In Colorado, one of the primary sources of funding for public libraries comes from a local mill levy (property tax). Public libraries sometimes need to go to voters in their legal service area to ask for an additional mill levy (or to establish a new mill levy) in order to better meet the needs of the community. Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires that any new tax must be approved by voters, and there are limits to annual tax revenue increases. In a mill levy election, it’s up to the people who live within the library service area to vote on whether or not to increase tax funding for the library.
In order to help public libraries navigate the process of having a mill levy election, we’ve compiled some resources that may be helpful. These resources are provided for informational purposes, and should not be seen as legal or financial advice.
These timetables will help your library understand the deadlines for getting on the ballot for a 2019 election:
- 2019 Election Calendar (CO Secretary of State)
- 2019 November Coordinated Mail Ballot Timetable (PDF)
These archived webinars will help your library plan and prepare, before you make the decision to go to ballot for a mill levy election:
- Before the Ballot: How to Prepare for an Election (EveryLibrary) [Slides (PDF)]
- Nuts & Bolts (and Bricks!): Library Elections Primer for Operating and Building Projects (Butler Snow LLP & George K. Baum & Co.) [Slides (PDF)]
Once your library board has voted to be on the ballot, then your library will need to adhere to Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) guidelines, which limits what can be done with public resources during a ballot campaign. The FCPA guidelines are summarized for libraries in this document:
When it comes to advocacy, these archived webinars can help libraries understand what is necessary to communicate about the need for library funding:
- Fundamentals of Library Advocacy (EveryLibrary Institute)
- How to Get a Yes Vote for Your Library Mill Levy (Arapahoe Libraries)
- Voter Perceptions of Libraries: Results and Methodology of the 2018 “From Awareness to Funding” Study (RIPL)
Image credit: “Education and Storytime” by Louise Norman, available for download at Vote Libraries