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THE REGION : No Consensus on Special Library Tax

August 18, 1994|JON GARCIA

South Bay cities are in conflict on whether to support a special tax to fund local county libraries, library officials said Wednesday.

The Carson and Lomita city councils voted unanimously to support a special district this week. But officials in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Avalon have rejected the new tax.

Jean Alexander, Los Angeles County library regional administrator, has been asking city councils throughout the South Bay to support the special district to help replace more than $30 million in cuts to the library system.

The cuts have forced many libraries to reduce hours, freeze spending on books, computers and reference materials, and rely on donations and volunteers to keep operating, Alexander said.

The special district would cost each household about $28.50. If enough cities participate, it would raise up to $8 million, Alexander said. The county library district's revenue now comes mainly from property taxes and is distributed based on how heavily libraries are used.

Under the special district, the Lomita library would be open at least three days a week and would be guaranteed a full staff and materials budget, said Ruth Herbert, president of the Friends of Lomita Library. "If enough cities participate, we could get as many as five days."

In Carson, two county libraries have been closed and others have had their hours slashed. Electing not the participate in the district could lead to additional cuts, officials said.

"It's tragic what would happen if we didn't (support the district)," Carson Mayor Michael I. Mitoma said.

But residents who spoke out against the tax worry that the money raised would never reach local libraries.

"(The county is) greedy, hungry and desperate," said Lomita resident and Planning Commissioner Dan L. Jones.

Officials in Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach say pulling out of the county library district and funding their own local libraries may be better than joining the special district.

"The special district would pay for three days a week, and we already have that," Manhattan Beach City Manager Bill Smith said. "We already pay for two days out of our own city budget."

A Hermosa Beach study showed that for every $3 taken in taxes for the library, residents only got $1 back in services. The Hermosa library is open only two days a week, City Manager Stephen R. Burrell said.

For the amount city residents are already paying for library services, "we could run our own library for five days a week," Burrell said.

Officials in Hawthorne, Lawndale and Gardena are scheduled to vote on joining the special district within the next few weeks, Alexander said.

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