Henderson voters reject tax hike for libraries

A 2-cent tax-rate increase proposed by Henderson Libraries was defeated Tuesday evening.

Returns showed library district voters defeated the proposed increase by nearly 10 percentage points.

"It doesn't look like it's going our way," Tom Fay, the executive director of the Henderson District Public Libraries, said early Tuesday night. "The residents are deciding and it looks like they are OK with two less libraries and reduced services."

When proposing the tax increase, Fay said that if the tax-rate increase didn't pass, two libraries would close: Lydia Malcolm Library, 2960 Sunridge Heights Parkway, and the Galleria Library, inside the Galleria at Sunset mall, 1300 W. Sunset Road.

Those closures are likely to take affect before Thanksgiving, Fay added.

The library inside the Heritage Park Senior Facility, 300 S. Racetrack Road, is also being considered for closure.

Fay said the tax-rate increase, the first since 1991, would counteract a 30 percent budget decrease.

In recent years, Henderson Libraries has lost more than $2.5 million in tax revenues. This year's budget is $6.7 million.

Before the recession, it received about 65 percent of its revenue from assessed property value, Fay said. The remainder came from consolidated taxes. Since the economic downturn, property taxes make up about 75 percent of the budget.

Henderson Libraries receives 5.75 cents per $100 in assessed property value, which is lower than other Clark County library districts. North Las Vegas receives 6.32 cents, Boulder City receives 8.55 cents and Las Vegas-Clark County receives 9.42 cents per $100 in assessed property value.

In revenue dollars, Henderson received an average of $24.38 per person, below the state average of $29.28 and the national average of $32.83.

The district tried to adjust throughout the years to contend with the budget shortfalls.

In August, it announced the closure of all six branches on Mondays, which took effect in September for two branches and in October for the remainder. Fay said the move was estimated to save $50,000 to $75,000 a year.

Previously, the district tried closing libraries on Sundays, which occurred in 2008, reducing library hours and decreasing employees' pay by 10 percent.

Fay added the number of employees had fallen from 135 to 95.

The initiative was criticized by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which said the new tax rate increase would extend the district's budget, which has increased by 31 percent, instead of cutting it.

Victor Joecks, NPRI communications director, said the library could adjust the budget by taking care of some "in­efficiencies" rather than through a tax-rate increase.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.