Garfield County Libraries facing a budget crunch
Garfield County Libraries
Over the last 10 years, the Garfield County Public Library District has worked hard to honor the promises made when it became a special district in 2006. The district is supported through a quarter cent Garfield County sales tax and also one mill property tax, scheduled to sunset in 2027. We designed and completed all six building projects within seven years of the ballot initiatives passing, and came in $50,000 under budget. We have given our communities six quality facilities with places to read, gather and learn. We have also expanded services such as free events, technology training and Summer Reading for all ages.
During these 10 years we have remained committed to being good stewards of taxpayers’ money. Not only did our six large-scale building projects come in under budget, we have continually found efficiencies and fostered partnerships to make your money go further. We have partnered with Colorado Mountain College to install solar panels on three of our buildings, which helps reduce our energy bills. We have worked with schools and teachers to bring more and more children into the libraries, and encouraged families to take advantage of free resources available at our locations. And the district was the founding member of the Garfield County Shop Local Partnership, which is designed to help small businesses and raise public awareness of the benefits of shopping locally.
Our libraries also continue to be a hub in each of our communities. Last year alone we had over 650,000 people walk through our doors, our computers were used for nearly 64,000 hours, and members borrowed over 725,000 books, movies and other materials. This high usage is heartwarming. Last year an amazing 94 percent of people surveyed said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the skills and knowledge demonstrated by library staff members.
During this time of success, our library district has faced significant financial challenges. The Great Recession hit Garfield County hard, and our sales tax revenues declined dramatically. Then, beginning in 2011, the district has had roughly $2 million withheld from our sales tax revenues due, in part, to the Noble Gas Settlement. It is important to note that the library district was not at fault for either of these circumstances. Through hard work and creative problem solving, the library district and board of trustees were able to use a combination of finding efficiencies and using some reserves to keep all our libraries operating at a high level, with no noticeable public impact.
In 2017, the Garfield County Libraries are facing an additional, drastic budget cut due to a significant property tax reduction from the oil and gas industry valuation. In fact, we must cut $1.2 million from next year’s budget, which equates to 29 percent of our annual operating costs. Currently, we are working on how to accomplish this daunting task. Over the last several weeks we have been brainstorming and vetting ideas, and we are creating a draft budget. We will continue to post updates as the plan is created.
This large of a budget cut will affect our users and our staff. While we will continue to provide the best service possible, we anticipate our hours and services will change. If you have comments or suggestions please send them to Interim Executive Director Sandi Kister at email@example.com.
We at the Garfield County Libraries appreciate the support you have shown us up to this point. We are going to need it even more in the future.
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Current Basalt officials say the town government has violated the Colorado Taxpayers’ Bill of Right by increasing the property tax mill levy over the prior years 10 times since the mid-2000s. Two former mayors contend the mill levy could be adjusted in any given year as long as it didn’t exceed the mill levy in 1994. It’s a $2 million question.