By Emily Garland
Triplicate staff writer
For the second time in two years, it appears that Del Norte County residents have voted against taxing themselves to improve their local library.
Although 500 to 600 absentee ballots remained to be counted Tuesday night, the outcome appeared bleak for County Measure A, which would increase sales tax by one-quarter of one percent to generate an estimated $400,000 a year for the Del Norte County Library District over the next eight years.
According to voting returns released Tuesday, Measure A received 65.66 percent support just short of the required two-thirds approval needed for passage.
Measure A totaled 3,706 yes votes and 1,938 no votes.
The uncounted absentee votes would not appear to be enough to push Measure A about 66.67 percent approval.
In absentee votes already counted, Measure A received 62.77 percent support.
But Ted Ward, chair of the Committee for Yes on A/Yes for Libraries and trustee of Del Norte County Library District, said there was still hope among the supporters who gathered at the Del Norte Public Library in Crescent City Tuesday night.
"It's certainly within striking distance," Ward said. "We remain hopeful, but certainly the signs are not as encouraging as we would like."
Ward and other library supporters were confident going into Tuesday's election, citing support for Measure A from numerous county groups.
And Ward said he could count on one hand the number of people he knew of who had spoken out against Measure A.
Still, Ward said he could imagine who the opposition would be.
"There's a bunch of people out there who basically vote no on every measure or vote no on every issue that includes the word tax in them," he said.
The proposed sales tax increase of Measure A would amount to an extra 25 cents on a $100 purchase, or about $15 per person annually, Ward said.
Del Norters voted down a similar measure that was on the 2004 ballot. That measure, which would have raised the sales tax one-eighth of one percent, failed by only 62 votes.
Tamera Buchanan, one of 12 volunteers on the Committee for Yes on A/Yes on Libraries, said the funding is crucial for Del Norte's libraries.
"There is no other way to have the library open more than four days a week," Buchanan said. "We have looked at every other possibility. There is no other answer."
Library Director Patty Hector said Measure A would allow the main Crescent City branch to hire more staff and extend its hours.
Service to the Klamath and Smith River libraries could also be extended, and some sort of library in Hiouchi or Gasquet could also be a possibility, Hector said.
The Del Norte Library is the poorest of its size in the state, Ward said.
The operating budget this year is only $185,000, which is about 40 percent of what its budget was in the early 1980s.