Boulder County Commissioners have for now tabled a decision about a potential library district while staff works through some outstanding issues, including funding for the district.
Based on direction from the commissioners on Thursday and the City Council on Tuesday, staff from the city and the county will try to develop a proposal acceptable to both entities, the Board of County Commissioners’ chief of staff Michelle Krezek confirmed after Thursday’s meeting.
“I don’t have any idea, at this time, if this will impact the schedule, as we haven’t started work,” she said. “However, we all understand the timing needs for this issue to move forward and are cognizant of the need to work diligently on these issues.”
However, the Boulder Library Champions, a group that’s been advocating for a district for several years, now says it intends to reinitiate the petition process that would put a measure to form a library district on the ballot. The group agreed to withdraw a similar petition in 2019 at the request of the city, which committed to researching potential funding sources for Boulder’s municipally controlled library system.
“Voters should be asked to provide a single, stable funding source for libraries this fall,” the Champions said in a statement. “Given the uncertainty around whether county commissioners will approve an equitable resolution to create a library district in time for that to happen, we will resume efforts to move the issue to the ballot via petition.”
While the City Council came to a majority conclusion on most of the remaining issues, including a proposed mill rate, the district boundaries and the way in which the Library District Board of Trustees should be appointed, the County Commission was unable to reach a consensus and felt more comfortable providing direction to staff.
The county commissioners were unable to support the 3.8-mill levy increase that the City Council OK’d on Tuesday. That amount results in about $27 in additional taxes per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value and would bring in the $20 million the library has said it needs to expand services.
“What catches me up, I guess, and prevents me from being able to just proceed with the resolution as drafted with that mill levy is that for many people (the increased tax cost) might be a daily latte,” Commissioner Claire Levy said. “But for people I hear from and people who I feel obligated to look out for and speak on behalf of, they’re struggling to hang on in this community.”
The commissioners tentatively agreed to the currently proposed boundaries for the library district, which include Boulder and unincorporated parts of the county such as Gunbarrel, Niwot and Eldorado Springs.
However, the commission expressed uncertainty about whether to include Niwot, a community in unincorporated Boulder County that’s between Boulder and Longmont. It’s hard to know with any certainty what Niwot prefers, given the lack of a statistically valid poll, Levy noted.
Niwot residents have said in the past that they’d prefer to contribute to a library district in Longmont, which is in the early stages of contemplating district formation.
Either way, the county argued there’s more work to be done.
“It’s just so critical that we get this right,” Commissioner Matt Jones said.