A Los Angeles city panel recommended Tuesday asking voters to pay a $39-a-year parcel tax to keep libraries open six days a week, but had questions on when it should go on the ballot.
The City Council's Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee supports the measure that would generate an estimated $30 million annually, but balked at the $4.6 million cost to place it on the county ballot in November.
"It is a county election and this is the cost they have to place a measure before voters," said Assistant City Clerk Holly Wolcott, adding that the cost for the city to conduct its own election would be $18 million.
Wolcott said the City Council has not budgeted funds for an election in 2010, and would have to find the money from some other source.
Councilman Tom LaBonge asked for a report on how a November ballot issue might be funded.
"This is less than $1 a week," LaBonge said. "I think we should give the public a chance to decide on this and see if they do support the library system."
The City Council would have to vote to place the measure on the ballot, and passage of the parcel tax would require the approval of two-thirds of voters.
A poll conducted in May found that 68 percent of respondents said they would support the measure.
City Librarian Martin Gomez said the proceeds would be used to keep libraries open six days a week and save after-school and homework assistance programs that are set to be eliminated in July.
The Library Department is guaranteed $75 million a year and receives an additional $48 million from the city general fund, an amount that has been reduced over the last several years due to the city's revenue problems. Of its budget, $22 million is spent for services from the Department of Water and Power.
Gomez said the money from the parcel tax would help offset some of those cuts.
But neighborhood council leader Jack Humphreville said more study is needed on the proposal.
"I think we need a full review of the department and how it will spend the money," Humphreville said. "They say $10 million is needed to restore the hours, where will the other money go?"
Gomez said the $10 million is needed to keep the doors open, with the remaining funds going for the other program costs.
As part of the measure, Gomez said an oversight committee will be established to make sure the money is spent as needed.
Also, he recommended the tax be phased out in five years. However, LaBonge questioned the time period and said he believed it should either be a permanent tax or last for a more extended period of time.