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Jeffco libraries expected to feel budget crunch

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By Emile Hallez

The Jeffco Public Library system stands to lose about $1.5 million in revenue next year, as county officials anticipate diverting 0.2 mills of the current levy toward human services programs.

Despite the expected loss, the library is not planning to close any locations or cut staff positions.

“Our revenue situation is so tenuous at this time,” administrative services director Patricia Correia said of the specific steps the library will take to absorb the loss. “We will live within our means.”

Library representatives provided the county commissioners with a contingency plan last week following a presentation on the proposed 2010 budget. Though the proposed budget allocates 3.425 mills to the library, the contingency plan accounts for the 0.2-mill reduction the commissioners are expected to make this week.

“I’m really angry that the library has had to take the total brunt of the money that they need for social services,” said Linda Rockwell, an Evergreen resident who addressed the commissioners following the budget presentation.

Rockwell is a member of the Jeffco library’s board of directors but said she was speaking only for herself as a private citizen.

“I’m certainly not going to buy a book at the expense of somebody’s breakfast. … But nobody else was asked to take a hit,” Rockwell said.

Part of the library’s budget adjustments include a possible staff reorganization and service changes. Details of that plan will not be made public until early December, Correia said.

“The library has the largest cash reserves of any place in the county,” Commissioner Kathy Hartman said of the proposed cutback. “The least bad place to take it was from cash reserves that weren’t expected to be spent this year anyway.”

Though the county’s proposed budget sets the library’s mill levy where it has in years past, revenue from the vehicle ownership tax was not included in the library’s share of county funding, Hartman said. The commissioners will likely tack auto tax revenue back onto the library’s budget in exchange for the mill levy adjustment, she said.

“The real issue is funding human services,” she said. “We need to get an additional two tenths of a mill.”

The library has a voter-approved maximum levy of 3.5 mills, an amount that was set in 1986 but has rarely been allocated. The commissioners ultimately decide how close to 3.5 mills the library will receive in a given year.

“It would be my hope that next year we would restore the library’s mill levy to 3.425,” Hartman said. “We can’t indefinitely do this.”

The library’s requested revenue under its contingency plan for 2010 is about $26 million, which is 5.4 percent less than the 2009 revenue of $27.4 million.

The county commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Nov. 23 to discuss and revise the budget.