Much of new Garfield County Library tax funds contained in 6A would go to staffing
A big reason for the Garfield County Library tax question that’s before voters this fall is to bring the six branch libraries back up to staffing levels necessary to support pre-2017 library hours and programs.
As a result, should Issue 6A pass in the Nov. 5 mail ballot election, roughly 45% of the estimated $3.7 million to $4 million in new yearly revenue from a proposed 1.5 mill levy increase is budgeted for library staff.
According to Garfield Libraries Executive Director Brett Lear, the plan is to hire 28 positions over the next 12-18 months.
Most of those positions would be front-line library workers needed to reinstate morning, evening and weekend library hours that were cut two years ago, plus the addition of Sunday hours, he said.
“It’s mostly for bringing back those hours, and hiring back the staff that we lost,” Lear said.
A few of the positions that would be reinstated involve districtwide support staff. And, at least one new position would be created to plan educational classes and events that would also be reinstated under the tax plan, Lear said.
Recently, the district prepared two budget scenarios for 2020 — one representing the status quo funding under the existing 1 mill levy, and the other with the additional 1.5 mills.
If voters approve the measure, total revenues for the district would be expected to increase from just over $5.5 million to about $9.2 million.
On the spending side, much of that additional revenue would be reflected in wages and benefits. It would jump from about $2.15 million under current funding levels to a little over $3.9 million with the new tax.
It’s the second time in as many years that the library district has gone to voters with a tax-related question. Last year, voters agreed to let the district keep and spend all tax dollars generated by the existing 1 mill levy and a portion of the county’s sales tax beyond state spending limits.
This year, the ask is for an extra tax levy to get the district back on track after multiple years of declining revenues.
Those declines have been due in part to the downturn in oil and gas production in Garfield County, and what had been several years of sales tax withholding from the state tied to reimbursements for oil and gas companies under a court order.
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.
Kevin Hettler, chief financial officer for the library district, said the new mill levy would put the district back on track with funding levels from a decade ago, plus inflation.
The cost of services continues to go up every year, Hettler noted, adding that passage of 6A would place revenue at the CPI index tracking out from 2009.
Facility funds would be used to catch up with some deferred maintenance that’s piled up in recent years, Lear said, including boiler and HVAC systems and building roofs.
“If 6A passes, we would be able to create a capital line item to address those things,” he said.
Of the reinstated staff positions, Lear said the larger branches, Glenwood Springs and Rifle, would likely be getting five or six new employees. The smaller branches – Carbondale, New Castle, Silt and Parachute – would be getting three or four new staffers.
With the tight labor market, reinstatement of library hours will largely depend on hiring, Lear added.
“It does take a good deal of time to recruit and hire those folks, so we may be looking at early summer, maybe sooner,” he said.
However, the addition of Sunday hours may not be possible until early 2021, he said.
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