Oct 232006
 
Authors: MEGAN TRUSTY The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Voters will be asked whether to increase taxes to support library funding in November.

Ballot issue 5C proposes a library district in Fort Collins that will aid in funding local public libraries through property taxes within the proposed district.

If the district is approved, homeowners within it will see a property tax increase of nearly $4 per month for each home assessed to be valued at $200,000.

The money from the district would go toward restoring cuts local libraries have seen since 2002 and developing a branch library. The money would provide the libraries with a $5.8 million dollar budget per year, compared to the current budget of $3.85 million.

“It would provide stability for the library system,” said Brenda Carns, library director for the Fort Collins Library.

Cutbacks have led to reduced hours of operation, fewer programs and services including children’s story hour, no community book drops, a reduced ability to acquire new books and materials and overcrowded conditions.

Advocates for the library district say it would ensure a quality library system for the community and improve services by bringing back those that have been cut.

Since 2000, library usage has increased by 34 percent, while the library budget has been cut back by nearly $500,000 since 2002.

The library district would also provide an exclusive focus on library needs and provide funding that responds to population growth in the area.

The tax burden used to fund the libraries would, however, fall more on business property owners than homeowners in the district because of the Gallagher Amendment in the state constitution, which limits the amount of tax on residential property.

Business property owners would be paying about 3.6 times the rate residences would pay, according to David May, president and CEO of the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This issue is being driven by money instead of clear, exciting plans for our library’s future,” May said.

Another concern expressed by May was the fact that the library district would be controlled by a group of unelected government appointees.

“Nearly $6 million a year of taxpayer money will be spent by nice but unelected people,” he said.

May suggests instead of putting the tax burden on residents and businesses within a proposed library district, the city government could ask for a general increase to the base sales tax rate or the base property tax rate.

Other options for library funding May supports would be to ask voters for a library authority rather than a district.

A library district is a special unit established by voters in a defined area to provide particular services to the residents of that area, in this case to provide funding to public libraries. It will encompass all of Fort Collins, running north to the Wyoming border, south nearly to Loveland, east to Interstate 25 and west to Jackson County.

An authority would keep governance control under the City Council while allowing a choice of taxing mechanisms such as property tax, sales tax or a combination of both.

Carns believes a library district would be the best choice, adding that 49 other cities in Colorado have implemented library districts, including Estes Park and Weld County.

Regardless of how it’s done, some believe more funding to the library is necessary.

“Not only do I think that the library is a great resource center for adults but it is very important for children,” said Jillian Giebelstein, a senior Spanish major. “We need to do all that we can to bring back the resources the library has to offer.”

Staff writer Megan Trusty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Library at a glance:

Ballot issue 5C proposes a library district in Fort Collins that will aid in funding local public libraries through property taxes within the proposed district.

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