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Letter to the Editor: Measure L Means Funding for the Dixon Public Library

Letter to the editor.

By Joe DiPaola

On Tuesday, June 5, 2012, Solano County voters will be asked to vote to approve/disapprove Measure L, which  will fund libraries in Solano County, including the Dixon Public Library.  Measure L reads as follows:

“Shall Ordinance No. 2011-1724 to extend the 1998 countywide library retail transactions and use tax at the rate of one-eighth of one percert ( 0.125%) for a maximum of 16 years, which provides local library funding; prevents library closures; maintains collections of books, databases, and other materials; preserves library hours and children, teen, adult,-senior programs, including computer training, homework help, family literacy and children's storytimes, with all revenues staying in Solano County, be adopted?”

In my personal capacity as a Dixon resident and library patron (not in any official capacity) I am asking Dixon voters to consider the importance of Measure L to the Dixon Public Library.

Sixteen years ago in 1998, Measure B was approved, which was a 0.125% increase in county-wide sales taxes (i.e. 1/8 of 1%, or the equivalent of one cent additional sales tax for every eight dollars spent on taxable items) to fund county libraries, including the Dixon Public Library.  Measure B will expire in 2014; Measure L is the successor to Measure B, and is intended to fund county libraries at the same sales tax rate from 2014 to 2030.

Currently, the Dixon Public Library receives $500,000 in sales tax revenues annually from Measure B, or about 55% of its operating budget.  If Measure L does not pass, then the Dixon Public Library will see those funds disappear in 2014, and significant cuts in library services will likely be experienced. The Solano County Board of Supervisors’ 2/15/12 Resolution contained the following wording, which correctly describes the problem:

“Whereas, this funding represents $500,000 or 55% of Dixon's annual operations budget and without it, the Library faces a steep reduction of hours, loss of librarians and other staff, reduced availability of computers and online resources and a sharp decrease in the purchase of library books and materials which will greatly impact the community.”

This is at a time when the Dixon Unified School District (DUSD) has already been forced to reduce critical library services in our schools.

Dixon voters should not confuse Measure L with the extravagant and excessive 32,000 square foot “New Dixon Library Project” previously promoted by the out-going District Librarian.  Monies from Measure L will be used to purchase books and for operating purposes, not to fund construction of “palaces”.  Moreover, there is an independent oversight committee which is tasked to see that doesn’t happen.

Earl Heal, President of the Solano County Taxpayer’s Association has previously stated:

“The preceding library support measure has been successful. The sales tax added $6.35 million to the $20.39 million provided from county revenues with strong results. Averaging all eight libraries, including the stand-alone libraries of Dixon and Benicia, operating hours were increased 100 percent, book purchases increased 150 percent, children's programs increased almost 200 percent, and public usage increased 65 percent, while staffing levels were reduced 21 percent.” (Emphasis added)

However, Mr. Heal then expressed two concerns that the Taxpayer’s Association has with implementation of the current wording in Measure L:

(1) “...[M]any oversight boards are meaningless, as appointees are too often either a brother-in-law or personal friends, powerless to overcome a strong-minded group. School bonds require oversight by a bona fide taxpayer member, and, even then, they are not always successful. It is an open question as to whether the Solano County Board of Supervisors will appoint an oversight board of qualified accountants and/or business people, who understand bottom lines.” (2) “...[T]he funds can be spent for anything, as long as it is in Solano County. The definition of ‘acquisitions’ is ‘something acquired’, so they could buy land, services or material, just as Dixon Library has spent $1.65 million for real estate while having no viable plan for its use.”

In other words, the Taxpayers Association is not per se opposed to library funding, but suggests instead that Measure L return to the ballot in November 2012 after these concerns are appropriately addressed by wording changes.

While I understand and respect these two important concerns of the Taxpayer’s Association (and its core mission to protect taxpayers from waste), in this case I respectfully disagree with their proposed deferral of Measure L to a future election. Both of the concerns have been historically issues only with the Dixon Library; I have not heard of any other Measure B-funded libraries where there were any concerns about how the monies were spent.

With respect to the Dixon Library, both of these concerns center around the issue of whether or not monies were wisely and properly spent on the “New Dixon Library Project”. As I said above, Measure L and the ‘New Dixon Library Project” are two separate issues: support for Measure L does not mean support for the “New Dixon Library Project”. Moreover, governance at the Dixon Library is in the process of dramatic and sweeping fundamental change:

(1) The dysfunctional and irresponsible Library Commission has been fully dissolved effective June 30, 2012; and (2) The controversial District Librarian promoting the “New Dixon Library Project” has resigned effective June 1, 2012.

If anything, after July 2012 an “UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT” banner should hang in front of the Dixon Public Library—because change is already happening which in my opinion should resolve the two concerns of the Taxpayers Association.

In summary, Measure L is a continuation of an already-existing tax that has operationally funded the Dixon Public Library and helped it to provide library services to Dixon residents for the past 14 years.  Now that many positive, significant changes are occurring at the Dixon Public Library, Dixon voters should carefully weigh the importance of Measure L to its future.

Editor's note: Joe DiPaola submitted this Letter to the Editor as a Dixon resident and library patron only, and not in his official capacity.

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