Library Tax Increase
As part of the Salt Lake County budget for 2023, there is a proposal for a tax increase for the County Library. The County Library is funded through property taxes paid by Salt Lake County residents. County residents have not seen an increase to the County Library tax in ten years.
The proposed tax adjustment would increase the rate from .000386 to .000485. For the average home in Salt Lake County ($560,000) taxes would increase by $30 per year.
Approximately 880,000 people live within the boundaries of the County Library and about 2/3 of those are active library card holders. As one of the most popular and busiest library systems in North America, we circulate more than 12 million items each year and more than 200,000 people come through our doors each month. That’s more than 4,250 items checked out and 650 visitors every hour that we are open. Even if you don’t actively use the library, your neighbors, friends, and colleagues do.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a County Library tax increase really mean on my property taxes?
For the average Salt Lake County home, valued at approximately $560,000, taxes would increase by $30.49 per year—the increase would be adjusted based on the value of your home. Under the proposed new tax rate, a home valued at $560,000 in our service area would be assessed $149.46 to support the library.
Why is the County Library asking for a tax increase?
The County Library is asking for a tax increase to:
- Continue to offer materials and resources to the residents of Salt Lake County—a population that has increased 13% over the past 10 years
- Meet community reading, early and lifelong learning, and social connectedness needs
- Maintain existing, equitable service levels
- Complete needed repairs and maintenance to buildings and systems
- Remain a sound public investment and community gathering space for everyone
Why does the County Library need a tax increase?
The County Library needs a tax increase because population growth and community needs exceed the current County Library budget.
State statute (“Truth in Taxation”) requires local governments to adjust property tax rates each year based on the rate of real estate inflation so that revenues remain flat. If you paid $92 in taxes for the County Library in 2013, you paid a similar amount in each year since. There is an exception for new construction growth, such as new homes. However, new growth also demands additional library services without generating enough revenue to provide these services, further straining the library budget. A tax increase will allow the library to meet the needs of our communities listed above, as well as ensure our current buildings and systems are being responsibly maintained.
The Utah Taxpayer Association recommends a tax adjustment every five to eight years to account for inflation.
How are taxes used to support the County Library?
The County Library is unique from other county services because it is solely funded by a small percentage (0.000386) of property taxes. The percentage of property tax collected through this dedicated tax line can only be used by the County Library. While the population has increased and property values have doubled, the tax amount allocated for County Library services has remained unchanged since 2012—more than a decade. Per statute, the County Library’s tax levy/dedicated tax line is separate from the County’s general fund—other Salt Lake County funds cannot be used to support the County Library and the County Library funds cannot be used to support other Salt Lake County projects.
To prevent dual taxation, Salt Lake City and Murray City residents are not taxed by Salt Lake County because they have separate library systems, taxes, or other city support. Thus, the County Library tax is paid by residents within Salt Lake County who do not live in Salt Lake City or Murray.
Can the County Library be more frugal?
The County Library is committed to being trusted stewards of public dollars and regularly reviews processes and improves efficiencies specific to programs, purchasing materials/books, operations, buildings, and staffing.
To reduce the burden on the taxpayer, the County Library has absorbed more than 30% in cost increases caused by inflation, a frugal effort that cuts into all other County Library budget allocations, including building and systems maintenance. Unfortunately, the County Library cannot continue with this approach because the funds are diminishing. Additionally, continuing to defer building and systems maintenance increases risks and long-term costs.
How have other costs increased from 2012 to now?
Over the past ten years, the average home price in Salt Lake County has doubled from $270,000 to $560,000; yet the County Library tax has remained the same. The average cost of a movie ticket has increased by 50% to $12.20, and the price of a stamp has increased by 33% to 60 cents. Inflation affects every business and organization. While businesses can address inflation by increasing prices, the County Library can only account for inflation and the increased cost of doing business through a tax adjustment because of Utah’s Truth in Taxation law.
What percentage increase is the County Library proposing?
The County library is proposing an increase of the certified tax rate from 0.000386 to 0.000485. This amount will increase the County Library budget by 25.65%.
How many people use the County Library?
As one of the most popular and busiest library systems in North America, the County Library circulates more than 12 million items (in-person and online) each year and more than 200,000 people come through our doors each month. That’s more than 4,250 items checked out and 650 visitors every hour we are open. The County Library is a well-loved, well-used resource in Salt Lake County and is one of the most popular and busiest library systems in North America:
- Approximately 880,000 people live within the boundaries of Salt Lake County Library
- 63% are active County Library cardholders
- Community use is even higher when you consider how many families share one or two cards
- Almost every household in Salt Lake County has at least one County Library card
- More than 12 million items are circulated (in-person and online) each year
- 4,250 items/per every hour the County Library is open
- 200,000+ people come through our doors each month
- 650 visitors/per every hour the County Library is open
What services and resources are available at the County Library?
The County Library has materials, resources, and services for all the residents of Salt Lake County, including:
- Books, magazines, music, and movies
- eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eMagazines
- Educational activities, events, and resources for babies, toddlers, kids, teens, and adults
- Free meeting space for study groups, non-profit meetings, community clubs, and working space
- Computer and technology tools for skill development and job searching
- Online resources for language learning, homework help, and personal enrichment
- Some branches offer Create spaces with additional STEM tools for little or no charge
A recent University of Utah study found that Salt Lake County youth who use the library have higher achievement in school and better learning retention over summer break.
Did the County Library branches close because of COVID?
Like most businesses, the County Library closed in mid-March 2020 in response to COVID-19. County Library staff immediately reallocated resources to enhance and support online/digital content and programming. By the beginning of summer of 2020, the County Library offered the curbside pick-up program, and branches reopened to the public in the summer of 2020. The County Library offered a variety of virtual and in-person programs, and ensured access to materials, throughout the pandemic.
Is the County Library planning to build new branches/library buildings with the tax increase?
Ensuring residents have access to a County Library branch in their community is a priority to the County Library and will remain a priority as the population of Salt Lake County continues to grow and expand into previously undeveloped portions of the Salt Lake Valley. Equally important to the County Library is ensuring existing buildings are safely and efficiently meeting their community needs. Therefore, as other branches reach the end of their useful life and can no longer be efficiently maintained and/or best meet community needs, we review them for replacement/rebuilds.
How does the County Library compare to other library systems?
The County Library is one of the top 20 library systems in the country because of the number of items checked out annually (12 million) and the community accessibility. The County Library is efficiently managed and compared to most other library systems this size, has a lower staffing cost and cost per checkout.
How does the County Library spend its budget?
The County Library spends its budget with the taxpayers and the user experience in mind:
- Personnel: 63%
- Materials and Resources: 13%
- Technology (including free public access to computers/internet): 10%
- Bonds and Debt for Building Construction: 10%
- Salt Lake County Overhead/Administrative Support (Mayor, Council, Attorney, etc.): 4%
All County Library employees serve the public, whether directly or indirectly, by operating the branches, processing materials/requests, informing the public of programs and resources, delivering programs for people of all ages and abilities, maintaining buildings and resources, managing online information and content, and providing/connecting the community with our many services.
How can I speak to someone at the County Library about the tax increase?
We have four Question and Answer events at County Library branches where you can speak with Library management, share perspectives, and ask questions about the proposed tax increase for 2023.