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Measures P and V will keep Berkeley libraries healthy

John Geluardi Daily Planet Staff
Friday November 03, 2000

Berkeley residents have long demonstrated pride in their library system by showing overwhelming support at the ballot box. On Nov. 7 they will have the opportunity to do it again. Twice. 

Berkeley libraries are open seven days a week and offer the community many services. Besides lending over 500,000 books, magazines, tapes and videos, libraries provide other services including job training, computer access and children’s reading programs. 

Berkeley residents will decide on two library measures next Tuesday. One asks voters to re-authorize the library tax that will continue the current level of service in the city’s five libraries and the other would partially provide much-needed funds to renovate, upgrade and expand the four branches. 

Library officials estimate Berkeley’s library system needs $15 million worth of renovations, upgrades and expansions. Measure P would authorize the City Council to issue $5.2 million, or 35 percent of the estimated remodeling costs, in general obligation bonds. Like all general obligation bonds, the measure would have to pass by a two-thirds vote. 

However, if the measure passes, the bonds would be issued only when the city secures the other 65 percent of the estimate in matching funds. Sources would be the state, under Proposition 14 the State Library Bond Act or private donations and grants.  

“This is a win-win measure,” said the library’s branch service manager, Audrey Powers, “The bonds will not be issued unless we secure matching funds from either the state or other sources.” 

State Proposition 14 was passed last spring and will make available approximately $330 million for library renovation projects to qualifying cities. To apply for funds, cities must first raise 35 percent of their construction estimates through general obligation bonds. If library system applicants are approved by a state board they will receive 65 percent of construction costs.  

Cities across the state are putting library renovation measures on local ballots in order to be eligible for Proposition 14 funds.  

According to Berkeley library officials, 87 percent of Berkeley voters supported the proposition last spring. According to state election result records, Alameda County passed the proposition with 70 percent voter approval that was close to the statewide 69 percent. 

“The citizens in Berkeley clearly support library renovation,” Powers said.  

There were no arguments against Measure P on the ballot.  

Powers said the branch libraries, one of which has not been upgraded since it was built in 1936, are in need of renovations.  

“Our highest priority is to improve access for the disabled in all the branches,” Powers said. She said none of the branch libraries, except the Claremont Branch, are up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards. 

Powers said up to 1,000 people use the 64-year-old North Branch each day and there can be up to 200 children in a single youth reading program. She said there would be some modest expansion to create group meeting rooms. “We have people hanging off the rafters and to accommodate the kids we have to rearrange furniture and shelves,” she said.  

Other projects would include new plumbing, wiring and computer infrastructure. Measure P will cost the average Berkeley property owner about $1 per month. 


Measure V 

Measure V will ensure that Berkeley Public Libraries will be able to continue providing the same level of service. Measure V asks for re-authorization of a special tax approved by voters for the first time as the Library Relief Act in 1980. Special taxes are used for only one purpose and in this case it’s to maintain the city’s library system.  

As of 1988, the library tax is required by the Gann Initiative Two to be re-approved by voters every four years. Voters have upheld the tax three times since then. 

The measure will not raise taxes other than a slight increase to allow for inflation. If Measure V passes it will authorize the city to use the library tax funds through 2004. Also the city will be allowed to spend $9.7 million for fiscal year 2000-01. 

If Measure V, the soul source of support for the libraries, fails, it could mean a financial crisis for the Berkeley Public Library system because there are no funds allocated in the city’s general fund for library support. 

There are two arguments against measure V listed on the ballot. Opponents wrote that the reason the city needs a library tax is because of the City Council’s reckless spending. They said the possible passage of the measure “is akin to handing an alcoholic a blank check for more drinks in the hope it will end his craving.” 

The letter also says Berkeley’s annual budget was $69 Million in 1982 and that it has now more than tripled to $214 million and claims city services have “drastically declined.”  

The letter is signed by Mealie Morris of the California Neighborhood Association.  

The other argument against Measure V is signed by five individuals among which is John Denton, a former Berkeley Councilmember. Denton said he is not against the city’s libraries but rather the City Council’s excessive spending and their failure to plan for the future. “If they planned ahead they would easily be able to support the libraries out of the general fund,” he said. “As far as this City Council is concerned there’s no place for economy when it comes to the libraries.”  

Both Measures P and V are endorsed by more than 185 individuals and organizations, including the mayor and entire City Council, Board of Education and the Downtown Berkeley Association.