Garfield County library tax appears headed toward approval
A $4 million property tax increase for the Garfield County Library District appeared to have earned voter approval by a slim margin in final vote tallies Tuesday night.
With roughly 10,720 ballots counted as of 10 p.m., Question 6A was passing 5,471 votes, or a little more than 51.5% in favor, to 5,138 opposed.
The proposed 1.5 mill levy increase to fund the six-branch countywide library system would generate between $3.7 million and $4 million annually to allow libraries to restore hours and renew services that were cut two years ago.
“It’s close, but it does show that people trust us and value us as a community resource,” Garfield Libraries Executive Director Brett Lear said.
Should the measure go on to pass, “It’s a brand new day for our libraries, and allows us to not only restore but enhance services. I’m very excited about that,” Lear said.
According to the Garfield County Assessor’s Office, the additional tax is expected to cost a residential property owner in Garfield County an extra $10.80 per $100,000 of assessed value. A commercial property owner would pay an extra $43.50 per $100,000 of assessed value.
As planned, roughly 45% of the new yearly revenue is to be budgeted for library staff in an effort to expand library hours back to pre-2017 levels, and eventually add Sunday hours.
According to Lear, the plan is to hire 28 positions over the next 12-18 months. Most of those would be front-line positions at individual libraries, while a handful would be districtwide support positions.
Total revenues for the district are expected to increase from just over $5.5 million to about $9.2 million with the new levy.
In addition to the staffing increases, the new revenues would include:
- $763,600 extra for general library services, programming and materials;
- $531,800 more for facility maintenance;
- $402,822 for equipment overhead;
- $135,600 additional for professional and technical services;
- $23,472 for advertising and marketing.
The library district is currently funded by a portion of the county’s sales tax and a dedicated property tax mill levy approved by voters in the mid-2000s.
Over that past decade, sales taxes have dwindled in part because of a court-ordered refund and subsequent withholding of sales tax distributions to the county. That case involved oil and gas companies that were determined to have been erroneously assessed sales tax on certain hydraulic fracturing materials.
Compounding the drop in revenue has been a decline in oil and gas production in general in Garfield County, which has impacted the library district and other property tax-dependent entities.
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“An additional round might force the candidates to base their platforms on hard facts and research, not simply what they believe the public wants to hear,” -Rick Voorhees, Glenwood Springs City Councilor