Basalt library won’t seek tax increase in November | AspenTimes.com

Basalt library won’t seek tax increase in November

BASALT – The Basalt Regional Library District won’t seek a property tax increase this fall to boost its sagging revenues for general operating expenses.

The library district’s board of trustees voted unanimously last week against placing a property tax increase proposal on the November budget. Bernie Grauer, treasurer of the library board of trustees, said the decision was reached after the board consulted with Don Diones, senior vice president of George K. Baum, a Denver investment-banking firm.

“In his opinion, this was maybe one of the worst years ever to ask the electorate for any type of tax increase,” Grauer said.

Many voters in the Roaring Fork Valley still are reeling from the recession and slow recovery. It would be tough getting them to approve a property tax increase, Grauer said. Instead, the library district will dip into reserves to cover its projected shortfall.

“Overall, we felt we are in a fairly healthy position with our reserves,” said Judy Royer, president of the library board.

The total valuation of property in the library district plummeted 37 percent last year. The library district’s operating revenues fell from about $1.47 million in 2011 to $971,830 this year. The library district dipped into reserves to cover a deficit of about $50,000.

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Grauer said the operating budget for next year will be about $1.1 million, with a deficit of between $50,000 and $150,000, depending on if and when an executive director is hired.

The district has about $1.4 million in reserves available to it. Some of the funds were earmarked for other uses, such as capital replacement, but could be used for operating expenses in a jam, according to Grauer. A general rule of thumb is to have six months of operating expenses available, so the library district far exceeds that guideline.

Grauer said he feels that the library district has done a good job of trimming the budget to the bone. It wants to maintain current hours and services.

“We don’t want to burden the taxpayers, but we do want to provide the services” that voters thought they were getting when they approved the new library in 2007, he said.

The outlook on November ballot questions was mixed among other midvalley taxing districts. The Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District intends to seek approval for a property tax increase. Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District decided against going to voters for approval of funding to build an indoor recreation center.

Grauer and Royer said the library board will determine in September if it will raise the mill levy for repayment of bonds issued in 2007 to construct the library. That mill levy is separate from the mill levy for operating expenses.

Voters already approved that property tax to repay the bonds. The library board has the power to raise or lower that mill levy as property valuations change.

scondon@aspentimes.com