Question 1: Important information and background on Henderson Library’s tax-increase proposal

Victor Joecks

Voters in Henderson don’t just have CCSD officials wanting to raise their property taxes in November. The Henderson Library District also wants more from taxpayers.

Henderson Libraries District Question No. 1 is a property-tax-increase proposal that would raise property taxes by 2 cents per $100 assessed valuation for 30 years with money going to the Henderson Library District.

The amount of misleading, incomplete and just plain false information being put out by supporters of this tax increase is staggering. I’ll address some of the specific false statements supporters are making in an upcoming post.

Here is the crux of these eight points of context: In the last 20 years, the Henderson Library District has grown tremendously in terms of tax revenue, employees, salaries and materials.

Citations and links to source material are below.

1. Tax revenue received by the Henderson Library District has grown by 31 percent since 1997 after adjusting for inflation and population growth.

In 1997, Henderson Libraries received $19.04 in tax dollars per resident. In 2012, it received $24.96.

That’s a 31 percent increase.

If the proposed tax increase had been in effect this year, the Library System’s per-capita tax revenue would have been $31.44 – a staggering 65 percent increase since 1997.

In 1997, Henderson Libraries received $1,941,306 in tax dollars. In 2012, it received $6,671,331 from taxpayers.

To make it seem like the library is in financial trouble, tax-increase supporters have cherry-picked the year at the top of the housing bubble and made that the baseline – ignoring the years and years of growth that occurred before that.

The housing bubble was unsustainable and a temporary mirage. While the private sector has readjusted, the Henderson Library District wants to pretend the housing bubble was normal.

2. Library employees per capita have more than doubled since 2000.

In 2000, Henderson Libraries employed 32 FTEs (Full-time Equivalent Employees), which equaled .168 FTEs per thousand city residents.

In 2011, Henderson Libraries employed 86.5 FTEs, which equaled .312 FTEs per thousand city residents.

The number of library employees, even after adjusting for population growth, has nearly doubled.

3. Library employee salaries have jumped, even after adjusting for inflation.

In 2000, the average FTE earned $38,007 (salary and benefits), which adjusted for inflation is $49,647.

In 2011, the average FTE earned $56,041 (salary and benefits), which is a 12 percent increase after adjusting for inflation and after library employees reportedly took a 10 percent pay cut in 2010.

Eight employees earned over $90,000 in 2011, with Executive Director Thomas Fay taking home $146,388.

4. Library materials have nearly doubled per resident since 1999.

In 1999, there were 0.99 library materials per capita. In 2012, there are 1.96 library materials per capita.

5. This tax increase could and, if passed, I predict will be used to increase salaries and benefits.

When I interviewed Fay, he insisted that new money raised by the tax increase could not be used for pay increases, but admitted that money currently being used for books and services could be used to fund salary increases.

This is a textbook example of a shell game. If voters approved an additional $1.614 million for services and supplies, there’s no legal prohibition on the Library District using the $1.606 million it spent this year on service and supplies to increase employee wages.

6. If the Library needs to close locations after an inflation-adjusted, per-capita funding increase of 31 percent, that’s on Library leadership, not on taxpayers or voters.

And the Galleria Library branch, which is inside the Galleria Mall, receives only 80 visitors a day. Which is only one person every five minutes. And some of those are mall employees checking their email.

That location is a prime candidate to get shut down, regardless of whether the tax increase passes or not, because so few people are using it.

7. Henderson Libraries has already received a tax-rate increase. In 1997, its property-tax rate was $.0500 per $100 assessed valuation. Starting in 2000, the rate increased several times and is now $.0575 per $100 assessed valuation.

8. This is a 30-year ask. That means that this tax increase is about much more than “surviving” the housing downturn. As seen above, with an inflation-adjusted, per-capita increase in tax revenues of more than 30 percent in the last 15 years, the Library District is doing well.

If the District’s leadership can’t figure out how to run the system with a 30 percent increase in funding, perhaps the District needs new leadership, not more tax dollars.

***The above numbers and resulting calculations are from the Henderson Library District’s FY 2006 CAFR, FY 2011 CAFR and Final Budget for FY 2012. Inflation calculations were done using the BLS inflation calculator.***