Public invited to weigh in during BOCC hearing on December 4
After years of consideration, the Gunnison County library system is poised to become its own separate taxing district. The public will have the chance to weigh in on the decision during the Gunnison County commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, December 4.
"The biggest advantage to creating a library district is we would have total control of our budget as opposed to having to compete with other county needs," says Gunnison County Public Libraries director Carol Primus.
Because the county library system has traditionally been a county entity without a dedicated mil levy, Primus explains that funding earmarked for the library system could be reallocated to address county issues of health, safety and welfare.
"For example, if the commissioners deemed a bridge unsafe, they would be able to pull funds from the library in order to fix it," she says.
Primus says the library board is currently working with the county to craft an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to ensure a seamless transition from the current system to an autonomous district.
"We’re really trying to maintain what we had in the past, and building on that," she says.
Gunnison County Libraries trustee president Marsha Rose says that a dedicated fund for the new district will be determined at the December 4 commissioners’ meeting. The money will fund the new district during the time it takes to establish its independence from the county.
"It will be a similar to the amount we are receiving now," says Rose.
Once the library district becomes an independent entity, Rose says, it will continue to receive the dedicated funds from the county. Any increase in public funding, however, will be subject to voter approval, she says.
According to Primus, the timing of the decision to formulate a new district was due to a number of factors, including a Board of County Commissioners with fresh ideas and the gift of land for a new library by longtime Gunnison Valley stockman Ray Van Tuyl.
"The stars were aligned just right," says Primus.
Library trustee Bruce Bartleson says becoming an autonomous district will be a great advantage.
"We’ll know exactly where our money is coming from, rather than waiting for the county to see if they have enough for us," he says.
Bartleson credits the county commissioners and their staff with going the extra mile to ensure a smooth transition from being under the auspices of the county to becoming a separate library district.
"They’re really trying to help," he says.
Bartleson says he is especially thankful for the assistance they have received from county manager Matthew Birnie. "He’s been outstanding," says Bartleson.
Rose says the library board has already retained the services of an architect to design a new main facility, slated to be built on the Van Tuyl property in Gunnison. According to Rose, the architects will survey different community groups to find out how the planned facility can best serve library patrons.
But Rose says the new library district will probably wait until 2009 or 2010, before the electorate is asked for bonding to construct the new facility.
"We want to prove to the voters that we are able stewards with what we have first," she says.
Rose says the library board also wants to map a five-year plan, which will take into account the needs of the entire county.
"We have plans for branch libraries in Mt. Crested Butte and (Crested Butte) South," she says.
Trustee Marjorie O’Reilly says establishing the new district should result in an increase in services.
"We would like to be able to have longer hours and additional staff," she says.