Friday, April 25, 2014

City Council Meeting15-Apr-2014: Library Funding Discussion

Highland LogoThis was a very good council meeting (aside from the fact that we ended earlier than normal).  What I especially liked is that we were able to have a vigorous discussion and share differing points of view without being disagreeable.

Agenda:

  1. Public Comment: Most of the comments (7 out of 9) were about the library. I will summarize at the end of the post. One of the other commenters wanted more info about the trail system and shared a trail safety item; the trail sign near Caddy Lane is too close to the bike trail and riders risk hitting it as they turn onto the trail.
  2. Highland Fling 2014: Ron Jewett discussed the upcoming fling. He pointed out that they expect to raise significantly more funds this year than last. They are already well ahead of last year in terms of ads for the Fling Booklet (Good job Emily!). One issue is that because the Fling budget only reflects net costs (expenses less anticipated revenues) when they try to spend more than the budgeted amount difficulties arise even though there are offsetting revenues from sponsors. Our finance director will look into how this can be resolved.. Evidently public accounting practices make this less than straightforward. Here is a video from last year’s Fling that was put together by one of the sponsors Color My Media:

    Highland Fling Days Slideshow from Color My Media on Vimeo.

  3. Approval of Meeting Minutes for March 18: Approved.
  4. Approval of Meeting Minutes for April 1: Approved
  5. Library Funding Option Discussion: See below 
  6. New Ad HOC Committee Discussion:
    The council discussed the proposed formation of 3 new ad hoc committees: Beautification, Economic Development, and Web & Social Media. Brian mentioned that at some point these should be turned into permanent committees as Ad Hoc Committees are supposed to have specific short term objectives and disbanded once the objectives have been reached. Dennis also discussed an economic development panel that Alpine has which meets monthly. It is composed of a council and planning commission member as well as other officials that could provide immediate feedback and feasibility answers.to anyone seeking to open a business in Alpine. Anyone interested in serving on these or any other committee should complete the volunteer form found on the city’s website and turn it in at the front desk of city hall. We will be taking a formal vote on the formation of these committees next council meeting.

Library Funding Option Discussion

In case you are not aware a portion of the city property tax is dedicated to the library via a special library property tax which was passed by the city council in 2007 by a 3 to 2 margin. Based on the city property tax revenues from 2010-2013 the library tax represents about 12% of the total city property taxes collected. All funds collected through this library tax, according to state law, must be put into the library account. We are one of three cities in Utah County (Highland, Provo, and Santaquin) that have a library property tax. Note, our county property tax bill only shows the total city property tax rate which includes the general and library property tax which is why many of us are not aware of this tax.

The item up for discussion at this meeting was whether or not to rescind the dedicated library property tax and add this tax to the general property tax. Most of the commenters mentioned their support for the library but made no reference to the library property tax (for or against).

  • One person did say that there “should be no sacred cows” and supported rescinding the library tax and putting the amount to the general property tax.
  • Another stated that “free access to information (books, Internet, videos) is a right”.
  • A third read sections of Utah code which stipulate any funds collected from a library property tax must go to the library. Following that he mentioned that there could be legal issues if the city removed the library tax and added the amount from this tax to the general property tax.

Note, the city attorney commented that the council could, at any time, eliminate the library property tax with a simple vote. However, he believed that in order to raise the general tax the council would need to follow the “Truth in Taxation” process. I  spoke with the county clerk’s office prior to the meeting and their belief was that since the net tax rate would not change that we could remove the library tax and add that tax rate to the general tax without going through the “Truth in Taxation Process”. Casey (our city attorney) will confirm what the proper process is to ensure that if the council acts on this issue the city follows the correct process.

Prior to the meeting the council received three emails from residents who could not attend the council meeting supporting the concept of removing the library property tax and moving the amount to the general property tax. Since the meeting I have received two emails expressing support for the library. My response to these best represents my point of view on this issue.

Dear Name

I agree that libraries benefit communities and appreciate your passionate support for the Highland Library. The item under discussion with the council is whether or not to rescind the dedicated library property tax and raise the general property tax by the same amount, not whether or not to close the library or even reduce its budget.

My rationale for supporting this is as follows:

1) To create a level playing field for all city departments. Is this library more important than parks, trails, roads or even public safety? As it stands now, that is the case as the library is the only department with a dedicated tax.

2) If the library budget is reduced by the librarian and board, the city does not necessarily benefit.  All monies collected from the library tax, plus library fees and fines must go to the library. Note, the 2014/15 library budget is $9,000 less than the 2013/2014 budget.

3) As Highland grows and our property tax grows the library will get a fixed % of that growth whether or not the city has higher priority needs for the "new" money.

I would appreciate any of your thoughts on this issue.

Rod

The library budget is well managed by Kent Slade (the head librarian). However, the city’s property tax base is growing (there is a lot of new development occurring this year). If the dedicated library tax remains in place any increase in funds collected from the library tax will go to the library and not to other potentially higher priority areas.

The preliminary budget for next year, which I received this week, projects a $15,000 increase in library tax funds for next year (the city is always conservative in its estimates for property tax fund increases). Couple this with the $9,000 library budget decrease submitted by the library and we potentially have $24,000 that the library did not ask for, but which the city cannot use for any other purpose.

I welcome any of your thoughts on this issue.  Feel free to call, email, text, or share your thoughts via Facebook or by commenting on this post.

Links

Budget Year
Revenue
Expenses
Net
2006-2007
$0
$ 27,679
NA
2007-2008
$ 244,330
$ 56,816
$187,514
2008-2009
$ 222,236
$ 500,634
-$ 278,398
2009-2010
$ 268,323
$ 220,289
$ 48,034
2010-2011
$ 261,915
$ 229,932
$ 31,983
2011-2012
$ 269,180
$ 228,651
$ 40,529
2012-2013
$ 265,892
$ 223,070
$ 42,822
2013-2014
$ 265,631
$ 248,823
$ 16,808
Total
$ 1,797,506
$ 1,708,215
$ 89,291

4 comments:

  1. Rod,
    You know I appreciate the work you are doing and hope you continue for many years to come. Here is my concern regarding the Library and removing the guarantee of funds. While my wife and I visited our daughter in Boise this weekend, we went to a branch of the library near their home for story time. I was impressed with the way the library was set-up. It had a quiet play room for little ones (pre-K). This was close by the books for these children and had a dedicated enclosed place for them to be without running around the whole library. They also had a separate room for Story time. This was separate and allowed little ones to go to story time and not be interferred with others in the library. I believe that the library needs to cater to these little ones to create good habits and a feeling of comfort in the library.

    I also like the ability to go into the library and review magazines or books by sitting in a comfortable chair and doing some relaxing reading. These are not cheap modifications that would need to be done, but could be accomplished over a few years. If we take that money away from the library, they will never be done because the money won't be there. I would rather see these improvements made and then when the library is where we need it to be we move the funds to general purposes.

    There is my 2 cents worth.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your 2 cents (actually your views are always worth a lot more then 2 cents). The library would likely need its own building to have that kind of an environment. The funds for a that would need to come from outside the city budget.. As I understand it the Friends of the Library now has about $65,000. They contributed over $350,000 to open the library. If they have not spent any money since the opening of the library, 6+ years ago, then at that donation rate, ~$11,000 per year, it will be quite awhile until they raise enough to fund a building. I wonder if the dedicated tax has led to some complacency in terms of fund raising.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rod, I do not believe the dedicated tax has made the library complacent. If anything, it has helped us feel more secure in moving ahead with items like joining the Utah County Library coop. We have always had library expansion on the table as you know based on the plans we considered for expanding in the city building. We are planning on becoming more aggressive with fundraising and expansion over the next while. It would just be nice to know that we could focus our efforts on improving and expanding the library and becoming a full fledged member of the coop rather than worrying about whether or not the funds to keep the library functioning would be available from year to year. The dedicated tax gives us that security.

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  4. Blythe thanks for taking the time to comment.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts regarding this post.