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PROS & CONS: Library Services Retention and Enhancement Act

City of Oakland Measure C


2/3 vote required for passage

The Question

Shall the measure continuing funding to keep Oakland neighborhood libraries open and for library services, including services to unhoused populations and youth and senior programs, by renewing the tax for 30 years commencing at the current rate of $114.50 per single family parcel, and specified rates for other parcel types, providing approximately $18,000,000 in the first year, with audits, citizens’ oversight, and specified exemptions for low-income populations and affordable housing, be adopted?

The Situation

Prior to 1994, funding for the Oakland Public Library came exclusively from the City’s General Fund. This funding source became insufficient to sustain the library, and to maintain and expand the number of branch libraries.

Beginning in 1994, Oakland voters approved three parcel tax measures to provide supplemental funding for the library: 1. Measure O (1994) 2. Measure Q (2004) - The Library Services Retention and Enhancement Act 3. Measure D (2018) - Oakland Public Library Preservation Act

Measure Q renewed and amended Measure O when it expired in 2004. Measure Q expires in 2024. The current tax rate per single family residence for Measure Q is $114.50. Measure D was approved in 2018 for a period of 20 years. The current tax rate for Measure D is $83.94.

In sum, library services in Oakland are funded through three different revenue streams: money from the General Fund, tax revenues from Measure Q, and tax revenues from Measure D. Measure Q currently generates $18 million a year, 40% of the library’s funding.

The most recent City Auditor’s report (2021) found that the funds from Measures Q and D were being utilized appropriately by the library. In addition, the Library Advisory Commission (LAC) reviews the library’s budget and expenditures.

More generally, Oakland Public Library (OPL) is an important service organization that has continued to operate even during the pandemic by pivoting to curbside pick-ups and partnering with service organizations to coordinate delivery of more than 150,000 meals to children. Aside from lending books and a wide variety of digital materials, OPL addresses the digital divide by circulating 300 Wi-Fi hotspots and has donated 500 Wi-Fi hotspots to OUSD schools. OPL serves a wide age range from the children in its storytelling programs, to the students seeking homework assistance and the adults receiving free legal advice. As the library is considered a safe space by many populations, including the unsheltered, the library partners with social service organizations to facilitate connections for vaccinations, for addiction treatment, and other services.

The Proposal

Measure C amends and extends Measure Q for 30 years, until June 30, 2052.

Measure C continues the existing tax rates. The current tax of $114.50 for single family dwellings is specified in the measure, as are differing rates for multiple residential unit parcels, non-residential parcels, and hotels. Low-income homeowners and certain owners and operators of low-income residential hotels and affordable housing are wholly or partially exempt from the taxes.

The taxes may increase for inflation year to year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area (CPI) or in California per capita income, whichever is higher. However, any increase may not exceed 5%.

Proceeds from the tax may be used only for library services as outlined in Measure C (see Accountability section below).

The City Auditor must provide a biannual audit of the expenditure of Measure C funds. Also, citizen oversight will be provided by an existing board or commission designated by and reporting to the City Council (see Accountability section below).

Fiscal effect

Measure Q currently provides just over $18 million annually, about 40% of the Library’s total budget of $45.7 million. If Measure C or some other tax measure is not enacted prior to June 30, 2024, the Library will have to make severe cuts in services and personnel. The City could theoretically make up the loss, but that is unlikely. The $18 million will increase incrementally as the annual inflation factor increases the amount of the tax.

Measure C continues maintenance of effort provisions under which the city must provide a minimum of $14.5 million in general fund support every year. This figure does not increase by an inflation factor.


Measure C provides for accountability in several ways: 1. The City Auditor must perform a biannual audit. 2. “The City Council shall assign to an existing Board or Commission the responsibility for public oversight of this measure. This Board or Commission shall review all reports related to the expenditure of all revenue collected by the City from the special tax imposed by this Ordinance. The Board or Commission shall provide reports to the City Council on a regular basis and may include recommendations for more effective administration of the funds.” These activities will surely be assigned to the Library Advisory Commission, which is currently the oversight body for both the existing Measure Q and for Measure D. The Measure C language significantly expands the Commission’s responsibilities and ability to make recommendations. 3. There are 12 categories on which revenues may be spent. By articulating what services may be funded, the terms of the measure establish criteria by which to evaluate proper expenditures. The categories are: 1. to keep neighborhood libraries open a minimum of six days per week and increase weekend hours; 2. to retain availability of library services at the Main Library 7 days per week; 3. to enhance and expand library collections, including the acquisition of new books and materials; 4. to continue to provide educational and cultural programs for youth in every library, including after school tutoring and literacy and children’s programs; 5. to expand library-based programs in support of literacy, lifelong learning and information technology; 6. to operate an African American museum and library program; 7. to increase joint educational activities with local schools, including librarian services; 8. to retain children’s librarians in every library facility; 9. to operate the joint school-public library in East Oakland; 10. to upgrade and enhance information technology in all libraries and improve access to computers and technology in the libraries; 11. to support homework programs and services to unhoused populations; and 12. to support teen programs.

What a Yes or No Vote Means

A YES vote means that the 2004 Measure Q parcel tax will not expire in 2024 and will continue to provide at least $18 million a year for libraries until June 30, 2032. A NO vote means the Measure Q parcel tax and the funds it provides will expire in 2024.

Supporters say

● Measure C will prevent reduction in opening hours and/or closures of Oakland’s branch libraries. ● Oakland residents of all ages and walks of life can continue to benefit from the services and quality of life provided by Oakland libraries. ● Strengthened oversight can ensure that funds are used appropriately, and that library users’ concerns are addressed by policymakers in a timely and responsive manner.

No arguments have been filed or voiced in opposition to Measure C.


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