Message From City Librarian: Library Won't Pursue Ballot Measure in 2011

Yesterday I met with Mayor Hancock to discuss the viability of putting a measure on the ballot in November 2011 for a dedicated mill levy or library district. We agreed that it is most advantageous if this decision was made after the City’s Structural Financial Task Force makes its city-wide recommendations addressing the budget shortfall, which will happen this fall.

Mayor Hancock is a strong supporter of Denver Public Library, and has expressed his sincere interest in pursuing a long-term sustainable funding solution. I am hopeful that either the dedicated mill levy or library district will be on the fall 2012 ballot, as part of a broader funding solution for the City. I look forward to discussing this with the Mayor, Library Commission, and the public in the coming months.

I am confident that we will find a sustainable funding solution for the Library with the goal to provide the best possible service that our City wants, needs, and deserves.

Also, we are still awaiting our final budgets for 2012, and expect we will have this by mid-September. We are very optimistic that DPL will not have to take the full $2.5 million cut that we were previously given as a budget target, but only time will tell.

Comments

I am a huge fan of the DPL. But the tired repeat song of looking to raid property owners with yet another behind the curtain mill levy increase seems hazardous and ill-infomred. A mill levy increase is a property tax increase under an esoteric title. Given that the DPL conducted numerous bond improvements at multiple locations, perhaps consideration needs to directed toward the number of sustainable locations. What is the point of making numerous capital improvements when there is not a sufficient level of operating funds to maintain business hours more than a few days a week? Closing many branches 3 out of 7 days a week may not be the optimal solution to a shrinking funding line. Perhaps close (temporary or permanent) branches that present a low volume of patrons. I'm sure this information is readily available. Lastly, the DPL does not seem to have a contemporary grants and development function. Booklover's Ball and other events are fine, but do not provide the scale of financial response that is needed. Truly, endowment funding would be the best of all worlds. The Smithsonian Institution and Nobel Peace Prize have existed for many years based on a strong endowment. Perhaps this is where DPL Board Members and well connected elite insider friends of the DPL should focus collective effort. Firms such as Encana, Lockheed Martin, Newmont Mining, Royal Gold, Level 3 Communications, AIMCO, are very large companies based in Colorado. Perhaps they are should be encouraged to participate in a DPL endowment fund. At the end of the day, knee jerk responses to raise mill levy rates are short sighted and not sustainable.

I agree that tax hikes, esp. property taxes need to be considered carefully. However, I disagree with the proposal to close branches.

Smiley is the closest library to me, it's hours are few & inconvenient but, with 2 young children, I would much rather adjust my schedule to go to Smiley than drive an extra 20 minutes (or take an even longer bus ride) to reach Woodbury, the next closest library, even though Woodbury's hours are more extensive & convenient. Each library has pros & cons outside of hours & location, but since the birth of my son this year, location is of prime importance to me.

Libraries are often one of the few sources of entertainment and learning for people struggling financially (a group that has grown in size with this recession). These people may have significant difficulty traveling further to reach an alternate branch. Closing branches does more than just change where materials are stored; it dramatically affects who is ABLE to use the library system.

I think the knee-jerk response is the anonymous automatic nay-saying regarding any possible tax increase.

Regarding the spending of bond issue monies to expand and renovate the DPL physical facilities, those bonds were approved by Denver voters during different economic times. For as long as I can remember as a Denverite for over 50 years, this is the way finances are used: long-term capital improvements through the issuance of bonds funded by property taxes, and ongoing operations funded by the city's operational budget. Anonymous seems to indicate that somehow DPL should be able to redirect some of that previously identified construction money to operations money. Or, maybe that isn't what anonymous means. But it isn't clear.

Regarding the idea of using development funds... Two points: 1) many of us feel that a library system is as important to a vital 21st century community as water, sewer, roads, police, and fire. Why should the Library alone have to expend resources on development? 2) Comparing the DPL to the Smithsonian and Nobel Prize is just silly. Pick two of the oldest and richest endowed institutions and ask why DPL can't be like them. Come on.

On the other hand, in our own back yard, we have the example of the Arapahoe county library district, which has been able to sustain itself with much less uncertainty during this last three years of economic difficulty.

Lastly, how is having discussions over a period of years (and announcing here such discussions will go on for at least another year) a knee-jerk reaction?

I also agree that the response from anonymous appears to be a knee jerk reaction to the idea of taxes in any form. Adherence to an ideology and ignorance of reality can be very dangerous.

I would like to point out that many of the branches are closed 2-3 days a week already.

Also in regards to endowment funding that is a lofty goal that is not achieved easily. When I attended CU Medical School we suffered from being poorly funded and the administration pursued and continue to pursue establishing an endowment. They did not find a plethora of donors waiting to give money.

Hopefully the best answer for the library can be found without it becoming a fight over ideology.

My goodness. You can be a supporter of the DPL, without being a hook, line, and sinker sycophant to any cry for increased funds by increasing taxes. For both comments that are not concerned about mill levy increases. This is not a fight over ideology. This is not an issue of cutting taxes. It points out that mill levy increases and service fee increases are subtle, and many residents will not raise concerns or ask questions because it is a "back door" tax increase. Rather, the prompt is to the DPL to conduct a thorough analysis and present a range of options. Basically this is what most organizations do when conducting well formed strategic planning. We have yet to see any documents or studies that present to the public what the issues are regarding "funding shortfalls." Also, there do not appear to be any studies that present plausible options to address stabilizing the operational funding stream. If this analysis has been conducted, then DPL, please share it on your website so that Denver residents are being asked to pay a higher mill levy can feel like they have been respectfully informed. The first comment on closing branches was focused not on days per week, rather on closing branches with lower business volume, and increasing the days per week of service for branches that serve a higher volume of customers. As a very liberal minded person with over 25 years in federal government and non profit operations experience, I have seen all too many times that the path of least resistance is to ask for more funding without really doing the hard work of defining the core challenges and putting all potential solutions on the table. Calling endowment funding ridiculous or overly difficult is yet another example of lazy thinking. There are many, many U.S. organizations that have found success in this manner. Smithsonian and Nobel were mentioned due to the common visibility of these organizations to most persons. Do a bit of web research on museums and performing arts, and you will find hundreds of examples of creative endowments in place.

I truly believe in the value of our city's library system, and I support attempts to maintain library funding, but I don't understand the rationale for creating a separate mill levy to fund the library. I am not ideologically against property taxes--I do understand I get many services, including our library, for these taxes I pay--but it strikes me as essentially a shell game to split off a separate mill levy item to pay for the library.

If the mill levy idea is so good, then Mayor Hancock should apply the idea to all city services. We would then have separate mill levies for each city service: schools, fire services, police services, parks, recreation centers, street sweeping, snow removal, installation and maintainence of traffic signs and lights, maintenance and operation of city buildings, the city council's salaries, the mayor's salary... Well, if Hancock did apply his reasoning to this logical end then we'd end up with some kind of weird line-item city government where we could spend our time arguing about which individual mill levy we do or don't like.

There is a point here to what this person is saying... Below is a link to a 2008 article from the american library association that notes at least 5 libraries that have endowment programs. Albeit the article notes some have had endowment reductions during difficult economic times.

http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2008/october2008/endowmentsshaken.cfm

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