Measures B, H taxes for libraries that are worth the price – Marin Independent Journal

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Free libraries have long been established as a national tradition.

On November 8, 1731, Benjamin Franklin was the leader of a Philadelphia group that opened the first lending library in the North American colonies.

Its members contributed the equivalent of $13 to start the library, then $3 a year to keep it open, including the purchase of new books.

The goal was to build knowledge, wisdom and literacy by expanding access to the written word.

Nearly 300 years later, this goal lives on today in our beautiful local libraries. Traditionally, it is one of those local services considered a general good for the community.

Not everyone will use a library or a park, but they support them so that they are freely available to others and to themselves.

They are not, however, free when it comes to the taxes that keep them open and accessible.

Ironically, November 8 is the date to vote on two local ballot measures – B and H – whose passage is necessary to support, maintain and improve our county free library system and the San Anselmo City Library, respectively.

Critics may cite computers, the Internet, and e-readers as reasons for reducing the need for local libraries, but these have not led to a drop in demand for services. Our local libraries have been nimble in responding to changing times and needs, including meeting a growing demand for e-books, free wireless connections, computers, and community programs.

On the November 8 ballot, voters in the unincorporated areas of Marin as well as Corte Madera, Fairfax and Novato are being asked to renew the tax for nine years and raise it to $98, with an annual increase for the inflation.

The increase is significant from the $57.56 per year landowners paid in the 2021-22 fiscal year. The measure also includes a 3% annual increase in the cost of living. This increase, which will generate an additional $2 million per year, is needed to pay for capital improvements, such as new roofs, plumbing repairs, handicap access upgrades and air conditioning, to the 10 branches of the free library system.

Seniors and low-income residents can apply for exemptions.

This capital investment is vital. The same goes for building collections and keeping up with the rising costs of keeping our libraries open.

Having libraries with leaky roofs is not a great reflection of the priority the community places on its libraries.

Marin voters have repeatedly renewed the county library tax. Measure B provides another opportunity to show support for maintaining the openness of local libraries and the availability of their services and collections.

The same is true in San Anselmo where its library is a valuable institution of learning, resources and activities, for residents of all ages.

Measure H renews the local tax by setting it at $70 per year in 2024, plus an annual increase of 3% over its nine-year term. The revenue it generates accounts for around a third of the library’s annual budget, providing reliable local support that has been vital to maintaining staff and hours.

When its nine-year term expires in 2032-33, the tax will be $88.

Measure H also extends the exemption for low-income households.

Doug Holm, one of the leaders of the Measure H campaign, says the library plays an important role for many city residents. Having an open, vibrant and accessible library is part of “building a better community,” he says.

Ben Franklin would probably be proud of how his 1731 idea has taken root in our communities.

The IJ Editorial Board recommends renewal of both Library Measures on the Nov. 8 ballot — Measure B in the Free Library District of Marin County and Measure H in San Anselmo.

Amendments for the November elections are being prepared. Find them as they are published on marinij.com/opinion/endorsements.

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