Referenda Roundup 2019

How states are performing on library measures

October 24, 2019

Referenda Roundup (Illustration: Tom Deja)
Illustration: Tom Deja

As Election Day approaches, American Libraries is tracking library referenda across the country, a large selection of which will appear here and in our January/February 2020 issue. In this initial installment, you’ll find information on referenda voted on earlier this year; shortly after November 5, this list will receive extensive updates.


In Leeds, voters rejected a proposed property tax increase of 9 mills by 1,506 to 971 in January. The funds generated would have gone toward the construction of a new library as well as a new high school athletics complex and other projects.


In Phoenix, Proposition 106—which would have capped budgets for some city programs if pensions weren’t funded—failed in August. Opponents of the proposition argued that it would have resulted in decreased funding for libraries and other city services.


Long Beach residents approved the Long Beach Public Library’s $3.6 million budget in May.

The Los Angeles Unified School District in June saw the defeat of a parcel tax that would have raised $500 million annually for 12 years. If approved, the tax would have supported counseling, nursing, and library services, among many other offerings. The measure needed a two-thirds majority to pass but won only 46% of the vote.


In Cromwell, voters in May approved by 234 to 77 a general government budget of nearly $17 million, which includes funds to support the Cromwell Belden Public Library.

By 1,387 to 691, Madison voters approved in May a $150,000 addition to the operating budget of the E. C. Scranton Memorial Library in anticipation of a new building opening in 2020.

The Stafford Public Library will receive about $571,000, thanks to an approved town budget of $41.3 million. The budget was approved in May by a vote of 538 to 396.


Thanks to the voters who favored a plant facilities levy in May by 3,354 to 1,640, Meridian’s library system will see significant renovations, expansions, and additions. The levy will cost $1.4 million annually for a period of 10 years. It is the first Meridian Library District funding measure to be passed since 1995.


By a narrow vote of 3,853 to 3,690, Barrington Area Unit District 220’s referendum—which would have raised property taxes to pay for $185 million in building projects, including the renovation of Barrington High School’s library—failed in April.

The Huntley Area Public Library will renovate and expand its facility, thanks to a $12.9 million bond issuance that was approved by a 2 to 1 margin in April.

The Palatine Public Library District’s request to increase the annual property tax levy by 29%—from 27 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to 35 cents—was approved in April by a vote of 4,434 to 2,429. Over six years, $5.8 million will go to fix the library’s roof; install energy-efficient lighting; and upgrade the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.

In April, River Grove voters rejected—with 1,043 against and 471 in favor—a plan to issue $9 million in bonds for the purchase and renovation of a new library building.

In Rockton, the Talcott Free Library will be able to carry out renovations and expansions after voters approved (by 895 to 398) in April a referendum to increase residents’ tax rate from 0.21 to 0.28 mills.


A one-cent sales tax increase in Des Moines (and five neighboring cities) expected to generate $48.4 million annually was approved by voters in March. Part of the funds will be used to expand Des Moines Public Library hours.


The Lafayette City-Parish Council voted 7 to 1 in June to approve the use of $12 million in library reserve funds to build a new regional library and to expand an existing facility in Carencro.


Paris residents voted in June to add $4,500 to the budget of the Paris Public and Hamlin Memorial Libraries.

Voters in Skowhegan approved a $12 million budget in June that included $120,294 for the Skowhegan Free Public Library.


In May in Littleton, 538 voted for and 117 against a plan to borrow funds to renovate the Reuben Hoar Public Library. Projected costs for the project are $13.1 million.

A measure that would see the borrowing of $10.5 million for a new Sharon Public Library building passed in May, with 541 voters in favor and 118 against.


The De Soto Public Library will benefit from a 16-cent property tax increase approved by 62.3% of the voters in April—its first in 28 years.


Baldwin voters approved, by a vote of 1,086 to 349, the public library system’s proposed budget of $4,6 million (a $111,728 increase).

In Ballston Spa, voters approved in May the collection of $57,750 for public library funding, with 1,058 in favor and 184 against.

The Freeport Memorial Library’s annual budget will increase by 1.1% to $6.3 million, thanks to a May vote that saw 981 in favor, 236 against.

In Garden City, voters in May approved the use of $1.8 million in capital reserve funds to reconfigure the high school library.

Garrison residents voted 264 to 162 in May to increase annual funding for the Desmond-Fish Public Library by 300%, from $75,000 to $300,000. This represents an annual tax increase from 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value to 64 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.

Guilderland will see $8.4 million in improvements and expansions to its public library, thanks to a vote of 2,612 to 1,502 in May. Among those improvements will be an expansion of the children’s section.

The Great Neck Library’s proposed $9.6 million budget was approved in May, with 1,199 voters in favor and 323 against.

Lindenhurst voters approved in October, by a vote of 474-399, a 15-year, $9.4 million bond to renovate and expand the public library. It is the first bond for the library since its construction in 1969.

In Lockport in May, residents approved the Royalton Hartland Community Library’s request to increase its budget by $2,000 to $105,000 by a vote of 278 in favor, 70 against. In addition, the Barker Public Library’s request for a $1,500 tax levy increase to $76,500 was approved by a vote of 112 in favor, 39 against.

The Mahopac Public Library’s 2019–2020 $3 million budget, which represents an annual increase of less than 1%, was approved in June by a vote of 356 to 75.

With a vote of 245 in favor and 81 against, Montauk agreed in May to authorize its library to issue bonds for $7.5 million for renovation and expansion.

Ogdensburg voters rejected in May, by a vote of 340 to 226, a proposed levy that would have benefited the Ogdensburg Public Library. The library had requested a tax increase of $75,000.

In Victor, voters approved in June, with a vote of 228 in favor, 47 against, a 1.5-cent tax increase per $1,000 in assessed property value to benefit the Victor Farmington Library.


Canton saw the approval of a 2-mill, eight-year property tax levy in May that will generate an additional $3.2 million annually for the Stark County District Library, allowing it to provide extra services and materials, as well as maintain and upgrade buildings.


Voters overwhelmingly approved in May a 0.55-mill tax for upkeep and programming at the Union Library of Hatboro. The initiative passed by a vote of 724 in favor, 287 against.


In Charlotte, voters in March approved 629 to 236 the issuance of up to $700,000 in bonds to build an addition to the public library. For taxpayers, that represents an annual increase of $5 per $100,000 of property for 20 years.


The Pend Oreille County Library District saw the restoration of the property tax levy that funds its operations and maintenance, from 37 cents per $1,000 assessed value to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The levy was restored via a vote of 2,293 in favor, 1,286 against.

The Seattle Public Library will receive $219 million over seven years thanks to a levy renewal in August that saw 73% of voters in favor. The funds will support the library’s operations, e-materials, early learning programs, and seismic upgrades, as well as increase its operating hours; the vote also eliminated fines for overdue materials.

A property tax levy that funds the Spokane County Library District’s operations was restored in August to 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value (up from 43 cents per $1,000 assessed value). Approximately 53.3% of residents voted in favor.


Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo will receive $42 million in renovations—including updates to the school library—thanks to an April vote that saw 2,322 in favor and 2,100 against.

Kaukauna voters have rejected a $32.9 million referendum that would have funded school renovations including library upgrades. The referendum failed with 3,007 votes against and 2,690 in favor.


Referenda Roundup 2018

How states performed on library measures

Referenda Roundup

Referenda Roundup 2016

How states performed on library measures