Denver Public Library wants to ask voters for $30 million property tax increase to fund maintenance, improve accessibility – The Denver Post

Denver Public Library officials want to go to city voters this year and ask them to approve a property tax increase that would infuse an extra $31.6 million a year into the library department.

Those officials know it’s a big ask at a delicate time with inflation putting pressure on household budgets. Still, after years of being under-funded compared to other library networks in the state and across the nation, they feel the time to act is now. First, the library needs the Denver City Council to agree to refer the would-be tax increase to the November ballot.

“COVID highlighted the devastating impact of the digital divide and the challenges faced by students and job seekers. Denver recovering from COVID depends on the city being a place where all can succeed,” city librarian Michelle Jeske told the city council’s budget and policy committee on Monday. “Adding $30 million to the library would help us maintain a world-class library for a world-class city.”

Specific ballot language has not yet been revealed but the library’s ask is simple. It would be asking voters to approve a 1.5 mill increase to the city’s mill levy property tax rate. That shakes out to $10.73 per year for every $100,000 in home value, or a little more than $50 per year for a home valued at the Denver median of $469,000, according to a library presentation. Commercial properties would pay $43.50 per year for every $100,000 in value.

Library officials have already done polling on the potential tax increase and an alternative measure that would have sought to raise the money through a 0.2% sales tax. With more than 700 likely 2022 voters replying, both measures received 69% support, according to the library presentation.

The added money would support overdue maintenance to library facilities, projects to make libraries more accessible for people with disabilities, pay raises for the district’s more than 500 employees, new technology, books and other materials.

Another critical upgrade in Leske’s view would be expanding library hours on nights and weekends so students and job seekers have access to the internet, technology and other resources more frequently. The library network is still working to build back to the schedule it had before the pandemic and has some of the most limited hours in the broader library landscape, Leske said.

“We would invest in our communities by providing access to technology, programs and services,” she said.

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