NPRI is against. Low mining and gambling taxes and a lump of coal for the poor. NPRI should be classified as a hate group

  7. @doogie - I am appalled by your assumption that only addicted gamblers go to the library. You say "the only people I know" - HOW DO YOU KNOW? Are you one of them? I am a regular patron of the library - college educated, own my own home and car and pay taxes and I know for a fact that I am certainly not the only one. Your ignorance baffles me.

  8. Taxpayers and voters want ALL government jobs re-evaluated. Get down to what the real duties and functions of each position are, not the inflated hype about the difficulties of managing a budget. What about managing to make a profit, which in government circles SHOULD TRANSLATE into making a profit, ending in the black--no overruns. Why are firefighters in Nevada "earning" FIVE TIMES what they do in other states? Why are our government comp packages bigger when we have such a low cost of living? Why aren't employees paying at least half their retirement? We don't need more revenue. We need SOME accountability.

  9. The problem is that NPRI isn't a libertarian organization.

    Their legal schemes and public advocacy revolve around taxes and spending, only. Where's their advocacy against drug laws? Where's their advocacy against the constitutional amendment barring equality for GLBT Nevadans?

    Don't call them libertarians. They aren't.

  10. Is Victor so desperate for attention that he targets a measly 2 cent per $100 valuation tax increase for residents of the City of Henderson? NPRI needs to stop looking in the weeds for minor issues like the library tax and tackle bigger things like keeping the Clark County School District in check. This seems like a total waste of his time and talent.

  11. I voting against it not because I think we don't need libraries but because I KNOW we don't need 4 library systems. I have to have two different cards and use two different computer systems to go to two libraries that are not too far from my house. One in Henderson and one in LV. That's just silly. And we have the NLV library and the Boulder City library. There should be ONE Clark County library system for the entire valley. ONE director instead of 4. ONE computer system instead of 4. All that money going to 3 other sets of administrator and computer maintenance can be consolidated and maybe we could even hire more librarians.

  12. Public libraries were born from the ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence. Simply put, a public library exists to serve the public's interest. It is a symbol of American civility, the bootstrap that facilitates literacy and enables intellectual growth and progression within a community. The public library as we know it is a uniquely American invention molded from American values and philosophies. As Americans, we understand that those on the front lines sustaining our democracy are those who are well informed. In recent news, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl was shot for her desire to access knowledge; that shows the lengths some societies will go to suppress the thirst for education. Our dependence on government has been a point of contention in the last decade, and sadly libraries have been lumped into that argument. Somehow we have forgotten that public libraries are not a problem of government dependence, they are the solution. As Americans, it is our chance to stand up and be counted this November. So I say yes to a public resource that gives back so much more than it takes.

  13. @PISCES41 and Marla: Totally agree. @doogie: You need new friends. @Roslenda: If you read the article, you would see that Henderson Libraries is independent from the city of Henderson. Bringing up firefighters in this conversation is pointless.

  14. Melissa: Libraries have GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES and may have pay scales as out of whack as others, including firefighters. Think Macro, not micro.

  15. doogie: The new-arrival illegals seem to hang out at the libraries. They carry crib cards on how to get on the internet and "phone home." I've been to the local library and seen it. These new arrivals can't say hello in English but the librarians cater to getting them on the internet free--and set the computers to Espaniol. We may need some "regulation" or common sense that the libraries are there for citizens and our kids, not to facilitate crime by enhancing communication of illegals, coyotes, and company.

  16. Roberta, promoting government accountability and financial responsibility is a great thing. You don't promote those things though. You repeatedly harass, mock, put down & zealously berate topics while trying to push completely different disconnected topics by using hyper partisan talking points. Don't believe me?

    As for Victor Joecks & NPRI, they don't research policy. They borrow it from the Cato Institute when it suits their pro-greed agenda. They don't do real analysis. That would require they stop regurgitating ALEC & Cato Institute material & cite sources other than ALEC & Cato Institute, so they don't do that either.
    They DO lobby for greater taxes on the middle class & poor while lobbying against taxing the wealthy. Even in doing this they have to borrow statistical analysis from a taxpayer reform group that can't even compile the data correctly.

  17. "Cato Institute and Koch Brothers Reach Agreement"

    "As part of the agreement, the Koch brothers will drop two lawsuits they had brought to gain greater control over the institute's board."

    New York Times, Friday, October 19, 2012

    The Cato Institute is a puppet of the Koch Brothers who fund all or part of it's philosophy. NPRI comes very close to being the same. The Koch Brothers want a return to the Aristocratic rule of old Europe based on an uneducated public and control of information sources by the wealthy.