Multnomah County Commission Chair Jeff Cogen drew the ire of Multnomah County Library supporters a month ago
when he said he wouldn’t support a proposal to enact a special library tax on the May ballot. Instead, the county planned to ask voters to renew an existing library levy of 89 cents per
$1,000 for another three years.
But at a press conference today, Cogen announced that he'd changed his mind. The board of commissioners will put a $1.18 per $1,000 taxing district for the library on the ballot—but in November instead of May, and only if voters decide to renew the existing levy in May.
“As long as we win the levy, I’m sure we’ll go forward,” Cogen told WW
after the press conference. “If we
lose the levy, everyone understands we’ll be in crisis and all bets are
Cogen announced the county’s decision to pursue the new library tax district
with a string of library supporters on hand.
“It’s no secret there’s been a lot of disagreement over the past month,” Cogen said. “Now everyone is on board, so that’s good. This was really a compromise. It made the whole proposal better.”
Cogen says the existing levy simply isn’t enough to pay for library operations. He says its passage will require a 10 percent budget cut, which is bad, but not as bad as the 65 percent cut the library will face if the renewal vote fails.
If passed in November, the special tax district will provide enough money to run the library for the next 10-15 years, Cogen says.
Brian Wilson, who has led past library funding campaigns, said, “I’m pleased that we have reached a viable compromise. The board has promised to put a district on the November ballot. And we’re going to hold them to that.”