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Yes on Fire and Library Funds

May 23, 1997

On June 3, Los Angeles County voters in areas that use county fire or library services will cast ballots on two important measures. Proposition E, a special tax, would ensure that the Consolidated Fire Protection District would receive $51.7 million, money it needs badly. Proposition L is also a special tax, one designed to maintain current service levels for the county's public library system by raising about $9 million. Each must pass by a two-thirds majority, and The Times strongly recommends a yes vote for each.

Neither measure would impose any additional tax burden on property owners. E and L are on the ballot as a result of last November's passage of state Proposition 218, which requires local governments to put previously earmarked monies to a vote rather than simply continuing to impose special assessments, charges or fees.

According to the county counsel, appropriation of local property taxes by the state Legislature has deprived county libraries of about $31 million a year since 1993. The $9 million that would continue to be raised under Proposition L would mitigate that loss at an annual cost per property owner of just $22. Without it, supporters say, county library hours, book purchases and other services probably will be cut.

The fire district measure would maintain a $48 average annual levy on affected property owners. Its loss would mean reductions in firefighter and paramedic staffs and equipment. Supporters include 11 city councils, 12 mayors, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. Taxpayers Assn.

Opposition to E and L comes from anti-tax groups. Arguing that the county budget should be squeezed, they would rather privatize fire and emergency services and rely more on volunteers and reservists. They would also have nonprofit groups run the libraries. The opponents' thinking is too chancy. Vote for Propositions E and L and avoid the risk of losing services that every community needs.

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