Brentwood residents will pay the tax they were told they would pay when they passed Brentwood’s Proposition L on August 7.
That may seem obvious, and right, but getting there wasn't easy.
The decision was the result of heated discussions at the Ways and Means Committee meeting Tuesday and a quickly-called library board meeting Wednesday.
At issue, was the definition of the rate residents are currently paying.
They are paying approximately 15 cents per $100 of valuation, but it could have been more.
That’s because the same year Brentwood voters last approved a library tax levy, 1984, the Hancock Amendment went into effect, which rolled back taxes. So while voters approved a 25-cent rate, they never actually paid it.
So in August, voters didn’t vote on a nickel increase from their current rate of 15 cents to 20 cents. They voted on, and approved, a nickel increase from 25 cents to 30 cents–that is what was asked in the proposal.
Effectively, as a result of the vote, the rate would go from 15 to 30 cents.
Ways and Means committee member Andy Leahy didn’t like it, and he let library director Vicki Woods, who was at the meeting, know.
“My problem is that my tax last year was $72 for the library,” he said “By approving this rate, I will look at $140. Do you understand that people won’t see that as a nickel increase?”
Woods said the way the ballot was written wasn’t false.
“We weren’t deceiving anybody,” she said. “If you were being charged the 25 cents that voters approved in 1984, it would have been a nickel increase.”
Woods said the library board sets the rate, not the Ways and Means Committee.
“The library board district is its own separate entity,” she said. “Let me put it this way: the city of Brentwood could go away and the library would still exist.”
On Wednesday, the library board called a special meeting to discuss the rate.
They wrestled with what they could do legally, which the voters approved, and under the circumstances, what they perceived might be the right thing to do.
Board member Brian Rothery said they had devoted a considerable amount of discussion to the net effect of a 5-cent increase on the tax.
“The reality is, it is complicated stuff,” he said in the meeting. “We were trying to calculate Hancock, and what would happen.”
He said when they came up with the $19 per $200,000 home, they truly believed that would be the net increase of the tax, and he said those numbers were published in campaign literature.
“While we do have it in our legal right to seek more, I do think it is the right thing to do, to vote in favor of what would resemble what we presented in our written materials,” he said.
The board could have legally voted to increase the rate from 15 to 30 cents, but they didn’t.
They voted unanimously to effectively increase the rate from 15 to 20 cents, which is truly a nickel increase for residents.
Alderwoman Maureen Saunders is on the Ways and Means Committee, and also went to the library board meeting. She was happy with the outcome.
“I am so proud of our library board and its staff,” she said after the meeting. “The library board agreed to only increase the library tax rate by a nickel even when they found out at the last minute that they could actually increase the rate by 15 cents to the 30-cent ceiling. They honored what they told the public and are a wonderful example of good governance.”