With budget cuts forcing libraries to close two days a week, the city Board of Library Commissioners asked Wednesday that a $39-a-year parcel tax be placed before voters on the November ballot.

Although voters this month shot down a $100 parcel tax to fund Los Angeles schools, the library panel said surveys indicate strong support for its plan.

If approved by two-thirds of voters, the parcel tax of $3.25 a month would generate $30 million a year to help fund library programs.

"I think it would have a good chance with the public," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, who chairs the council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, which oversees the Library Department.

"When the Library Department promises something, it gets done. The public loves their local libraries and I think they would be more than willing to support this."

The City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have until July 14 to place the measure on the November ballot.

Under the City Charter, the Library Department is guaranteed .7 percent of every property tax dollar received by the city.

However, because of the city's shortfall this year, the department is down by 328 workers - a 28 percent cut in its operating budget of $75.9 million. In addition, the Library Department will be billed $22 million this year for its utility usage and pension costs.

As a result, the city has been forced to close all libraries two days a week.


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Previously, branch libraries were open six days a week and regional libraries were open seven days, but earlier this spring the city announced all would be closed on Sundays. The second closed day was added this month.

Also, the commission was told the city is facing an another $300 million shortfall next year, which could lead to additional cuts in the department's budget.

"The purpose of this special tax is to generate funds specifically earmarked for use by the Los Angeles Public Library to provide six-day service, reading incentive programs, after-school homework centers, new books and other library materials," city Librarian Martin Gomez said in a report to the commission.

Under the proposal, all money collected from the tax would go into a special fund that could be accessed only by the Library Department.

Gomez said several other jurisdictions have recently won voter approval for new parcel taxes, including Marin County, Santa Clara, San Anselmo and San Rafael.

The Los Angeles Unified School District placed a $100-a-year parcel tax before voters on the June 8 ballot. It won support from 52.3 percent of voters, but fell short of the necessary two-thirds.

Gomez said a survey conducted in May by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates showed a library tax would be supported by 68 percent of registered voters.

However, Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said taxpayers are likely to look down on the proposal given the state of the economy.

"What we've been seeing is these government agencies are looking out for themselves," Vosburgh said. "What they don't seem to realize is they don't have the money because we don't have any money.

"It seems moronic to be pushing for a tax increase when you have 12.5 percent unemployment. They just don't get it."