Pikes Peak Library Pursuing 55% More Money from Taxpayers’ Pockets

The Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) voted to put an issue on the November ballot —a hefty tax increase. It doesn’t matter if you are a homeowner or a renter. The tax increase will be levied on you and every Colorado Springs household if the measure passes. 

And you pay for it, whether or not you use the library.

When my kids were school-aged, we used the library a lot. I homeschooled my 3 kids for 6 years, and during that time, we’d often head to the library for hours each week to tackle our curriculum. The environment had fewer distractions —no dogs or guinea pigs, no video games, and no television. They even had a piano for the kids’ 30 minutes of daily practice. 

My point: My family utilized the library and we see its value to the community. My fondness for the library, however, does not translate into a willingness to give them more money at this time. 

At last week’s Pikes Peak Library District Board of Trustees meeting, there was a discussion about placing the tax increase on the November, 2022 ballot. The majority of trustees voted in favor of pursuing a ballot issue. Check out that meeting that we recorded for you here.  A tax increase in the PPLD would amount to an additional $60 (on average) per year for each household.  

Anthony Carlson —some may remember he had a hand in the School District 11 tax increase a few years back— presented information about a March 2022 poll to the library trustees. According to Carlson, the PPLD poll detailed that 75% of people said the library is a good value. Additionally, he said that 60% of respondents say their taxes are too high, up from 40% in a September 2021 poll. 

That’s fascinating, isn’t it? In 6 months, there was a 20% increase in the number of people who believe they are paying too much in taxes. Carlson reported that in both polls, people supported a library tax increase going to the ballot. That polling percentage was not shared, though. Also, since the polls themselves were not publicly shared, we don’t know anything about the polling methodology, who was polled, or the specific poll question language.

Carlson predicts the turnout for both Republicans and Democrats will be high in November. He believes younger people will vote in high numbers. Younger people are most likely to support tax increases, Carlson said. He recommended that the board take the chance and spend the $500,000 in taxpayer funds to put the issue on the ballot before a possible 2023 economic recession.

Wait, $500,000?

Trustee Aaron Salt, who  is also an Academy School District 20 board member, shared that he thought it was narcissistic for the library to think they deserve the money when a lot of other tax increases will also be on the ballot. Salt said $500,000 is a lot of money to get this wrong before a drop in the economy.

Further comments during the meeting:

  • One taxpayer publicly commented that the library needs to do a better job with what they have, and that this is not the right time to ask for a tax increase. She said they need to bring back late fines.
  • One of the trustees acknowledged that the El Paso County Commissioners do not support this going to the ballot.
  • Another trustee pointed out that there hasn’t been a tax increase for the library since 1986. They are trying to support a larger population without a larger budget.

Do you know how much of your property tax currently goes to the library each year? How have rising property values impacted that amount? Every two years, the state requires counties to assess property values based on recently sold homes in your neighborhood. If the market is hot, your property value goes up and you pay more in taxes. 

I asked El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker to look at a sample property and tell me what portion of its property taxes each year are passed along to the PPLD. His response:

The current calculation without any upcoming changes on the sample property with a current Assessor ‘Actual’ Value of $422,611, pays the Pikes Peak Library District about $102.50 a year in property taxes.

For tax year 2023 payable in 2024, Senate Bill 22-238 lowers the residential assessment rate from 6.95% to 6.765%, and is also exempting the first $15,000 of Assessor Actual Value on all single-family residential properties. In addition, 2023 is a reappraisal year and it is estimated that residential values, per sales that occurred between July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2022, that the county wide single-family residential values may increase 15-20%. Again, this increase is over a two-year period.

The current property taxes on this property to the Pikes Peak Library District are $102.50, and IF this property goes up in value by 15% due to the reappraisal and following SB22-238, the taxes to the Pikes Peak Library District would be $109.31, an increase of 6.23%.  This is without the approval of the proposed tax increase. Past Year taxes paid to PPLD for this property:

2021=$102.50

2020=$98.41

2019=$98.41

2018=$82.57

2017=$82.57

2016=$90.80

2015=$90.80

PPLD is asking for another $60 a year. If the PPLD tax increase passes, the taxes on the sample property increase from $109.31 to $169.31 —a whopping 55% increase in the funding of PPLD

Please, name me one taxpayer supported agency that deserves a 55% increase in funding, especially during an economic downturn? There isn’t one.   

How much tax money has gone to the library since that last tax increase in 1986? They’ve seen a steady rate of taxpayer revenue growth. So, when you hear that it’s been 31 years since the PPLD has had a tax increase, don’t be fooled. It has seen an increase of $21 million in that time.

1986         $7,089,685                          0%

1987         $7,211,689                          +1.692%

1988         $8,586,613                          +19.065

2008         $21,976,473                       +155.939%

2013         $24,115,604                       +9.734%

2014         $24,468,536                       +1.463%

2015         $25,134,598                       +2.722%

2016         $26,186,868                       +4.187%

2017         $26,991,166                       +3.071%

2018         $28,795,232                       +6.684%

2019         $30,767,499                       +6.849%

2020         $31,681,145                       +2.970%

2021         $33,825,854                       +6.770%

We have some suggestions for the PPLD trustees for cutting costs: 

  1. Shorten your hours, as has happened with many private businesses. 
  2. Do more with less, as has happened with most households. 
  3. Re-evaluate and look for ways to make cuts. It’s often the little things that really add up.

Email your polite comments to the Pikes Peak Library Board Trustees through this link. They need to immediately stop the $500,000 taxpayer expenditure for this ballot issue, tighten their belts to weather the worsening economic downturn, and wait for better times to return before considering a tax increase. 

They could not have worse timing. 

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