County libraries may see severe cuts as GCLD balances budget

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The Grand County Library District’s (GCLD) financial future looks dire and emotions are running high as the district’s trustees look to streamline the budget in anticipation of a $300,000 shortfall that is forcing GCLD to dip into their economic stabilization fund. The reserve fund is currently $1,034,694 and will be reduced to $830,000 by the end of the year.

The proposed budget cuts could see many communities in Grand County scrambling for library services as the board discusses making Kremmling and Grand Lake outposts for services which would consist basically of a book drop with limited services. Hot Sulphur Spring residents fear their library will close completely. Library patrons are lobbying behind the scenes and gearing up for the next library district board meeting scheduled June 21 at 5:30 p.m. in Kremmling.

At the GCLD library district meeting earlier in May, finance committee spokesperson and board treasurer, Nancy Knoohuizen, explained the committee’s recommendation to trim $100,000 out of the 2017 budget. “Our primary recommendation is a planned reduction to begin in 2017 … starting earlier with the planned reduction means that we have more opportunity, flexibility and less risk for the library district.” Reducing the budget by $100,000 would keep the deficit the same with an eye towards balancing the budget in 2018 and eventually eliminating a total of $300,000 from the budget. GCLD is intentionally deficit spending and expects their reserves to deplete more quickly with potential losses from the Henderson Mill tax reevaluation.

In a workshop on May 8, the GCLD board members outlined two models the district could operate from:

Model 1 consists of central branches and service outlets, based on size of population served, library usage, checkouts, and geographic locations. This model consists of:

• Two central branches providing a full range of library services (Fraser and Granby)

• The smaller libraries offering more restricted services (technology, programming and customer service) but keep the existing hours- based on the 2014 survey this was considered the most valued resource. Meeting room use with no audio/visual equipment or online room reservations. Rough figures estimate savings in three service outlets at $150,000.

Model 2 consists of closing a smaller branch, based on geography and usage, and moving central services staff to the Granby Library with central service personnel assisting in other branches. This would result in greater savings.

Executive Director Stephanie Ralph said, “The Board of Trustees has been engaged in asking the hard questions and examining library statistics and usage from every angle to arrive at a sustainable structure for the Library District. At this point, the discussion is still in process and many options are under consideration.”

Grand County Library District was established as a Title 24, Special District in 1994 with funding based on a 2.41 mil levy of property taxes. This district includes: Kremmling, Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand Lake, Granby and Fraser. According to the Grand County Library District website, www.gcld.org, the district experienced growth from 1994-2009, but in 2010 the GCLD experienced a decline in revenue based on property assessments.

In response to declining revenues, in 2013 GCLD asked Grand County voters to add a 1.5 mill levy to the 2.41 mill levy already in place. This was an increase of 62% to maintain the services and the facilities within the library district at that time. The measure failed with 55 percent of voters against the proposed mill levy.

With the failure of the additional mill levy, library patrons immediately experienced less availability of the libraries with shortened hours and closings throughout the week. The library also restructured their staff and streamlined processes. However, fluctuating property valuations and GCLD’s aging buildings and building loans continued to be a drain on the library. The payment on Juniper Library in Grand Lake and the Granby Library has a line item of $315,000 a year, and the library district still owes approximately $4 million on the Juniper and Granby library locations. In addition, the administration is located off site. The library staff and administration still accounts for the majority of 2016’s costs with a total of $734,160.

“Since 2010, property taxes values in Grand County have fallen 35%, or $750,000. In order to maintain a high level of services to our communities, the Library District has introduced efficiencies, refinanced debt, adapted and streamlined services and supplemented revenues through the planned spending down of operating reserves.

The downsizing of the Henderson Mine and Mill and subsequent additional losses in property taxes taking effect in 2017 has confronted the Library District with a financial tipping point. In order to continue to provide the open hours, children’s programs, collections, internet access and beloved library services, the Board is being forced to reconsider the current library service model and plan for a different future,” said Ralph.

According to Director of Finance and Human Resources Tara Ingle, “We must now align our operations with what can be sustained with current revenues. Aligning our operations with current revenues means we either act early with opportunity as new information arises or we act later as critically necessary, and it will be completely devastating to all of the patrons of Grand County. Finance Committee has taken the position of acting early with phased reductions beginning with $100,000 for 2017’s budget, this allows us to move into a balanced budget approach while making eventual cuts as we receive more information on revenue expectations. However, the reduction of $100,000 from 2017 is the first of significant cuts, I am afraid, and we need to place ourselves in the position to make further reductions as necessary.”

Ingel noted the initial impact of the Henderson mine valuations to the GCLD in 2017 is $47,000. However, she cautions this is only in the producing mines category. “Henderson Mine valuations across their other categories, including personal property and land will be reduced, catching up to the decline in the producing mines seen in 2016. What this means is that we have no idea how much of an impact on the 2018 revenue will be due to the further reductions from Henderson Mine and from their 2017 assessment,” she explains.

Currently, these numbers have library patrons looking for alternative solutions that range from a new mill levy, aggressively seeking grants, training volunteers to keep the libraries open, downsizing administration and administrative buildings, and combining services with other entities. Ironically, after the mill levy failed to pass in 2013, Monika Cary from the Last Time Round Thrift Shop had approached the GCLD trustees to provide funding from the proceeds at the Thrift Shop to keep the library open an additional day. The GCLD trustees had declined the donation because they didn’t want to create disparity between the libraries. A similar scenario happened in Grand Lake. The GCLD board will be faced with hard decisions again as the communities scramble to keep their library and library services viable.

Ingle notes that new philosophies may be adapted as the library faces current financial challenges.

The current board members are president, Kim Jenson; vice president, Ann Douden; treasurer, Nancy Knoohuizen; secretary, Roxane White, and Leslie Crosby. White, a representative from District 3 (Kremmling/Hot Sulphur area), will resign her position later in the fall to pursue travel plans. The board can be contacted at [email protected]

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