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Proposed parcel tax would fund renovations at 6 SLO Co. libraries, construction of Templeton library

Posted at 6:59 AM, Oct 30, 2019

San Luis Obispo County libraries recently celebrated 100 years of service and now, the County's top librarians are pushing for a parcel tax to help fund renovations that will keep the libraries going for many more years to come.

At a San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meeting last week, Libraries Dir. Christopher Barnickel pitched a potential parcel tax to generate $25 million for library improvements.

The Board approved a feasibility study to look closer at the tax, which would apply to all homeowners in the county. It would cost an estimated $3 annually for a $100,000 property value for the length of the 20-year bond.

The funds would benefit six libraries: San Miguel, Santa Margarita, Atascadero, Los Osos, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano. Barnickel said the bond request would possibly be increased by $4 million to cover renovations requested by the Paso Robles library.

"Using Morro Bay as an example, their program attendance went up 540 percent as a result of that renovation," Barnickel said at the meeting. "So we can see success stories throughout the County. People vote with their feet and they do it every day with a million visitors last year."

Those tax dollars would also help build a library in Templeton.

"In 1978 (the County) did have to close several libraries," Templeton Community Library Association CFO Gwen Pelfrey said at the meeting. "Templeton is the only one that hasn't reopened. It's been not due to a lack of interest but circumstances. In 2010, Templeton's building permit was available, but Templeton didn't have the other half of the money at the time."

Library officials said the current funding mechanism is not sustainable.

The library is currently the only department in the county that requires a 50-50 match of community funds for capital projects, which forces the department cap capital costs at $4 million.

Library officials said they're prepared to spend $30,000 on a consultant and feasibility study.

The results of that study would likely be returned in the Spring and library officials would like to see the parcel tax on the November 2020 ballot.