Pitkin County Library budget reflects a 1.5 percent tax hike
December 2, 2009
ASPEN – The Pitkin County Library plans to provide some property tax relief next year, taking in an additional $46,000 in revenue while foregoing another $120,000, according to a proposed budget presented Tuesday to Pitkin County commissioners.
The library district’s existing 1.148 mill levy would generate $166,000 in additional revenues next year. Instead, the levy will drop somewhat to cap additional tax revenue at $46,000 more than the $2.9 million the library took in this year – a 1.5 percent increase that sparked spirited debate among the three commissioners present at the discussion.
Rather than take in additional property tax revenue, two commissioners suggested the library instead hike its late fee – 10 cents per day with a $5 maximum – which has been in place since 1968.
Librarian Kathy Chandler was not enthusiastic.
“The last thing we want to do is discourage use of the library,” she said, likening the late fee to a parking ticket. “It just makes you so mad.”
The library takes in about $18,000 in late fees annually, she said.
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The additional $46,000 in revenue would translate to $1 in taxes per $1 million of actual value for a Pitkin County residential property, noted Tom Oken, county treasurer.
“This is really immaterial, I think,” he said.
Capital expenses at the library this year – boiler replacement, roof work and window resealing – pretty much ate through its budget reserves, triggering the proposal to increase its property tax revenues by 1.5 percent next year, according to Chandler. A $16,000 swamp cooler replacement will come out of the added funds in 2010, she said.
Commissioner Jack Hatfield opposed the tax increase, given the current economic climate.
“It’s a philosophical question before us,” he said. “I don’t see the library cutting back. I don’t see them tightening their belts – finding ways to save money.”
“In these hard economic times, people go to the library,” Commissioner Michael Owsley responded. “Belt tightening occurs at the library because it allows you to have a free book.”
The library is “mentally prepared” to cut staff if it becomes necessary, Chandler said, expressing hope such cutbacks could occur through attrition rather than layoffs.
Ultimately, both Owsley and Commissioner George Newman said they’d support the increase in tax revenues for the library. Commissioners Rachel Richards and Patti Clapper were absent.