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Arizona Bill That Had Librarians Warning of Budget Cuts Changed in Libraries' Favor

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A bill that had Arizona librarians warning of drastic budget cuts has been amended in the libraries' favor.

In its original form, House Bill 2379, proposed by Republican Representative Justin Olson, would put a cap on property-tax increases by "special districts" around the state, which includes county library districts.

See also:
-Arizona Librarians Warn That Libraries Would Be Hit Hard by Proposed Legislation

A Pima County administrator estimated such a law would result in the library's operating budget being reduced by more than $5 million next year.

Library managers in Pima County gave estimates of where that $5.4 million would come from: The loss of 46 full-time employees, plus a reduction in programs, new books, and hours of operation.

Olson said his reasoning behind the proposal was that under current laws, a county could circumvent the cap on property tax increases if a special district purposely levies more than needed, then shifts the money to a county's general fund.

And even though Olson insisted that this bill would not force budget cuts, he did agree to introduce a strike-everything amendment that the Arizona Library Association finds satisfactory.

"We're saying, okay, we are going to leave it entirely up to the local control of the individual counties and individuals districts to determine how much they want to grow their special district levies by," Olson said of his new amendment. "But what we are going to require is notice to the public that you're going to have a property tax increase, so they have to publish that notice in the paper, they hold a Truth in Taxation hearing, and give an opportunity to the public to come and testify about the property tax increase."

According to a message sent out by the Arizona Library Association, which seriously opposed the bill in its initial form, "This is great news for our library districts. It's not a complete ideal situation and we will continue to work with the County Supervisors Association closely on this bill, but removing the levy limit language is a huge win for us."

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Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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