Dear Library Trustees:
We want you to know that we believe very strongly that the Jefferson County libraries are among our greatest assets. While the current economy is very challenging, the County Commissioners have no desire to cut or reduce library services.
As you are aware, county revenues for the coming year are nearly flat. At the same time that our revenues have leveled out, the demand for services, particularly for our social services programs, continues to grow dramatically.
As we have explained, we are considering shifting a portion of the library mill levy in order to meet this increase in demand on our social services programs. As you point out, the voters have approved a mill levy for the library of up to 3.5 mills. We are considering a reduction from last year’s 3.425 mills to 3.225 mills. This reduction would allow us to address primary needs for food and shelter for our most vulnerable citizens.
In the last year, there has been a 47% increase in clients to our Workforce Center seeking help getting jobs and becoming more employable. There are 25% more families relying on our child care assistance program and 28% more are in need of food stamps and other public assistance. While we receive state and federal funding for these social services programs, it isn’t nearly enough to meet the demand from our own county residents in need. Additionally, as this case load grows, the amount of money we are mandated to provide as the county’s federally mandated match also grows.
These demands have depleted the social services fund balance, while the library’s fund balance remains the most robust in the county organization at 41% of your annual operating budget. This is four times that of other county reserves. That is why we are considering reducing the mill levy to the library and have suggested you use some of the money from your fund balance for operations next year.
As you know, the County Commissioners must provide appropriations for the library as well as for law enforcement, food stamp assistance, home visits by public health nurses, immunizations for kids, road maintenance (including snowplowing) and all other county programs and services. In the current economy this is a challenging task.
Once the Commissioners appropriate the library’s annual operating budget each January, it is up to you, the Library Trustees who we have appointed, to determine exactly how that money will be spent.
The Commissioners applaud the Library Trustees and library staff for being excellent stewards of taxpayer dollars, which has enabled you to develop a large fund balance while also providing outstanding library services. We believe that reserve fund balances are savings accounts for rainy days. For Jeffco families in need, today is a “rainy day.” The Commissioners are encouraging the Library Board to use their reserves and NOT cut services. The Library will still have a very significant fund balance if you do so.
We would like to remind you that just a few years ago, the County Commissioners provided you with an additional $1 million above your fund balance appropriation to build the Arvada Olde Town Library. This allowed you to continue to add to your savings account while that capital project was completed.
Furthermore, we disagree with your statement that you learned about our consideration of a library mill levy reduction through the media. You were told about it directly during the last formal meeting between the Board of County Commissioners and the Library Board of Trustees.
We believe that your latest proposal, sent to us on November 11, unnecessarily accelerates the spending down of your fund balance. We urge you in the strongest of terms not to depart from your years of frugality and good management by accelerating the spending of more of your reserve funds than are necessary.
The County Commissioners are elected officials and have the authority and the responsibility vested in them by the voters to balance the budget and make these difficult decisions for the entire county organization. Please know that we have achieved many economies, efficiencies and reductions in all areas of the county organization. We are not just asking the library to help.
In our county organization, we must all pull together during these tough times and help where the need is greatest. We believe we can help Jeffco families in need, and maintain the high level of service that Library patrons have come to rely on – all at the same time.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
J. Kevin McCasky