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Civic Impact

To be funding libraries ourselves, or not to be: thatís the taxing question

"Not only do people want to see it on the ballot, but they're looking forward to voting yes," says City Councilman Patrick Dowd about a referendum he and others in the Our Library, Our Future petition drive are trying to make part of November's elections. It would make up for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's funding shortfall with a very small property tax increase ($25 for every $100,000 in assessed value).

This "most visited cultural asset in the county," as Dowd points out, could use some help, even though it gets 90 percent of its $25 million annual budget from the county's Regional Asset District and the state.

Dowd expects the RAD budget to show a shortfall in the library's allotment from 2013 on. Already, the library system -- created but not endowed by Andrew Carnegie -- has suffered recent cutbacks in staff and programming. Dowd believes people are willing to write their own happy ending to this troubling chapter. Too many people rely on the main library and its branches, from kids treasuring story time to the unemployed using its computers for job searches.

"The most important thing is that it gets on the ballot, so we all have the opportunity to express our opinion on this," Dowd says. The group is encouraged by their own polling this spring, which shows that their efforts have a chance in the fall, he reports.

"We know from polling that people are supportive," he concludes. But as a pol himself, he's realistic. "No polling really matters but the one on Election Day."

Do Good: Volunteer in the Our Library, Our Future petition drive.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Patrick Dowd, Our Library, Our Future
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