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One for the books

Post Independent/Kelley Cox
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A standing-room-only crowd erupted in applause and shouts after the Garfield County Commissioners voted to form a library taxing district Tuesday. They also approved two questions for the Nov. 7 election that will ask the voters to approve two forms of funding for the district.However, without voter approval of the funding, the library district cannot go forward.Voters will be asked to approve an additional 1 mill property tax for the district and continue a one-quarter cent sales tax, which is the current funding mechanism for the county’s six libraries.

According to the ballot language, the mill levy would be used to fund new library buildings and building expansion and would sunset in 2027.If the voters approve the mill levy, the district will be created as of Jan. 1, 2007. The tax would be collected in 2007, and actual revenues would not come into the library district’s coffers until 2008.”There would be no dramatic change between 2006 and 2007,” said Rifle attorney Tom Stuver.A recently conducted poll of county residents showed there is support for the district, said library board member Bill Lamont. The poll showed 82 percent of the respondents supported retaining the county sales tax and between 55 and 63 percent would vote in favor of an additional mill levy, Lamont said.”We are not meeting the needs of Garfield County with the sales tax,” Lamont said.In asking the commissioners to allow the formation of a library district Lamont said, “We would like to go out and make a case to the public. … Either we fly with it or we find out we didn’t do our homework.”

He said mill levy revenues would be used to double the size of the Rifle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale libraries and significantly expand libraries in New Castle, Silt and even Parachute, which saw an expansion a few years ago.Although he voted in favor of forming the district at the end of an hour-long public hearing, County Commissioner John Martin had concerns about what a district would mean for county government.He said if the district is formed and the sales tax retained, the county would be liable for the district’s debts.The county would be on the hook to pay for any bonds the district issued if it defaulted on debt payment, Martin said.Bond consultant Steven Jeffers, managing director of Stifel, Nicolaus, Co., disagreed.”You have no legal obligation to repay those bonds,” he said, because they would be issued by a legal entity, the library district. “The one mill would be structured to cover debt service.”



Martin also expressed concern about how the district would acquire land for the library expansion. In Glenwood Springs a new site would have to be found, since the present library’s footprint takes up the entire lot.Lamont said the library board would approach the various municipalities to provide land.Martin was also openly skeptical about asking the voters to increase property taxes. “You are taking a big gamble (asking) for a mill levy,” he said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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