For Colorado Libraries Desperate For More Funding, Voters Gave A Mixed Bag

Delta Library Vote
Stina Sieg/CPR News
The effort behind passing the library tax measure, called 7A, is large and organized and has been discussed at length on the local community radio station. But despite all the yard signs throughout the county and this urgent message at the entrance to Hotchkiss, many people still haven’t heard about it.

Updated Nov. 6, 2019, at 9:00 a.m.

The push to fund Delta County’s public libraries through a mill levy increase has ended with a thud.

Preliminary election results show the measure, called 7A, failed with about 56 percent of Delta County voters rejecting it. It was one of 11 similar ballot questions across the state.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Tracy Ihnot, who works in communications for Delta County Libraries.

Over the past few months, signs have popped across the county, urging voters to approve the measure that would have added about $40 dollars a year in taxes to the average home. Without this revenue, some libraries in the county may now only be open three days a week, and outreach programs and staff hours will almost certainly be cut. 

“It’s daunting,” Ihnot said. “I mean, we’ve been sort of preparing for this potential outcome. It just looks like we’re going to continue scrapping with what we have to do the best possible job we can.”

The result is particularly deflating for Ihnot because this is the second time such a measure has been rejected by voters. County voters rejected a similar ballot question in 2013.

“I don’t know what else we can do,” Ihnot said, then repeated herself as her voice started to crack. “I don’t know what else we can do. That’s the hard part.”

Delta County was one of 11 counties and cities that asked voters for funding help in the election, many dealing with the effects of the Gallagher Amendment, which limits the amount residents pay for property tax. Since property taxes fund many library systems, libraries across the state are more and more strapped.

In Delta County alone, the libraries had lost more than $600,000 annually in the last few years.

Preliminary election results suggest voters also rejected library funding measures in Adams County, as well as in Loveland and Manitou Springs.

But there’s better news for libraries in Eagle, Garfield and southwest La Plata counties, as well as the cities of Bayfield, Telluride and Pueblo, where library measures appear to have passed.

As of early Wednesday morning, library funding measure 6A in Gunnison County leaned toward passage at 56.4 percent to 43.5 percent.