POMONA - A Northern California state senator has introduced a constitutional amendment that if approved could one day help Pomona establish a steady source of funding for its library.

Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville, introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 7, which if approved would lower from two-thirds to 55 percent the voter approval threshold for passing special taxes and bonds for public libraries.

"I used to be a teacher, and I know about the importance of libraries," Wolk said.

Limited budgets have forced some school districts to close their school libraries making the availability of public library services more critical, she said.

"My feeling is people love their libraries," Wolk said. "For some people, it's the only place where they have access to the Internet."

Libraries are the source of information and knowledge along with being gathering places for people of all ages. Yet, some measures in support of libraries failed because they didn't garner a two-thirds majority of yes votes even though a majority of voters supported them, she said.

Such was the case with Pomona's Measure X.

Pomona's Measure X drew the support of 60.63 percent of the votes cast in the Nov. 6 election, but it wasn't enough to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority.

"When you have 60 percent willing to pay ... it seems self-evident there is a desire" to have the services, Wolk said.

"I think it's unfair and unjust" to deny the services the public is willing to pay for, she said.

In such situations "it's not a good use of the two-thirds vote," Wolk said.

Passing a constitutional amendment will take some work. It must go through the review of various committees of the Legislature and be approved by two-thirds of the members of both houses.

Then it must go before California's voters and must be approved by two-thirds of those casting votes.

The earliest a proposed amendment would go before voters is June 2014. If the amendment is approved, the earliest a city or county could place a local measure on the ballot would be in November 2014 or on a special election ballot.

Marian Higgins, a Pomona resident who coordinated the campaign in support of Measure X, said news of Wolk's proposed amendment is welcome among those who worked on the campaign.

"We're very excited about it, and it sounds like it's very possible, too," Higgins said.

In June, city administrators presented City Council members a budget proposal that included temporarily closing the library for a year as a cost-saving measure.

A funds shift resulted in the library remaining open until the end of June, but service hours and personnel have been slashed.

Many residents, business people and others came together to develop long- and short-term strategies leading to a steady stream of revenue for the library.

One of those strategies was to put the parcel tax measure on the ballot that if approved would have generated about $1.5 million a year for the library.

Owners of single family home parcels would have paid $38 a year.

Higgins said it's still early in the life of SCA 7, but, if the proposal is approved, it would make it possible to pursue another measure with better results.

"If that passes, we would have a clear path getting funding for the library," she said.

Residents who worked on the Measure X campaign will be monitoring SCA 7 and plan to send letters, emails and make calls to state legislators urging them to support Wolk's proposal, Higgins said.

Should it make it onto the statewide ballot, the group will campaign for it locally.

Higgins said she realizes many steps must be taken before the amendment can become a reality, but, for now, "I'm cautiously thrilled."

Members of the Pomona Public Library Foundation are also going to be monitoring SCA 7.

Foundation Board member Bruce Guter, former director of the library, will be watching SCA 7's progress. 

The foundation, which is charged with supporting the library, will support Wolk's amendment, Guter said.

Guter sees SCA 7 as something positive but he's also cautious.

"If everything went swimmingly it would be November 2014" before a measure went before Pomona voters, he said, "unless the city put on a special election."

If a measure went on the ballot and was approved, there would still be a lag time between the measure's passage and the time money for the library started coming to the city.

Money from a measure probably wouldn't start coming to the city until 2016, Guter said.

Although the proposed amendment has been introduced it is not expected to go to the first legislative committee until March, he said.

"This is a long way out."

Still "we will support this as much as we can," Guter said.

Organizations such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association see this as an effort to hit property owners' wallets.

Voters other than property owners will vote on such a proposal, but if it would pass only the property owners would be affected, said Kris Vosburgh, the executive director of the HJTA.

Legislators introduce such proposals and while they might get the support of policy makers in Sacramento it still has to go before voters, Vosburgh said.

Voters aren't likely to support the proposal and legislators "are not not likely to see this become a reality," he said.

Wolk said voters should have a chance to weigh in on how to pass bonds and special taxes for libraries.

"I thought it was high time to ask the people," she said.

Derek Wolfgram, the president of the California Library Association, said if SCA 7 was approved "it would give a lot of libraries a fighting chance."

Many libraries are struggling as cities look for way to reduce costs, he said.

Parcel taxes is one way communities have tried to generate revenue for libraries. Last month five parcel tax measures for libraries went before voters and the five failed.

Two of them - Pomona's and one in Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County - had more more than 55 percent voter approval.

In those two cases a proposal like Wolk's "would have made all the difference," Wolfgram said.

"This would put it in the hands of citizens to fund (libraries) ... if it was a priority like it was for Pomona," he said.


Reach Monica via email, follow her on Twitter @PomonaNow, or call her at 909-483-9336.