At their second “Citizen Input” meeting, the Jeffco Commissioners have gone from obfuscation of library issues to open hostility. Once again, patrons in attendance were wonderful. One patron called the Commissioners out:
“You are being hostile to the library and it is making me hostile to you!” Another patron responded to one of the Commissioners’ erroneous statements by holding up a copy of the Library Law and quoting from it.
On several issues, the Commissioners continued their obfuscation or openly misrepresented the facts:
1. Our petition was improperly filed because it should have been approved in advance with the County Clerk and also filed with the Clerk.
STRIKE ONE. This claim is demonstrably false. Fortunately, a heads-up patron in the audience asked the County Attorney for a citation and she provided one: 30-11-103.5 CRS County petitions and referred measures. That citation supports our position because it describes procedures to be followed “to the extent no such procedures are prescribed by statute”.
The library law provides just such statutory procedures:
24-90-107(3) If establishment of a county or municipal library or a library district is by petition of registered electors, the following procedures shall be followed:
(a) The petition shall set forth:
(I) A request for the establishment of the library;
(II) The name or names of the governmental unit or units establishing the library;
(III) The name of the proposed library, and for a library district, the chosen name preceding the words “library district”;
(IV) A general description of the legal service area of the proposed public library with such certainty as to enable a property owner to determine whether or not such property owner’s property is within the proposed library’s legal service area; and
(V) Specification of the mill levy to be imposed or other type and amount of funding and that the electors must approve any amount of tax levy not previously established by resolution or ordinance nor previously approved by the electors before the county or municipal library or library district can be established.
(b) Petitions shall be addressed to the legislative body of the county or municipality, or, in the case of a library district, to the boards of county commissioners of each county having territory within the legal service area of the proposed district.
Note that paragraph (b) specifically calls for the petition to be filed with the Board of County Commissioners, not the County Clerk.
2. The Commissioners stated, both verbally and in a printed flyer (click here), “Most citizens who support a library district base their support on their assumption that a district will provide more funding for library services. This is not the case… If a district were formed, only 3.225 mills would be available to fund it”
STRIKE TWO! Please re-read paragraph (a)(V) in the procedure above from the Library Law. It says that the petition specifies the mill levy, which our petition did, at 3.5 mills, the level approved by county election in 1986. So the Library’s tax funding under a library district would be higher than what the Commissioners are currently providing by 0.275 mills, or more than $2 million.
3. In their slide presentation, the Commissioners claimed that the Library received more than $29 million in 2010 and failed to spend $2.7M of that, and therefore didn’t need to close on Mondays.
STRIKE THREE! What the Commissioners failed to explain about these numbers is that $29M was not revenue received by the library, but the Commissioners’ appropriation. That appropriation included not only tax revenues, but also money taken from the Library’s reserve fund for capital improvements and operating shortfalls.
Once the Library was told that their mill levy would be reduced from 3.425 to 3.225 mills, the Library Board wisely reduced their capital improvement plan by a total of nearly $2.7M in order to avoid depleting their reserve fund. In addition, they cut operating expenses by closing Mondays and laying off staff to balance their budget.
So what you have is a fiscally conservative and responsible Library Board cutting expenses to balance their budget as best they could and being blamed by the Commissioners for not dipping into their reserve fund to spend the Commissioners’ appropriation. It is not just bizarre; it is an unconscionable attack on the Library.
4. Blast from the past: In their printed flyer, the Commissioners asserted that the result of an extensive analysis concluded that forming a district would be “a more expensive way to provide all County services including Library services”.
What do you get after three strikes? Thrown out of the game? The study they cited was extensive and took place in 2007 and 2008. Members of the study committee included not only JCPL staff, but County staff as well. Their conclusion was reported in 2008 by then Library Board Chairman Keith Grebe:
“After more than a year of analysis, the steering committee concluded that the Jefferson County Public Library could operate effectively and efficiently as a library district, and that a library district would result in an annual savings in operating costs.”
It is clear that what galls the Commissioners about an independent library district is that they could no longer rob Peter (the Library mill levy) to pay Paul (Social Services and the County’s General Fund.)
5. Only once has the Library received 3.5 mills
WOW! This one is actually TRUE! Except for one little inconvenient fact: taxpayers were billed 3.5 mills for the Library in 2006 and 2007, but the library was paid only 3.425 mills. Look up your own tax bills – I have copies of mine. I believe this is a clear violation of the Library Law, which says that all money collected for the library can be spent only for the library. In 2008, they changed the tax bills to accurately reflect the library’s levy of 3.425 mills.
6. A district would be another layer of government
This is a tired old platitude that simply isn’t true but they are hoping will resonate with some people. Under a district, the Library would be governed by the Library Board of Trustees, just as it is now. Nothing new there. But because the County Commissioners would be removed from authority in setting the Library’s mill levy, I believe that a district would remove a layer of government from between the taxpayer and the Library.
After all of this obfuscation and outright misrepresentation, it is hard to disagree with the citizen and library patron in the room who said “You are being hostile to the Library and it’s making me hostile to you!”
Let’s face it, folks, this is all about the money. And in the state of Colorado, tax increases are supposed to be approved by the voters. We approved a tax levy for library services in an election and they are using that tax levy to raise taxes for County departments that we did not approve. I call that a sham transaction that circumvents, if not violates, the law. It certainly shows a blatant disrespect for the voters.
To compound their disrespect for voters, the Commissioners have decided not to obey the Library Law in accordance to our lawful petition and place the creation of a library district on the ballot. Instead, they think they can exclude all the voters of Jefferson County from the library district and therefore there are no voters to vote on it. If they really think our petition was improperly filed, why take this absurd and bizarre action? Just reject it and tell us we need another petition. We’ll be delighted to provide them one!
Baloney! Jeffco Commissioners: quit using taxpayer money to intimidate taxpayers. What are you afraid of? Let the voters decide!
If you missed the Commissioners’ first two at-bats and would like to throw them a pitch of your own, the County has one more scheduled:
Thurs. Oct. 20 7-8:30 p.m.
Peak Community and Wellness Center
6612 South Ward St., Littleton
Even though the Commissioners spend more than half of these “Citizen Input” meetings tooting their own horns, it is still a great opportunity for you to tell them how you feel. I urge you to do so! Tell them as a voter, you expect your tax dollars to be spent on what you voted for. Tell them to quit the shenanigans and let voters decide on a library district.
You know how I feel: 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!
P.S. Alice and I were honored to receive an award for “Library Advocate” of the year from the Colorado Association of Libraries at their annual convention in Loveland last week. This is a distinguished award and humbly accepted on behalf of all of you who are so passionate about library services. I’ll write more about the award later.
Even though we’re all volunteers, we can’t do this for nothing. Legal services are expensive. Please help with a donation. Go to www.savejeffcolibraries.org and click the DONATE button 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 payable 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.