Fresno County residents overwhelmingly support the extension of a sales tax for public libraries, according to a new poll.
The poll results, which show more than 75% of voters in support of the tax, come as good news for county leaders who are likely to put a measure on the November ballot to renew the levy. A similar effort failed in 2008.
A two-thirds vote would be required to extend the tax, which was established by Measure B in 1998. The length of the proposed extension is yet to be determined.
The new poll indicates that 77% of county voters would “definitely” or “probably” vote in favor of the extension if the election were held last month, during the polling period. Just 15% were inclined to vote no and 8% were undecided.
The poll was conducted by Santa Monica-based firm FM3 at the request of the county.
Richard Bernard, a vice president at FM3, called the results an excellent “starting point” for a campaign. He noted that constituents who haven’t been as supportive of the library tax in the past, such as Republicans and Clovis residents, appeared more inclined to back the initiative.
“Rarely are Republicans above the two-thirds mark on a tax measure,” he said, noting their 70% support in the poll.
Democrats, by contrast, were 88% in support.
After reviewing the poll results, county Librarian Laurel Prysiazny said she is “cautiously optimistic” about the measure’s passage.
Last year, the Measure B sales tax accounted for 45% of the Fresno County Public Library System’s $26 million budget, and Prysiazny expects it to be more than half in the coming budget year. Since taking effect, the measure has paid for new books, new library branches and new librarians.
Without the tax money, library officials say half of the library’s staff will be cut and half of the branches will close.
The report prepared by FM3, in consultation with county officials, identifies the following closures should the measure fail: eight of 12 branches in the city of Fresno, five of nine on the county’s west side, four of nine on the east side and one of three in the mountain areas.
In 2008, voters rejected the extension of the tax. Library officials, though, are quick to note that the previous measure asked for a tax increase, which the current proposal does not.