Save Jeffco Libraries has received a powerful letter of endorsement for creation of a library district from former JCPL Executive Director Marcellus Turner. While he was still serving, Marcellus was unable to speak openly about his support for a library district because the Board of Trustees had not taken a formal position on the district. In 2008, as you probably know, the Library Board did take a strong advocacy position for a library district after a long and thorough analysis conducted by a panel of both library and county staff.
Marcellus’ letter is pasted below.
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Here is Marcellus’ letter:
Dear Jefferson County Residents,
For the last nine years, I have had the distinct professional fulfillment and pleasure of working for Jefferson County Public Library (JCPL), six years as Director of Public Services / Deputy County Librarian and the last three years as Executive Director. I was honored to work with a highly trained, professional staff and a dedicated Board of Library Trustees for a prominent and nationally recognized and respected library system.
For most of those years, we were consistently able to meet the growing demand for library services and maintain a high-quality program of service that benefited the citizens of Jefferson County. In the last few years, however, JCPL experienced financial and control challenges that seriously jeopardized our continued ability to offer the program of library service that serves the needs of our communities.
I strongly believe JCPL will not be able to maintain its current level of service – much less expand services to meet ever-growing demand – unless it can establish an independent library district. I say this for several reasons:
- Library districts, allowable under Colorado Library Law, coexist outside other county departments and agencies without diverting attention and resources from one department/sector to another.
- Library districts are more financially stable and able to weather the vagaries of financial ups and downs through long-term planning and revenue projection, development and implementation.
- Library districts have complete control and authority over their direction and existence.
- Library districts operate with a direct relationship between the library and the citizens of that district. Agreements and promises of services exist between the library and the voters.
Under its current structure, the Jefferson County Public Library operates as a component unit of Jefferson County government. The library’s mill levy is certified by the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) who set the library’s mill levy during consideration of other county departmental/agency needs, even though the 1986 voter-approved mill levy allows up to a full 3.5 mills for libraries. Using this process, annual library revenues will always be at risk. As a point of reference, the Library has received its full 3.5 mill levy allocation only three times in the last 25 years, and the appropriation has been as low as 2.234 mills.
As a result of fluctuations and inconsistencies in revenue the last few years, the library has seen reductions in property-tax revenues of $1.4 million creating a significant gap between annual revenues and expenditures. Because of this, the library instituted a number of painful measures to close that gap, including closing on Mondays, laying off employees, reducing our investment in library materials and eliminating some programs and services. Unfortunately, this risk to revenue is likely to continue into 2012 with projected drops in assessed property valuations. As a result, the library will be forced to make further cuts to library services if it does not receive the full 3.5 mill levy allocation.
If JCPL operated as an independent library district, it would not be subject to ongoing changes to the library’s mill levy and other allocations, including indirect costs charged to the library from the county for services that in some instances, could be provided at lesser cost from other sources. If the Library operated as in independent district, it could better project revenues and expenses over the long term, extend its planning horizon and manage its operations much more effectively based on true long-term revenue planning. More importantly, it could focus its time and energy on delivering library services, versus scrambling to adjust to annual budget changes.
Libraries were built on foundational values that must be preserved. Jefferson County Public Library exists to make sure that every Jefferson County resident has equal access to the American dream — through equal access to information; support for educational, social and economic inclusion; and the fierce protection of democratic ideals. Of all modern institutions, Libraries truly are “of the people, by the people and for the people” and they need to stay that way. There needs to be at least one place in every community that is exempt from personal, political, or commercial influence – where anyone can come to better him or herself and participate fully in the life of the community.
If the Library operated as an independent district, it would put control of the Library back in the hands of the people. Residents would set the Library’s mill levy through an election — and related revenues would actually go to the Library. Residents would decide when to increase or decrease the library’s tax revenues, based on the service levels they expect. And the Library would be directly accountable to taxpayers to meet those expectations.
I am proud of JCPL’s past accomplishments and I will watch their future accomplishments with a sense of indebtedness and pride. I firmly believe it will be easier for the Library to achieve future success if it operates as an independent Library district.
Former Executive Director Jefferson County Public Library