This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

August 28, 2008 - board resolves to ask for mill levy increase

On August 21, 2008, the Library Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to place a mill levy increase question on the November ballot. That ballot will ask for voter approval for 1 (one) mill. 0.4 mills will be retired when the building projects are paid for -- which is estimated to take about 20 years. One mill is $7.96 per year on each $100,000 of home value.

What are the projects? A neighborhood library in Castle Pines (in leased space), a new Parker Library (on donated land), and a new Lone Tree Library (also on donated land). They would open in 2009, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch would also see some building improvements, as funds are available, but not later than 2012.

The proposal is different from last year's in three ways.

* It's cheaper. Our public feedback revealed a lot of concern about the economy. We heard you. Despite rising construction costs, we lowered the anticipated expense by scaling back the projects, and phasing in their construction. The library has always taken an aggressively conservative approach to public expenditures.

* Part of it sunsets. When the capital is paid off, that part of the mill levy -- 0.4 -- goes away. The rest will be used to operate the expanded facilities.

* It's urgent. Last year, our planning was far enough out that no big changes were immediately necessary if we failed to address district demand. That's changed. For one thing, the promise of donated land in Lone Tree -- a significant savings for all -- will be withdrawn if the voters turn down our proposal again.

For another, the inequities of service across the county are becoming more pronounced. In the 12 years since our last tax increase, the county has not grown equally. Today, Parker has a library half the size of the library in Castle Rock, but serves a population almost twice as large. Castle Pines has no library at all. Lone Tree has quite a beautiful building, but soon will serve an area far beyond its capacity.

Trustees represent the entire county. If the voters want us to live within our existing revenues, then we'll have to redistribute the resources more fairly, diminishing some services across the county to invest in necessary infrastructure. That's painful and disruptive. And, I hope, it is also unnecessary.

As I've always said to my staff, crisis planning is a sign of bad management. It can be averted through sound planning. Averting a crisis is precisely what we're hoping to do. The increased cost for most households will be about the cost of one hardback book per year.

A copy of the Board resolution, and the complex ballot language (don't blame us -- there's not a lot of leeway in how we have to ask for things) can be found at DouglasCountyLibraries.org.

Many thanks to all of you who took the time to give encouragement, criticism, and thoughtful input to the Board's decision. The Trustees are an extraordinarily diligent group of people, and invested hours of their volunteer time to address community needs in the most responsive way.

Ultimately, the library isn't mine, isn't the staff's, isn't even the Board's. It's yours. You have a choice about its future, and its ability to serve you.

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