Poll shows tepid support for library tax, but consultants insist victory at the ballot is possible

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Just under half of residents in and around Boulder would vote for a library district and accompanying tax to fund an expansion of services. That’s according the results of a poll commissioned by the city council in November to gauge support for forming a special taxing district that would hopefully help stabilize funding for the library, which is struggling under increased demand and a stagnant budget.

Just 15% of those polled would definitely vote for a taxing district that would add $280 to the property tax bill per $850,000 of home value. That amount would pay for expanded services and programs at the library, such as more use of the Canyon Theater and corner libraries in Gunbarrel and Niwot. A further 30.2% would “probably” support the tax increase.

The library commission has argued that a taxing district should include surrounding communities as well; 35-40% of the library’s users live outside the city. When the district is expanded to include Gunbarrel, Niwot and the mountain communities, the per-household cost shrinks a bit to $220 per $850,000 value. Support grows: 49.8% would definitely or probably support the tax. 

That pattern was consistent across scenarios. The lower the tax increase, the higher the likelihood that poll respondents said they would vote for it. To keep the library running as-is, with no extra services or programs, would cost $160 per $850,000 household. This increase brought support up to more than half for the first time: 57.2% would definitely or probably vote for it.

A $90 per household tax, on top of current funding, would close the gap between current services levels and expanded services. A full 67.2% would definitely or probably vote for the increase.

Despite the less-than-majority support at the higher funding levels, the Center for Research and Public Policy, which conducted the poll, believes that even a $280 increase would win voter approval. The firm noted that 77.4% of respondents support increase funding for the library, and 96.8% said the library was “important to the vitality of Boulder.”

“The CRPP team believes the Boulder Public Library is well positioned for a favorable outcome to a referendum even at the highest tax increase amount of $280,” they wrote in a memo to council.

Some council members pushed back on this assertion. Aaron Brockett asked if respondents might have become more agreeable to the ever-decreasing amounts simply because they had been asked so many times; Bob Yates had similar concerns, asking what the results may have been if, for example, poll-takers led with the $90 option.

That’s not the way things are done, said Jerry Lindsley of CRPP. No client has ever requested that, and he believes it’s unlikely changing the order of questions would affect the results.

Respondents weren’t completely sold on a property tax. Only 15.4% preferred that as a way to increase library funding; 29.4% thought a sales tax would be better. That idea was discussed by council, but library officials said sales tax is too unstable as a funding source. A property tax would also be the only option for a district, if one is formed.

Those who might favor a district are in the minority: 45.4% said they strongly or somewhat support its formation, while 24.4% were somewhat or strongly opposed and the rest unsure. But, as Lindsley noted, support for a district was higher among non-Boulder respondents — a demographic key for success at the ballot, since those not within city limits theoretically pay less for library services they use.

Of those polled, only 25.6% supported a tax increase when given a choice between that and reallocation of Boulder city funds, an option that 40.4% supported.

The love of the library is a bigger indicator of success at the ballot than purported support or opposition to a tax increase, Lindsley said.

“We see strong support and strong affinity for your library in Boulder.”

Author’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from council. For a Twitter thread of that discussion, click here.

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle


7 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Another reason to support creation of a Boulder Public Library District, besides the steady revenue stream spread among all users inside and outside the city limits, is removing the politicians and apparatchiks in municipal government from any involvement in setting library policy.

    In the past, city officials have been far too lenient on the worst-behaved transients, and that has caused many patrons to go elsewhere. I chose to visit CU’s Norlin Library on a regular basis instead, where they provide only nine public access computers, but also where CU Police show zero tolerance for the bad behavior commonly seen at BPL. Example: Drunk transient passes out face down on keyboard of computer at BPL, he’s told to go outside and get some fresh air; drunk transient passes out face-down on keyboard of computer at Norlin, CU Police escort him out the door and tell him not to return for a year. I’m homeless myself, but I fully agree with response #2.

    Meddling by city officials even led to BPL’s private security guards being disarmed, necessitating Boulder Police to increase patrols inside and outside the 1001 Arapahoe facility, no doubt costing more taxpayer dollars just for some vague Feel Good policy shift to unarmed security guards. (City police, of course, might be clear across town when called to BPL.) Makes no sense at all, and yet another reason I preferred Norlin Library, where CU Police are johnny-on-the-spot when summoned by library staff.

    Years ago, around early 2010, I observed registered sex offenders riding the SKIP bus from Boulder Shelter for the Homeless to the Main Library, and they were trolling for new child victims both during the morning trip and outside the entrance at their destination. I reported this to BPL staff and Boulder Police, and it was promptly dealt with. I understand that parole officers were notified, who then put the fear of God (and returning to prison) into the perverts. I would hope that an independent library district would see fit to BAN registered sex offenders from the premises altogether.

    I favor the proposed new full-size BPL branch in north Boulder, but given its proximity to the homeless shelter and wet house at the corner of Lee Hill and N. Broadway, sterner measures need to put in place to deal with bad behavior. Sure, there may occasionally be a Sunday School teacher or other solid citizen getting drunk and disorderly on library premises, but most of the time it’s the transients who have turned libraries into day shelters.

    Max R. Weller

    • Hi, Max. I’m going to let this comment stand, as you used your full name. However, I am taking *great* issue with your claim that you witnessed sex offenders trolling for new victims. I am challenging this claim. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. 90% of victims know their perpetrator. Stranger abuse may happen, but it is exceedingly rare. It’s not homeless people looking to kidnap children that are the problem: It’s soccer coaches and dance instructors and teachers and “friendly” neighbors and priests and, most often, family members. Spreading fear and disinformation in this way is extremely unhelpful and dangerous, because it perpetuates the myth of dangerous strangers, and keeps people blind to the real dangers. I will tolerate your opinions, however loathsome I find them at times, but I won’t tolerate disinformation that endangers more children.

      • Neither offender is still in Boulder, CO. I don’t mind giving their names here, but you could just as easily confirm my story by asking Officer Paddock of Boulder PD, who was working as a detective in 2010 and investigated one of the individuals. I’m fairly certain she’ll remember me. She’s now 1/2 of the Homeless Outreach Team, as you probably know.

        As to registered sex offenders (mostly child molesters) living at Boulder Shelter for the Homeless — alongside the adult survivors of abuse — that’s undeniable. See my blog post including the CBI map of 4869 N. Broadway: https://homelessphilosopher.wordpress.com/2019/04/11/registered-sex-offenders-currently-living-at-boulder-shelter-4869-n-broadway/

        I’ve also seen them hanging around the sidewalk leading to the Dakota Ridge neighborhood, where I still have many friends with kids. Thank goodness everyone with direct knowledge, like me, has taken it seriously.

        Lots of people are survivors, and many survivors were assaulted by strangers or by adults they scarcely knew. Perhaps you should look up the criteria for an offender in Colorado to be designated a Sexually Violent :Predator:

        “An SVP is a sexually violent predator. Outlined below are the statutory criteria to classify an offender as an SVP:

        “Offender must be 18 years old when the offense was committed, or less than 18 years old but tried as an adult;
        The conviction is for sexual assault, unlawful sexual contact, sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust (convictions also include attempts, solicitations and conspiracies to any of the offenses previously outlined);
        The victim must have been a stranger to the offender or a person with whom the offender established or promoted a relationship primarily for the purpose of sexual victimization;
        Meet scoring criteria on the risk assessment instrument, or demonstrate significant psychopathy per testing.”

        So, the state of Colorado recognizes that so-called stranger danger is real. Whether you believe it or not, most of the SVPs I’ve known at BSH have assaulted children of adults they didn’t know.


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