Since switching to reduced hours and cutting back on staff in December 2016, and again a few months later, officials with the Garfield County Library District believe it may be time to return what was lost to the branches across the district.
Executive Director Brett Lear said the library board will be deciding at next month’s meeting on whether to pursue a mill levy increase on the November ballot. He said the board will discuss the district finances and whether a mill levy increase would be the best solution to some of the problems the district is facing. In the next month, if it moves forward, the board will vote on whether to put the mill levy increase on the November ballot.
“As of now, if we were to put it on the ballot,” he said, 1.5 mills would be increase, “generating around $4 million annually with current projections.”
Though the mill levy increase would bring more revenue for the district and help it from going into the red going forward, one of the main objectives would be to get back some of the hours the district lost several years ago.
The December 2016 hour change resulted in a 7% decrease in hours open and a staffing reduction of 25%, according to the Garfield County Libraries.
Nine months later the library cut hours again with all the libraries now open no earlier than 11 a.m.
Lear said a survey sent to residents asking about the library services they valued most showed just how disappointed some were with lack of morning availability and overall library hour reduction.
“58 percent said they would support a mill levy tax increase,” he said.
The library district may not have the same hours or staff as it used to, but, according to Lear, it remains an important resource for the community.
The district sees around 424,000 visitors annually with near universal membership for residents across the valley no matter what town they live in.
The funds from a mill levy increase could be used to retain staff and keep the libraries open longer, provide senior classes and educational classes and events for students especially during the summer, purchase new materials, improve technology and more, according to the district.
The mill levy increase would also come with a citizens’ oversight committee and public view of expenditures to ensure that funds are spent efficiently.
“We want to make sure our residents have healthy libraries and a great community resource for future generations,” Lear said.
Library district operations benefit from a mix of revenues, including a dedicated 0.25 percent portion of the county’s 1-cent sales tax, and a 1-mill property levy approved by county voters 10 years ago.
The property tax was intended to pay for new library facilities in each of the county’s six municipalities, from Carbondale to Parachute.
Editor’s note: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story said that 68 percent of survey respondents said they would support a mill levy tax increase. 58 percent of survey respondents said they would support a mill levy tax increase.