5A & 4A: Libraries looking to boost bottom line | AspenTimes.com

5A & 4A: Libraries looking to boost bottom line

Libraries in Basalt and Aspen are asking voters to approve a property tax increase to help expand their operations. County residents will vote on only one of the two ballot questions, depending in which library district they live.Pitkin County LibraryReferendum 5A asks voters in the Pitkin County Library District for a mill levy increase of .23 mills, or $1.83 per $100,000 of property value. If approved, the increase will bring an additional $385,000 to the library’s operating budget of approximately $2 million. The additional money will fund three-and-a-quarter more employee shifts, eight new computers for accessing the Internet, and a new radio wave detection system for tagging books. Pitkin County librarian Kathy Chandler said the budget boost is at least three years overdue.”When our last tax increase was approved we said we wouldn’t ask for more for another eight years. It’s been 11 years now,” Chandler said. “We are understaffed and we need help.”If the tax increase passes, the library will install a state-of-the-art radio tagging system for its books. As well as decreasing incidents of theft, the detection system helps the library’s cumbersome shelving process as the radio tags are sophisticated enough to alert staff when a book has been shelved incorrectly.Once the tags are installed – a two-year process – Chandler said the librarians will have enough free time to open the library an hour earlier, at 9 a.m. Basalt Regional LibraryAfter a failed effort on last year’s ballot to fund the construction of a new library, the Basalt Regional Library now just wants an increase in operating funds so it can do a better job at its existing facility.Although the library district hasn’t abandoned plans to build a new facility eventually, Referendum 4A would only increase the existing operating budget from about $260,100 to $550,300 annually. The district is asking voters to increase the mill levy from 0.92 to 2.06. The property tax increase would amount to about $9.07 annually per $100,000 of assessed value.The increase in funds wouldn’t bring “frills,” said Basalt Library director Robb Heckel. Rather, it would just allow Basalt’s library to offer services that are standard elsewhere. For instance, the library will increase the number of computers for patrons from three to six and upgrade to more modern equipment.If the ballot measure fails, the library will be forced to close two additional days per week. If it passes, it will remain open six days per week; it’s always closed on Sundays.Unlike last year’s election, when the library faced strong opposition from high-profile Basaltines, no organized opposition has materialized this year.Scott Condon contributed to this report. Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrel@aspentimes.com

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