Come November Stanislaus County voters will have an opportunity to show their support for the county's 13 library branches when Measure S appears on the ballot.
Measure S is the countywide renewal of an eighth-cent sales tax that for numerous years now has made up a significant portion of the library's operating budget. For the first time, voters will be asked to extend the renewal for 12 years, rather than the five in previous elections.
On May 16, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved placing Measure S on the ballot for November.
The eighth-cent sales tax began in 1995 when budget shortfalls seriously cut the library system's operations and hours. Subsequent measures were passed in 1999, 2004, and 2012. The current renewal will expire July 1, 2018. The 12-year renewal will allow for the library to do more long-term planning for projects and improvements.
For the 2015-16 fiscal year, the revenue generated from the 1/8-cent sales tax funded 86 percent of the library system's budget, according to the Stanislaus County Library Annual Report. The remaining 14 percent came from state and federal allocations (two percent), local contributions (six percent) and an allotment from the county's general fund (six percent).
"Since 1995, when it was first approved by more than two-thirds of Stanislaus County voters, this tiny sales tax has kept our libraries open through some pretty tough times," as stated by the Save Stanislaus Libraries campaign.
The eighth-cent sales tax amounts to about $20 per person and is a dedicated tax, so it cannot be used for any other expenses or projects.
Even in a growing digital culture, libraries continue to play a vital role in the community. According to the American Library Association, more Americans visit school, public and academic libraries three times as often as going to the movies. In the 2015-16 year there were 410,442 library cardholders in Stanislaus County and more than 2.3 million visitors to the various branches, according to the annual report.
Childhood literacy has been a key focus of the library. In the 2015-2016 year there were 1,129 Story Time events, with 34,931 children and parents/guardians attending.
The library also has been expanding their digital 24/7 access over the last few years. It now includes eResources of digital books, magazines, audiobooks, language learning tools, movies and music. There were more than 52,000 eBooks and 12,000 eAudiobooks circulated in Stanislaus County libraries in 2015-16.
Early polling suggests there is support for the renewal of the eighth-cent sales tax, but it will take a two-thirds majority to pass.
The official support Measure S campaign will kick-off in August, though it is actively seeking volunteers. To volunteer or for more information visit www.savestanislauslibraries.org.