Garfield County Libraries to ask voters for tax increase
- Expanded library hours
- Repairing and maintaining maintenance and building repair
- Retaining library staff
- Purchasing books, technology and materials
- Library programing, including educational classes and events, literacy programs to help children and teens learn to read and do homework, training for veterans and job-seekers for new careers, student career and college prep, and senior activities
The Garfield County Public Library District plans to put a proposed property tax increase on the ballot this November to raise funds to expand hours and improve buildings.
The measure would add approximately $4 million to the library district’s 2020 budget, and is broadly supported by the community, according to Brett Lear, executive director for the Garfield Libraries system.
“We did a public survey earlier in the year, and the vast majority of people were supportive both of the libraries priorities and the potential tax measure,” Lear said.
At the library district board meeting Aug. 1, district staff presented the results of that survey. Of around 500 survey responders, fewer than 10 said that they wouldn’t like an additional tax.
“Just a handful of people that I’ve heard from said they couldn’t afford more taxes,” Lear said. “The rest were overwhelmingly supportive.”
The biggest priority is to increase the hours during which each of the library branch locations are open.
“If the measure passes, we would set a target for ourselves to restore weekday hours first, by June of next year. We would need to give ourselves some time to hire the staff,” Lear said.
The first phase of the hours increase would allow branch locations to open at 10 a.m., instead of 11, and stay open until 8 p.m.
By January 2021, Lear would also like to add Sunday hours.
Right now, the six public library branches between Carbondale and Parachute open most weekdays at 11 a.m. Some branches open at noon one day a week, and later on Saturdays. None of the branches are open for any amount of time on Sundays.
The additional tax revenue would also allow the library to supplement its materials budget, offer more programs, and help with a growing maintenance backlog.
“We built these beautiful buildings over a decade ago, but haven’t had the funding to adequately maintain them,” Lear said.
Last November, Garfield County voters approved ballot question 6A by a wide margin, allowing the district to keep tax money that would have been refunded under the state’s TABOR laws.
The district had to refund $133,232 for the 2017 fiscal year, and the 2018 refund would have been even larger.
That money will go to purchasing new books and other materials, but won’t go far toward other priorities.
The library’s 2019 budget is $5.4 million, with around half of that coming from sales tax revenue.
Currently, the library has an annual mill levy of 1.07, which this year brought in $2.6 million for the district. The proposed ballot language calls for 1.5 additional mills, which would yield between $3.7 and $4 million, according to the district’s estimates.
The library would continue independent audit reviews for the tax revenue.
“The public has been incredibly supportive of what we propose, and now I just look forward to November,” Lear said.
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