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Groups rally support to renew library tax
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The push to keep local libraries funded will begin in earnest next week as the Save Stanislaus Libraries campaign kicks off.

The multi-city campaign will be encouraging Stanislaus County voters come the June election to approve Measure T, which would renew the sales tax that makes up the largest portion of the library system’s funding.

Save Stanislaus Libraries will host two campaign kick-offs March 24, with one at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, hosted by the Friends of the Turlock Public Library. The event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon. The other campaign event is set for the same time and day at 1518 Coffee Rd. Suite D in Modesto.

Since 1995, when the tax was initiated, Stanislaus County voters have approved the one-eighth of a penny sales tax dedicated solely to funding the county’s 13 library branches over several election cycles. The current extension is set to expire June 30, 2013 unless it is passed by two-thirds of the voters this year.

The one-eighth of a penny sales tax averages out to a $20 contribution per Stanislaus County household and accounts for 87 percent of the library system’s revenue. The additional revenue comes from the county’s general fund, the state, and book sales, donations and fines, according to the library’s 2011 annual report.

By law, the funds collected from the tax can only be used for library services.

“If the tax doesn’t pass, we will see libraries close because it’s too big of a loss to try and cover,” said Friends of the Turlock Public Library President Pat Hickman at the group’s annual book sale. “In the past it has passed with well over the required majority and we’re looking forward to Turlock coming out again and supporting the library.”

Even in the digital age the library plays a vital role in the community, as proven by the numbers.

Sixty-nine percent of Stanislaus County residents possess library cards and last year they checked out 2.2 million items. Stanislaus County libraries house 781,023 books, magazines, newspapers, audio books, videos and DVDs, valued at an estimated $19 million.

Measure T has the backing of numerous local politicians and community leaders. The Turlock City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday to support the measure.