Library board to review post-cut revenue
A smaller, but nonetheless significant contributor to the Garfield County Public Library District’s financial woes has to do with an unpredictable county sales tax revenue stream.
The library district’s board of trustees meets Thursday evening in Glenwood Springs for the first time since the district announced in early December that it would have to make budget cuts, including layoffs and reduced hours and services at the six branch libraries.
The cuts were mainly due to a $1.2 million drop in operating revenues from property taxes caused by a 45 percent decrease in oil and gas activity in the county in recent years.
A roller-coaster ride on the countywide sales tax revenue front hasn’t helped matters.
In addition to a property mill levy approved when county voters decided in 2006 to form a separate library district and fund new facilities, the district also relies on 25 percent of revenues from the county’s 1-cent sales tax.
Over the last five years, the state of Colorado has required refunds or withheld sales taxes totaling nearly $2.2 million related to a court settlement initiated by oil and gas giant Noble Energy in the late 2000s. State courts determined that companies had been erroneously paying sales tax on sand, chemicals and other materials used in hydraulic fracturing, prompting the refund to Noble and other companies making claims.
Even before the withheld amount, though, sales tax revenues for the library district have been anything but stable, according to a five-year historical look at sales tax revenues in the library board’s packet of information for the Thursday meeting.
Countywide sales tax revenues were down in the month-over-month comparison to 2015 for seven out of nine months through September 2016.
Even if revenues come in the same as last year for October through December, minus the withheld amount, the library district would still be looking at about $142,700 less in sales taxes compared with last year, according to the comparison report.
Although sales taxes are up for the year in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and other municipalities, the countywide numbers continue to lag.
Jesse Henning, executive director for Garfield County Libraries, said the district budget is set for 2017 after eight district employees were laid off and hours and services reduced. Regular financial updates to the library board are part of the monthly meeting agenda, he said.
One fiscal question that is still on the table is whether the district would consider refinancing the certificates of participation it used to pay for new facilities, including brand new libraries in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Silt and Rifle.
“We have met with a couple of bonding agents to see if that’s a possibility,” Henning said. “The bond rates are really in flux right now, though.”
Henning said the library district has also had a positive response in community surveys after the cuts were made, and giving to the separate library foundation has been strong.
The board will also hear updates on the branch manager searches for the Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Parachute and combined Silt/New Castle positions.
Among the voluntary layoffs was New Castle manager Di Herald, who had also been serving as interim manager for the Parachute branch. Former Glenwood Springs Branch Manager Sue Schnitzer also left the district in December to take a library manager position in Memphis, Tennessee.
Henning said the plan at this point is to combine the Silt and New Castle branches under one manager, while the other branches will continue to have separate managers.
“We are working to find the right folks to fill each of the positions and have been doing preliminary interviews with candidates both in state and out of state,” Henning said.
The library board meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library, 815 Cooper Ave.
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