Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the Boulder City Council’s decision.
The Boulder Public Library District is one step closer to formation now that Boulder City Council approved it in a 6-3 vote early today.
City Council members Tara Winer, Bob Yates and Mark Wallach were the dissenting votes after a marathon meeting that concluded after 12:30 am, well past the Camera’s deadline.
The hearing, a joint meeting between the Boulder City Council and the Boulder County Commissioners, marks the winding down of years of debate regarding library funding. The county commissioners will vote Thursday.
If the county has a different opinion than the city on issues such as the proposed district boundary or the mill rate that those within the district should vote on, then the matter will return to the City Council for continued discussion, Library Director David Farnan said. He views the process as one similar to adoption of the countywide comprehensive plan.
The Boulder Public Library system has long faced financial challenges, and the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated that. The library had to lay off 66 employees and cut its budget by more than $ 1 million during the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Many argue that forming a property tax-funded library district would provide a more stable source of funding for the city’s library system. The currently proposed 3.8-mill property tax would result in about $ 27 per $ 100,000 of a home’s assessed value in additional taxes, bringing in the $ 20 million necessary to expand library services.
The currently proposed district, approved by the City Council but subject to changes from the County Commission, includes all of Boulder city limits and extends into parts of unincorporated Boulder County that are not currently served by library districts such as Gunbarrel, Niwot and Eldorado Springs.
Though it varies based on the necessary capital maintenance, Boulder Public Library has an average annual budget of $ 13.78 million and it is funded through the city’s general fund, largely by sales tax.
The budget is expected to go up in 2023 with the addition of the North Boulder branch library and the plan to address the current pandemic-induced operating deficit and deferred maintenance, Farnan noted at Tuesday’s meeting.
If a district is approved and voters approve a tax increase to fund it, the library has said it plans to address the facility maintenance backlog; restore library hours to pre-pandemic levels; fully fund the new North Boulder Library; and open branches in Gunbarrel and Niwot; and improve outreach to the Latinx community, among other objectives.
Of the 40 or so people who spoke ahead of the Camera’s print deadline, the vast majority were in favor.
“In my opinion, libraries are some of the best spaces in cities and provide numerous resources to residents,” Boulder resident Amanda Groziak said. . ”
About four of those people opposed the district as its currently being proposed. One such person was Neal Anderson. As a Niwot resident, located between Boulder and Longmont, he would much prefer that Longmont form a district.
“Longmont has all the services I need. It is sure closer. I do not have to fight through Boulder traffic and the parking is ample and free, ”he said.