The County Commissioners held the first of their three scheduled “Citizen Input” meetings last week in Golden. In it, they displayed a stunning show of obfuscation about library issues, a complete lack of concern for library funding, and a blatant disrespect for county voters. It is interesting, given that their stated purpose for these meetings is to find out “what services, programs and county issues are most important to you”, they dominated the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation about how wonderful they are.
Library advocates truly WERE wonderful. You filled the room with support for the Library. More than one of you embarrassed the Commissioners with questions they couldn’t answer and forced them into outright lies.
When asked why the Library isn’t getting its full voter-approved funding level of 3.5 mills, they dodged and weaved, saying only that the Library receives all the taxes collected for it. Which, of course, is true because they have “shifted” a portion of the Library’s levy into social services – so that portion is no longer collected for the Library.
Commissioner Rosier revealed a woeful lack of understanding about library districts, claiming he has lots of experience with “special districts” like fire and recreation, but failing to understand that a library district is not governed by the state’s “special district” laws, but by the library law.
Based on this “special district” experience, Rosier claimed that the library district would add a layer of government. But because the Library is already governed by the Library Board of Trustees and the library district would also be governed by the Library Board of Trustees, there would be no new level of government. In fact, because the County would be removed from authority in setting and appropriating the Library’s tax revenues, I believe that a library district would actually remove a layer of government between the taxpayer and the Library.
The Commissioners and County Attorney Ellen Wakeman focused much of their obfuscation on our petition for creation of a library district:
- At different times they made different claims for the cost of an election, ranging from $165,000 to $600,000. They know full well that one more line item on a regular November ballot would cost far less.
- They repeated another outright lie, that the petition would have required a special election in May. They should know that the library law requires the election to be a part of the next regular November election.
- They claimed that the petition was not properly filed and should have been filed with the Clerk and Recorder. Again, the County Attorney should know that the library law requires the petition to be filed with the County Commissioners. County Clerk Pam Anderson spent several minutes describing requirements for filing initiative and candidate petitions but freely admitted she didn’t know about the library law.
- County Attorney Wakeman claimed that the City of Westminster would opt out of the library district, costing $2 million in tax revenues. In actual fact, Westminster committed in 2008 to join with the district and in discussions with former JCPL Director Marcellus Turner this year, they have indicated that they remain open to a library district in the future.
- Referring to our petition and the requirements of the Library law, both the Commissioners and the County Attorney, Ellen Wakeman, once again made the astounding declaration that they should not have to hold elections when they think it’s too expensive. I’m so very thankful that our founding fathers had a different view of democracy than Jefferson County has!
Many of these statements are so easily proven wrong that it astounds me the Commissioners repeat them. I’d blame the County Attorney for keeping the Commissioners in the dark about the library law, but she obfuscates with the best of them.
Another interesting exchange occurred after the meeting, when someone asserted that the County owns the Library’s land and buildings. The Assistant County Administrator, who was present in the group, commented that she thought this was true. The County Commissioners themselves have made this assertion in the past, claiming that our petition would require that “the County would hand over all of its library buildings and assets to the newly formed district…”.
In actual fact, the Library’s infrastructure is already owned by the Library Board of Trustees, not by Jefferson County. Upon formation of a library district, the Library’s infrastructure would continue to be owned by the Library Board of Trustees, as it is now.
Note that the three “Community Libraries”, Conifer, Wheat Ridge, and Edgewater, are owned respectively by the R-1 school district, the Seniors’ Resource Center, and the City of Edgewater.
The County Commissioners will assert that they are just balancing the needs of multiple County services, especially Human Services, in determining how to allocate the property tax mill levy. We have no problem with their responsibility to do that when it comes to their own mill levy. But unlike other County services, we voted specifically for a separate mill levy for Library services and we expect that levy to be used for the Library. If they want to raise taxes for Human Services, which they have done for the past two years, go ahead and do so. The Commissioners stated in this meeting that they have 1.6 mills available under their TABOR cap, so they have room to raise Human Services. Just don’t take it out of the taxes we voted for the Library.
All these problems would be solved by converting JCPL to a library district. And all we want to do is to vote on it – as the library law gives us the right to do. We call on the Commissioners to do the right thing – honor the petition, obey the law, and let Jeffco voters vote!
But the reality is that the Commissioners simply will not give up taking the tax revenue you voted for the Library – it’s a heck of a thing when taxpaying citizens are forced to ask the courts to affirm our rights and force the County to allow voters to vote.
If you were not able to attend this first “citizen input” meeting, the County has scheduled two more. They are:
Tues. Oct. 11 7-8:30 p.m.
Buchanan Park Recreation Center
32003 Ellingwood Trail, Evergreen
Thurs. Oct. 20 7-8:30 p.m.
Peak Community and Wellness Center
6612 South Ward St., Littleton
These meetings are expressly for the purpose of finding out “what services, programs and county issues are most important to you”, so this is our opportunity to weigh in on the importance of the Library.
If we’re going to protect the Library from blatant political meddling and protect our tax money from the sticky fingers of the County Commissioners,
it’s up to us!
Even though we’re all volunteers, we can’t do this for nothing. Legal help is expensive and getting more so. Please help with a donation. Click the DONATE button below to make your contribution with a credit card through PayPal’s secure servers. If you would like to donate by check, please make the check out to Save Jeffco Libraries and mail it to:
Save Jeffco Libraries
PO Box 63
Golden CO 80402-0063
PLEASE NOTE: At this time, your donation is NOT deductible for federal or state income tax purposes.