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Assembly Approves Library Funding Bill : Legislation: The measure would permit local assessment districts, but requires voters’ approval of levies.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County library supporters heralded Assembly passage Tuesday of a bill to provide a new funding source for their struggling institutions.

The bill, which goes back to the Senate for final legislative approval before heading to the governor’s desk, was adopted 45 to 24.

Library advocates said they will launch a new, aggressive phase of a months-long letter-writing campaign to persuade Gov. Pete Wilson to sign the bill into law. A similar measure last year produced an avalanche of supportive letters, but Wilson vetoed it.

The present bill, authored by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), permits local governments to set up special assessment districts for libraries similar to those that help pay for fire prevention, sewer and flood prevention services.

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Only after voters’ approval would the library districts be authorized to levy charges on property owners. A typical library service charge on a single residence in Los Angeles County would amount to about $20 to $25 a year, said Bill Siverling, Los Angeles County legislative representative.

In his veto message last year, Wilson said he refused to sign the bill because the library assessment would have amounted to an involuntary tax increase.

But Roberti, in making another attempt this year, agreed to several changes that he believes address Wilson’s concerns. Among those was the requirement that the assessment district--and thus the charge--be put to the voters for approval.

A spokesman for Wilson said the governor has not decided whether to sign the current version.

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Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), who led the effort for passage in the Assembly, said she believes public support exists for assessments to keep library doors open.

According to the California State Library Assn., county libraries were among the hardest hit by the state’s 1993 property tax shift from counties and special districts to schools. A survey showed that many large county libraries throughout the state suffered a 50% loss in funding due to the property tax shift.

In the sprawling Los Angeles County library system, costs are expected to exceed revenues by about $32 million this year, Siverling said.

Ten county library outlets, including a bookmobile that serves Antelope Valley, have shut down in the last two years. Some branches that used to be open all week are now open only 14 hours a week over two days.

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“We’re down to the point where there’s nothing left to cut,” said David Flint, the county’s assistant director for library finance. “There’s no crying wolf.”


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