Multnomah County Commissioners voted unanimously this morning to place a $65 million library taxing district on the November ballot.
"Don't celebrate," said County Chair Jeff Cogen. "I don't wanna kid ya, this is going to be a very difficult campaign. But I believe that we will do what we have long wanted to do, which is provide adequate and stable funding for the library. So I'm voting yes."
The ballot measure will offer the Multmomah County Library an escape from 36 years of temporary levies—and relief from the tax phenomenon called "compression" that strips much of those revenues.
The decision means the fall ballot will be packed with three tax measures. As reported in this week's WW, the proposition has already drawn the ire of City Hall leaders, who say Portland budgets will be squeezed—especially City Commissioner Dan Saltzman's beloved Children's Levy, which is likely to lose $1 million it uses to fund programs for abused and foster kids.
County commissioners say the library should go first.
"If the library wins, somebody else loses—that's not the fault of the library, that's the fault of our crazy tax system," said Commissioner Deborah Kafoury. "We get stuck in this mentality that if schools are not adequately funded, then the library shouldn't be adequately funded. I think they all should be adequately funded. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't support stable library funding."
The 5-0 vote was met with a 30-second standing ovation from library supporters.
"I'm thrilled," library director Vailey Oehlke said after the vote.
Both mayoral candidates, Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Portland) and former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, attended the meeting.