Library ballot questions finalized
Tax impact to local property owners estimated
Originally published 2011-09-08
The official numbers are in, and the proposed tax impact for local property owners is slightly less than what library leaders originally estimated.
The Gunnison County Library District is forwarding two questions to voters on November’s ballot — one to pay for capital improvements in Gunnison and Crested Butte, and the second of which would provide operating and maintenance revenues for the new facilities.
Library board leaders certified ballot language for the proposals late last month.
The first of the two ballot questions proposes up to 3.5 mills per year for operating and maintenance costs. However, should the measure pass, the district plans to utilize only 1 mill in 2012, generating about $691,000 in new revenue.
The second question asks for a property tax increase of about $591,000 annually to repay the issuance of $6.5 million in general obligation bonds over 20 years.
Combined, the two measures would equate to about $13.35 annually on property tax bills next year per $100,000 of residential value — or more than three times that for commercial property or vacant land.
Originally, library officials estimated that the tax burden would be nearly twice that. But Library District Board President Bruce Bartleson said this week in a prepared statement that the lower tax impact is due to careful budgeting by the district, the fact that interest rates are at historic lows and a decrease in the total assessed valuation of all county property.
“We are attempting to be as cost effective as possible as we plan for library facilities and services that will meet the needs of our county now and far into the future,” he said.
While 3.5 mills is being requested for operations and maintenance of the new facilities, district Executive Director Larry Meredith said that the board does not want to be forced to go before voters again in coming years to ask for an additional tax increase.
“For example, if property value continues to drop — we hope that it doesn’t — then the value of a mill decreases,” he explained. “Our estimates are that if we continue to be frugal, to operate on a level that’s appropriate and not extravagant, and do some private fundraising, then we should be able to stay in that one-to-two mill range.”
Meredith said that “for several years” the Library District does not envision needing to utilize more than 1.5 mills.
The proposed projects
The current Ann Zugelder Library in Gunnison is about 5,000 square feet. A new building — on a donated site near the city’s Van Tuyl Ranch — is proposed to be 18,000 square feet, at an estimated cost of about $6 million.
“That seems like an enormous increase (in space), but the library part of it is only about two-thirds of the building,” said Meredith.
The rest would be staff work space, storage and public meeting rooms.
“One of our priorities is going to be children and youth (programming) over the next several years,” said Meredith.
In Crested Butte, the current 3,000 square foot Old Rock Library is in dire need of space for children’s programming, he said.
Approval has already been granted through the town for a 1,200-square-foot “annex” — a building built adjacent to the current library — for children’s programming. The project — estimated to cost about $1.3 million — would also include some work in the interior of Old Rock to re-purpose existing space.
A gift of $900,000 from the estate of life-long Gunnison rancher Ray Van Tuyl is being rolled into financing the projects.
Meredith said that architectural work for the envisioned facilities is mostly complete — work for which the district is paying. But the bond underwriter and attorneys only are paid if and when the issues pass, he said.
What happens if one question passes but the other doesn’t?
Meredith said that plans entail “sitting on” the successful measure.
“We can’t operate a building without operating funds and we can’t build a building that we can’t operate,” he said.
The district currently receives about $700,000 annually from the county for operations.
That revenue is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, which Meredith said has allowed the district to only ask for what he views as a modest operating revenue increase for the new facilities.
Library leaders are currently making the rounds to local elected bodies in an attempt to gain support for their proposals. Tuesday, the Gunnison County Commissioners voted to pass a resolution supporting the ballot questions.
Meredith indicated that the Town of Crested Butte had done the same, and the Town of Mt. Crested Butte is expected to follow suit.
Gunnison City Council required a little more urging this week.
In recent years, council has opted to remain neutral on local property tax-related ballot measures — instead urging voters to inform themselves about pending proposals.
However, this time around, the majority of councilors favored a resolution supporting the Library District’s ballot questions. They are expected to pass such a resolution next week.
“For me, one of the reasons we’re elected is that people look to us to be leaders,” said Mayor Jonathan Houck.
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)