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Public hearing set on proposal for independent library district

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By AJ Vicens

A public hearing on whether the Jefferson County Public Library System should form its own district has been scheduled after more than a year of planning.

The hearing — scheduled for 5:30 p.m. March 11 in Hearing Room 1 at the Jeffco government center — will be an opportunity for county residents to tell the commissioners how they feel about the library becoming its own district. The commissioners could vote on the proposal that night.

The district would not result in new taxes for county residents. The current mill levy collected by the county for the libraries would simply be redirected to the new district.

"I am comfortable and looking forward to receiving public opinion on this issue," District 2 Commissioner Kevin McCasky said Jan. 30 in a meeting with library trustees and staffers.

Keith Grebe, chair of the Jefferson County Library Board, said that, if formed, the library district could save $208,550 annually. He also said that the county would be able to phase out the more than $400,000 per year that goes to support the library by the end of 2008.

There is a question as to whether the library's dedicated mill levy would still be under county control, or completely separate from the county and under full control of the library district.

County Attorney Ellen Wakeman said that although the library has its own dedicated mill levy — 3.425 in 2008 — that still affects the county's total mill levy allotment and falls under Taxpayer's Bill of Rights constraints. The library board disagrees, saying the mill levy — which can be as high as 3.5 mills under statute — is under library control. Wakeman and an attorney for the library board will meet and try to determine whether an agreement can be reached, or if they will have to have a judge decide.

Residents can comment on the proposed separation at the March 11 hearing, or can speak at any public hearing session of the county commissioners’ meetings, which are at 9 a.m. every Tuesday. They can also e-mail the commissioners at commish@jeffco.us and ask that the comments be entered into the record.

Timeline

• March 11: Commissioners hold a public hearing on the proposed library district and possibly vote up or down on the decision.

• April: If the district is approved, commissioners appoint the initial district board of trustees, and the district board adopts bylaws and policies.

• April: After the initial board is appointed, the board executes an agreement with the city of Westminister for shared services.

• By July 1, 2008: Commissioners and the trustees execute an intergovernmental agreement to establish rights, obligations and responsibilities, financial and otherwise, of each party for operation of the library district. District CEO and employees are hired. When the IGA is completed, the library district and the county will implement the plan to transition from a county-supported to an independent library system.

• Jan. 1, 2009: The district's board of library trustees establishes the library and provides for its financial support.

Quick facts on the library

• Library cardholders: 265,310 (49 percent of the county population)

• Facilities: 10 libraries, a bookmobile and a traveling children's library

• Collection: More than 1.2 million books, CDs, DVDs, audio books and periodicals

• Checkouts (2007): More than 5.7 million, a 9 percent increase from 2006

• Visitors (2007): More than 2.6 million

• Library staff: 234 salaried full-time equivalent positions

• 2007 budget: $28.1 million (operating and capital expenses)