New five-year levy will be on November ballot

A long-awaited Troutdale library branch will proceed if Multnomah County voters renew a countywide library levy in November.

County commissioners on Thursday, July 20, voted unanimously to place a five-year library levy on the ballot to replace a five-year levy set to expire in 2008.

The library system receives more than 55 percent of its funding from the levy, approved by voters in 2002 and 1997.

If voters don't renew the levy, which will provide funds to continue operating the libraries at their current service level, some neighborhood libraries would likely close and others may have to cut their hours, as well as programs and services.

Also, two new libraries planned for Troutdale and North Portland wouldn't open. Under the proposed levy, both new branches will receive funding starting in the 2008-09 fiscal year and could be open as soon as 2009-10.

Commissioner Lisa Naito brought the resolution before the board, which unanimously supported placing it before voters in November. Commissioner Maria Rojo de Steffey was absent.

The current levy expires on June 30, 2008, and provides more than half of the library system's operating funds. Homeowners now pay 75.7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for the levy, which over its five years is expected to raise $130.1 million.

Due to inflation, that amount has been increased to 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on the November levy. For the owner of an average single-family home in Multnomah County - defined as having an average assessed value of $150,000, which is generally less than the average real market value - the replacement levy will cost $11.13 a month.

If approved, the replacement levy would take effect July 1, 2007, and is projected to raise $176.7 million. The first year of the new levy also would replace the last year of the old one.

Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, who represents East County, said that although he is 'not usually banging the drum for more money,' he supports renewing the library levy.

'It's so important not only for the county but for my own district,' which stands to gain a library in Troutdale if the levy is renewed, Roberts said.

The Multnomah County library system encompasses 17 libraries, including branches in downtown Gresham, Rockwood and Fairview. Gresham's branch has the fourth highest circulation of the 17 libraries and ranks first in program attendance.

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