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Aug. 1, 2012: Tatiana Salvador, then an attorney, now a circuit judge, signed the first petition to place a straw referendum on Tuesday’s primary election ballot in support of Jacksonville’s public libraries.

Voters reject taxing district for public library

By Max Marbut, Staff Writer

A proposal to create a special ad valorem taxing district to create an independent public library system was narrowly defeated by voters Tuesday, capping a two-year grassroots campaign for the proposal.

The unofficial tally of 86,825 votes cast shows 50.66 percent against the proposal, 49.34 percent in favor.

“Today’s vote was close and shows that nearly 50 percent of our county supported a strong library system. While we are disappointed that the straw ballot did not pass this first time, we are pleased with this strong showing,” said Save Jax Libraries Chairman Kevin Hyde in a statement released about an hour after the polls closed.

“We will continue to push for a vibrant library system and support it in any way we can. Libraries are too important to Jacksonville to discontinue the effort now,” he said.

Save Jax Libraries kicked off a petition drive on Aug. 1, 2012, and then collected more than 26,000 signatures of registered voters to get the non-binding straw ballot on the ballot.

“It’s a complex issue,” said Save Jax Libraries spokeswoman Meredith O’Malley Johnson this morning. “I think it came down to how people feel about

taxing.”

Since 1955, the Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library have advocated for libraries. Harry Reagan, the volunteer organization’s immediate past president, said the message library supporters wanted to send wasn’t echoed by voters.

“What we needed was a clear signal to elected officials of public support. We didn’t get that,” he said.

A special taxing district would allow up to 1 mill of Duval County property taxes to be designated solely for the library budget.

That would have meant an increase this year for public libraries from the $33 million in the proposed city budget to nearly $46 million.

Johnson said Save Jax Libraries will discuss in the next few days how to proceed toward putting the issue in front of voters again. Reagan said the Friends will continue to support the library.

In the short term, it’s business as usual.

“We go back to what we know all too well – the annual budget battle,” he said.

mmarbut@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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