Library taxes split

Gilroy
– The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has voted to support a ballot
measure extending the current $33.66 library parcel tax, but has
rejected a second measure for an additional $12 tax – an increase
library officials say is necessary to reopen facilities on
Mondays.
Gilroy – The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has voted to support a ballot measure extending the current $33.66 library parcel tax, but has rejected a second measure for an additional $12 tax – an increase library officials say is necessary to reopen facilities on Mondays.

The decision by the chamber’s board of directors affirms a March 11 recommendation of its endorsement committee, which has come under intense criticism in recent months for not allowing all chamber members to vote on sensitive political issues.

The endorsement committee’s unanimous vote on March 11 involved four people – Terry Feinberg, Kai Lai, Rob Oneto and Tim Day, who also serves as president of the chamber’s board of directors. The board of directors has final authority to approve or reject the endorsement committee’s recommendations.

In a written endorsement statement, the committee stated that “while quality of life is important to job attraction, increased taxes and fees are a detriment. Measure B presents no assurance of enhanced services, and there is no citizen oversight mechanism to ensure the funds collected are spent as promised.”

Connie Rogers, who is working on a campaign to raise support for the measures, disagreed.

“I would beg to differ with that,” she said of the chamber’s assessment. “Measure B does promise restoration of service to what we enjoyed up until October. It promises restoring services to the six days we had. I think it’s an economic benefit as well. The library is part of a package of community goods and services that makes our city attractive to new businesses and residents.”

Oneto said there are a lot of other possible funding options for the library, such as new fees, a collaboration with Gilroy schools or Gavilan College, or some other “creative” solution to offset the need for an additional parcel tax.

Kai Lai, a newly appointed member of the endorsement committee, argued that a library tax increase is unnecessary given the widening tax base associated with home construction.

“Maybe the rate is the same, but the base has increased, which would more than compensate for the $12,” he said.

The chamber held a March 9 public forum where supporters and opponents debated the value of the measures. Chamber members restricted debate to the measures’ financial merits, preventing conservative opponents from criticizing the library for not banning access to sex sites and other illicit material through public computers.

The Library District Joint Powers Authority, which governs libraries in Gilroy and eight other city libraries, is serious enough about both ballot measures that it has embarked on a multi-million dollar campaign. The library JPA must pay $1.8 million to the county registrar of voters to host the mail-in ballot election, since the special election will solely benefit the library system. The JPA has also spent about $65,000 on polling and consultants.

“If we have Measure A and B pass, we would be able to open up on Mondays again,” said Gilroy library director Lani Yoshimura, adding that if both fail, “We’re talking serious layoffs, cuts in service, cuts in hours.”

Measure B, the additional $12 tax, can not pass unless Measure A, the current parcel tax, receives approval. Measure A represents more than $3 million in annual operating support for Gilroy library; Measure B would increase that to $5.4 million. Yoshimura said the library system’s current funding “sunsets” in June 2005.

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