The Garfield County Public Library District will be on the ballot this November asking voters for approval to keep all income it collects. The Library District is posing ballot measure 6A to voters because some of its funding, mainly the sales tax already approved by local voters, is subject to a State of Colorado formula which can cap the amount the Library District is allowed to keep. Due to this State-imposed limit, the Library District is currently facing a $139,232 refund for fiscal year 2017, and most likely a similar or larger amount in 2018. If approved, the measure would remove the State limit and allow the Library District to keep all revenues it already collects.
6A would NOT raise current tax rates or collections.
6A would remove growth limits and the Library District would no longer be required to refund state-defined excess revenue to taxpayers.
Statewide Growth Limits
There is a statewide limit on the rate of revenue that governments like cities, counties, the State itself, and special districts like libraries are allowed to have from year to year. This limit is intended to be a check on government growth.
When the economy is growing, governments may only grow at a certain rate based on a special formula. If the economy grows faster than that defined rate, governments are required to refund any taxes collected that are over the State-calculated amount.
When the economy shrinks, so does the baseline year-to-year calculation. After a large reduction in the economy, it may take many years of growth for governments to return to previous revenue levels even if the broader economy recovers more rapidly.
If 6A Passes
The immediate effect of the passage of 6A is that the Library District would not be required to refund excess revenue from 2017. Using the new Strategic Plan as a guide, the Library District would purchase books and materials with the money that is currently slated to be refunded. Enough money would be added to the book budgets in 2019 and 2020 to double the materials purchased (essentially restoring them to 2016 levels). This would mean roughly 7,000 more new books, ebooks, audiobooks, movies, and other materials would be available in each of the next two years across the Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle, and Parachute Branch Libraries. These new materials would be available to everyone beginning in early 2019.
The long-term result of the passage of 6A would be that the Library District would no longer be subject to the State limit on growth. Additionally, any money retained in subsequent years would be part of the general fund and allocated based on the strategic plan and current needs of the community.
If 6A Fails
If the ballot measure does not pass, the Library District would remain subject to the State limit on growth and would maintain its current budget for books and materials – equating to 7,000 fewer new books and materials each year than were added in previous years. The State-defined excess of $139,232 from 2017 would be refunded as a temporary property tax credit in 2019, with the average Garfield County residential property owner seeing a $1.58 credit on their 2019 property tax bill. Any 2018 overage would be refunded in the same manner in 2020.
The money, although collected from sales tax, would be refunded to property owners because the administrative costs for other refund options would exceed the amount of the refund itself.
Future years may or may not produce refunds as the State calculation does not always result in a refund. In fact, 2008 was the only year to previously impact the Garfield County Public Library District.
Financial Information for the Library District
The Library District’s 2018 budget is $4.8 million, which is used to pay for and operate the six branch libraries in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle, and Parachute.
In 2017, the Library District endured a $1.2 million decrease in property tax revenue, and revenues remained at that same lower level in 2018. As a result of this income decrease, the Library District was forced to make many cuts in order to balance the budget – including cutting the book budget in half.
There is a Colorado State Grant program which provides library funding based on the size of the population served by a library, but is not designed to fully support library material spending. In 2018, the Library District received $15,372 as a result of the Colorado State Grant program. Even with the grant, the budget for the year was still 48% below 2016 levels.
Library District History
Prior to 2006, the libraries were a county department. In 2006, the voters created a separate entity called the Garfield County Public Library District. The portion of the county’s sales tax that had already funded library operations transferred over to the new Library District – with no increase to sales tax.
At that same time, voters approved a 20-year, 1 mill property tax specifically to expand all six libraries by either remodeling or building new facilities. With that ballot, voters agreed to remove the State growth limits from the 1 mill property tax (exactly like what is being proposed now for the Library District’s sales tax). The property tax income accounts for roughly 45% of the overall budget and covers payment on the debt incurred to build the buildings - which were completed on time and under budget.
Voting and Ballot Information
All registered voters who reside in Garfield County may vote on this measure. The actual ballot language is:
Garfield County Public Library District Issue 6A
WITHOUT RAISING CURRENT TAX RATES, SHALL GARFIELD COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY DISTRICT BE AUTHORIZED TO COLLECT, RETAIN AND EXPEND ALL EXCESS REVENUES AND OTHER FUNDS COLLECTED IN CALENDAR YEAR 2017 AND IN EACH SUBSEQUENT CALENDAR YEAR THEREAFTER WITHOUT FURTHER VOTER APPROVAL, NOTWITHSTANDING THE LIMITATIONS OF ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION OR THE LIMITATIONS SET FORTH IN SECTION 29-1-301 OF THE COLORADO REVISED STATUTES?
This factual summary is provided in accordance with the Colorado Fair Campaign Practices Act.