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SOUTHEAST AREA : Assessment Districts Urged for Libraries

August 22, 1993|MARY HELEN BERG

In an effort to save six local libraries, residents have gathered about 1,000 signatures in support of a levy that would raise funds to keep the facilities open.

Library supporters hope the state Assembly will pass a bill that would allow local governments to form special property assessment districts to fund libraries. The bill has already been passed by the state Senate.

About 100 parents, students and city and library officials marched from Huntington Park High School through Huntington Park's commercial district to the Huntington Park Public Library on Aug. 14. Toting placards that read, "Don't block our education," marchers shouted slogans, carried favorite books to show symbolic support for their libraries, and gathered signatures to be sent to state legislators.

Because of state budget cuts, service at the Bell, Cudahy, Florence and Maywood public libraries has been cut to two days a week. The Weaver Public Library and the Huntington Park Public Library, the largest in the Southeast area, are open four days a week.

The assessment districts would require property owners to pay $20 to $80 annually to keep the libraries open. Without money from the assessment districts, county library officials have said the six libraries could close permanently Jan. 31.

No library assessment districts have been established in the state, said Joel Fox, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. Fox's group often opposes the formation of assessment districts because it believes they are used to circumvent Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978 and requires voter approval of new taxes and tax increases. But the group does not oppose library assessment districts as long as voters have a chance to approve them, Fox said.

"We understand the value of libraries, but it is a property tax and should have a two-thirds (approval) vote," he said.

If the library bill is passed by the Assembly and signed into law by the governor, 10% of the registered voters would need to protest the formation of an assessment district to place the issue on the ballot.

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