Reserves help hold line for Garfield County libraries |

Reserves help hold line for Garfield County libraries

Despite a substantial decrease in sales taxes used to fund Garfield County public libraries over the last two years, patrons will see little change in services this year thanks to a healthy reserve fund.

The district’s operational budget for 2011 is $2.8 million, same as last year, according to Wilma Paddock, business manager for the six-branch system.

The Garfield County Public Library District operates libraries in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute.

“We were able to remain flat compared to last year,” Paddock said.

Revenues to fund the library system from the 25 percent portion of the county’s 1-cent sales tax fell to $2.2 million last year, compared to $2.97 million in 2009.

But the library district has also been carrying a $1 million reserve fund, which will be used this year to maintain spending at last year’s levels, Paddock said.

That’s not to say the district hasn’t made cuts to reflect the declining revenues, said Amelia Shelley, executive director for the library district.

“We’ve really tightened our belts and came in under budget on just about everything last year,” Shelley said.

Expenditures were down 16 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, and four empty staff positions have remained unfilled, she said.

“If we hadn’t had those reserves, we would have had to cut 10 positions last year,” Shelley said. “The board decided to use those reserves to carry us for a while, but hopefully we will start seeing those sales tax revenues going back up.”

In addition, the district cut its book budget slightly last year, and sought some outside funding for its youth reading program, she said.

Revenues from the library district’s 1 mill property tax to fund new facilities are also expected to fall about 40 percent to $3.4 million this year, compared to $5 million last year.

The mill levy, which was approved by Garfield County voters in 2006, is being used to build new library facilities throughout the district, including the recently opened new libraries in Rifle and Parachute.

The New Castle Branch Library is next on the upgrade list. The library is being moved to temporary quarters this week in the City Market shopping center so the library on Main Street can be renovated.

A portion of the mill levy can be used for operations of the new facilities, but the district has decided to keep those dollars in reserve for now, Paddock said.

“We want to make sure that, when the mill levy ends, we are able to operate these new libraries,” she said. “So we’ve been setting some of those funds aside for future operations and maintenance.”

The mill levy is set to expire in 2027. So far, the district has built up $1.8 million in debt reserves, Paddock said.

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