weather icon Mostly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Henderson closing book on two library branches

Two branches of the Henderson District Public Libraries are closing by the end of the month following the failure of a ballot measure to implement a tax-rate increase to supplement the budget.

Tom Fay, executive director for the libraries, warned of the closures if the proposal didn’t pass.

"It wasn’t a joke," Fay said. "We weren’t trying to play games. It’s like any other business. You have to keep it sustainable."

Of the 117,573 votes the question received, 64,566 people, or 54.92 percent, voted against the measure.

"I think what we saw were voters having to prioritize and make a hard decision," said Victor Joecks, communications director for Nevada Policy Research Institute.

The institute opposed the tax rate increase and said it was unnecessary.

Galleria Library inside the Galleria at Sunset mall is scheduled to close Wednesday, and the Lydia Malcolm Library is expected to close Nov. 30.

The closings are expected to cause 15 positions to be lost.

Because employees were initially warned layoffs wouldn’t happen until January if the measure didn’t pass, Fay said he plans to keep some of the staff on at other locations until the first of the year.

Fay estimates the closures will save the library district about $800,000.

Joecks said it’s time for the district to spend its money wisely.

"And the library inside the Galleria is an obvious place to start when you only have one person every five minutes coming in," Joecks said. The library district "has increased its budget over 30 percent. It’s time to prioritize spending."

The ballot question proposed a 2-cent tax-rate increase per $100 in assessed property value.

Henderson Libraries, which receives 5.75 cents per $100 in assessed property value, remains the lowest tax rate in Clark County. 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.

Henderson Libraries has lost more than $2.5 million in tax revenue in recent years.

Before the recession, the district received about 65 percent of its revenue from assessed property values. The remainder came from consolidated taxes.

Fay estimates 75 percent of the budget now relies on property taxes.

Since the last tax rate increase in 1991, the district has unsuccessfully tried twice before to raise the tax rate. Nov. 6 marked its third attempt.

Battling a budget shortfall, the libraries reduced operating hours by closing on Sundays and cut employees’ salaries by 10 percent.

In September, district officials announced Monday closures to save an estimated $50,000 to $75,000 a year.

"You can only cut so much," Fay said. "You can’t continue down that path without cutting the quality of service."

All the popular collections from Galleria and Malcolm libraries are expected to be absorbed into the remaining four libraries.

Depending on functionality, Fay said some of the computers will go to the other locations as well.

Other items will be shipped to Malcolm Library for storage. Fay said there are no plans to sell the building.

Fay said district officials will wait to see if the library inside the Heritage Park Senior Facility will close next year.

"Probably in the March time frame we should know something," Fay said.

There is always the option of putting the question back on the ballot for the 2014 election.

Now that locations are closing, Fay said people may have second thoughts and support a future tax increase.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.