Jeffco libraries' tax rate increase on November ballot

Jeffco libraries say funding needed to restore services and upgrade

Posted 8/30/15

Jefferson County residents can help extend Jeffco public library hours, pay for more books and materials, update Internet access and technology and, essentially, secure the future of the the county's library system.

To do that, library officials …

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Jeffco libraries' tax rate increase on November ballot

Jeffco libraries say funding needed to restore services and upgrade

Posted

Jefferson County residents can help extend Jeffco public library hours, pay for more books and materials, update Internet access and technology and, essentially, secure the future of the the county's library system.

To do that, library officials say, Jefferson County residents need to approve an increase in the library's mill levy to a maximum of 4.5 mills from 3.5 mills. That means Jeffco homeowners would pay about 67 cents more a month for every $100,000 of home value, said the libraries' executive director, Pam Nissler.

“It has become clear to us that we can no longer deliver 21st-century library services on a 20th-century budget,” said Ray Elliott, chair of the Library Board of Trustees, in a media release.

The board recommended the increase, the first since 1986.

The Jefferson County Public Library network has more registered card holders than Douglas and Arapahoe counties, said Rebecca Winning, the libraries' director of communications. And Jeffco libraries wants to offer its patrons the same level of services as neighboring county libraries.

Marketplace studies of Jeffco libraries and surrounding counties indicated Jeffco libraries “weren't able to provide the needs and level of services people desire,” said Rebecca Winning, the libraries' communications director.

The library interviewed and surveyed more than 5,000 Jeffco residents to find out what they would support. Pam Nissler, executive director of Jeffco libraries, said 62 percent supported the increase.

With the exception of the Golden library that opened in the summer after a remodel, made possible by a contribution from the City of Golden, the Jeffco library network also faces about $14 million in unmet needs for facility projects. Those needs include carpeting, sealing windows and replacing furnishings to provide patrons a welcoming atmosphere.

Since the last mill-levy increase in 1986, the libraries serve 240,000 more cardholders, host 1.6 million more visits and circulate 6.1 million more items, Elliott said.

But because of tight budgets, library hours of operation have been reduced twice since 2008, Winning said. “We get a lot of feedback that the library hours are a huge problem. When the hours are expanded, it will provide more access to all the libraries.”

Jeffco libraries also don't have as many books per capita of library patrons when compared to neighboring county libraries, Nissler said. In addition, those libraries offer more up-to-date technology.

“People look to us to learn more about emerging technology,” Nissler said, so it's important to be able to keep up. “We want to offer people computers that are state-of-the-art.”

Library officials say they plan to address all issues within five years of the increase being approved, Winning said.

“We felt going for the mill levy was our best option,” she said. "The libraries face some high priorities. We can't address them without additional monies.”

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