Sunday, July 12, 2020

Library district sets ballot issue for fall

1.9 mills and removing TABOR and Gallagher restraints

By Katherine Nettles

Gunnison County voters will have a chance to decide in large part how to mold the future of their library district this November, by means of a new funding stream and removing funding obstacles for the district. The Gunnison Board of County Commissioners approved the ballot language on July 16 for the library district to move forward with a ballot issue for the general election on November 5.

The ballot issue would help the library district become a more independent operation with a secure revenue stream in three ways. Voters will be asked to: raise property taxes by 1.9 mills beginning in 2020; relieve the library district of its TABOR limits; and counteract reductions in the district’s funding caused by state taxing regulations like the Gallagher Amendment.

The Gallagher Amendment set forth state constitutional guidelines for determining the actual value of property and the valuation for assessment of such property.

The 1.9 mill increase in property taxes would cost $13.21 per year per $100,000 of actual property value, according to the library district. The funding will be used in capital construction and general operating purposes, as well as “any other use allowed by law,” according to the ballot language.

The county currently funds the library district through its discretionary funds, but has been restricted by Colorado tax laws in granting additional funds or using funds from other areas of the county’s budget. Drew Brookhart, the director for the library district, said the need for commissioner approval was built in to the structure of the district when it was formed in 2008.

“Although there are lots of ways to form a district, the method used to form this district was that the BOCC [the Board of County Commissioners] must approve a ballot question,” Brookhart reviewed, alongside county attorney David Baumgarten. Therefore a resolution was required.

The final agreement came after multiple meetings with the district and the BOCC.

Brookhart addressed the commissioners, reviewing the process and potential benefits.

“I think that this is healthy for us. I think the more formal cooperation we have between the county and the library district just adds to the credibility of the library district, beyond the Board of County Commissioners selecting the library board. It just keeps that relationship close, which I think provides that extra level of accountability to the voters,” said Brookhart.

“The library board debated this, they selected a question, they passed a resolution … and the resolution for the BOCC does not take a position on the question, but formalizes it and allows us to move forward with the work of getting it on the ballot,” Brookhart continued.

“That said, I want to thank you for recognizing the ability of libraries to provide central services and your recognizing that facility improvements are a requirement of building a library in the future in Gunnison County,” said Brookhart.

The library district is hoping to build a new library structure in Gunnison on the Van Tyle property, which would be its primary initial capital expense.

Commissioner Roland Mason was not present for the vote, but the other two commissioners approved the resolution unanimously.

“I appreciate the work that you’ve all been doing on this. It’s well-thought-out ballot language. I think that’s a mistake that we’ve seen others making across the state on a regular basis, not properly wording the ballot question,” said commissioner John Messner. “I think that you guys did take the time … to get it right.”

“I’m happy to see this moving forward, I know your board has worked hard on this, and you’ve done a lot of outreach,” agreed commissioner Jonathan Houck.

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