Recent actions by the Jefferson County Commissioners have put the Jefferson County Public Library in jeopardy:
- Diverting property taxes from a levy approved by the voters for library services only. This diversion of $1.5 million/year has caused the library to lay off staff and close on Mondays.
- Defying the will of the people by circumventing a legal petition from taxpayers to convert the Library into a library district.
- Attempting to impose policy changes by packing the Library Board, including appointing a sitting County Commissioner (since resigned).
Converting the Jefferson County Public Library into a Library District would secure the Library’s funding as a dedicated mill levy approved by the people, allowing the Library to focus exclusively on its mission of providing the best possible library service to the patrons of Jefferson County. Fifty-one (51) of Colorado’s 114 library systems are library districts, including Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs), and Fort Collins.
The County Commissioners have created these problems – it’s clear they are not going to solve them.
IT’S UP TO US!
April 13, 2011
Dear Jefferson County Citizens:
I have served as Executive Director of the Arapahoe Library District for more than 25 years, and over the years I have played an instrumental role in crafting and advocating critical pieces of Colorado’s Library Law (C.R.S. 24-90-101). I am often asked to speak to the benefits of forming library districts to local, state and regional groups.
Colorado’s Library Law includes provisions which allow cities or counties to create a library district either by ordinance or resolution, or by a vote of the electorate, initiated by a formal petition process. Many libraries in Colorado have elected to form independent library districts; in fact, 51 of Colorado’s 114 public libraries now operate as districts.
Why would a city or county want to form a library district? Because library districts tend to be better funded, are better able to provide exceptional library services, and better able to ensure their long-term success and sustainability than libraries operating under government entities.
If the goal of a community is to ensure exceptional, sustainable library service, then a library district is the best way to go. Here’s why:
· It allows a library to focus solely on providing library services. An independent library district is a single purpose district. There is no competition with other services for library funding. The library can focus on fulfilling its mission – as mandated by the State of Colorado – to provide equal access to information to all. Libraries are built on the foundational values of democracy, and they need to be able to focus on providing exceptional library services without the distractions of political pressures or other competing agendas.
· It creates a direct relationship between the library and the taxpayers. In an independent library district, the level of library funding is set by a vote of the people. This makes the library directly accountable to the people it serves and encourages efficiency and transparency.
· It allows libraries to plan effectively. A library district is funded through voter-approved property taxes. Property taxes are more stable and more predictable than sales taxes. Because revenue in a particular year is based on assessed property values from two to three years earlier, there is time to prepare for any impending decline. This allows library districts to count on a stable level of funding, engage in long-term planning and build financial reserves in anticipation of future needs.
· It allows libraries to provide better service. Research shows that per capita support for libraries with voter-supported funding tends to be higher than per capita support for libraries that depend on direct appropriations from other entities. In addition, library districts can often obtain key support services at a lower cost than large government entities. As a result, library districts tend to be better funded and better able to support enhanced library services and higher usage levels than other libraries.
It is for these reasons that I offer my support to the Save Jeffco Libraries initiative.
Eloise May, Executive Director
Arapahoe Library District