Longmont City Councilman Tim Waters says the city has “got to build an understanding” of the Longmont Public Library’s importance to the community.
Waters spoke at the conclusion of a Tuesday night staff preview of a consultant’s preliminary findings from a study of the adequacy of the current library’s size and funding.
Waters noted that the consulting firm and city staff have concluded in that still-being-completed preliminary report that the Longmont Public Library is too small a facility to serve the city’s current population and Longnont’s projected growth, and that it is under-funded in comparison with other Colorado public libraries.
“The current library building is about 51,000 square feet, built for a population of up to 68,000,” Longmont Community Services Director Karen Roney said last week. “Using multiple formulas, the consultants have estimated that the Library should be in the 80,000 to 85,000 square foot range now, and in the 95,000 to 100,000 square foot range as Longmont is built out in the future.”
Library Director Nancy Kerr told Council Tuesday night that the average per capita funding of Colorado libraries is about $46 per person, while Longnont city budget funding for its library is about $38 per person.
As part of the overall $371.78 million overall municipal budget being proposed for 2021, Longmont’s city administration has recommended a $3.79 million operating budget for the Community Services Department’s Library Division next year, up from the $3.76 million originally budgeted for that division for 2020 — a “minimal increase,” Roney told Council Tuesday night.
Waters, the council’s liaison to the Library Board, a council-appointed city advisory panel, said Longmont’s library is “underbuilt” by about 30,000 square feet and “underfunded” by at least $800,000 a year.
As far as substantially increasing next year’s Library Services Division appropriation in next year’s overall city budget, “we’re not going to squeeze it out” of the revenues Longmont expects to receive to help fund total expenses for city programs, services and projects in 2021, Waters said, or in foreseeable future budget years beyond 2021.
He said that at some point, the city may decide to give voters the ability to weigh in on how to provide the future funding needed for what he said would be “a 21st century library and library system in Longmont.”
One possibility that has been mentioned for such a ballot issue would ask voters to authorize the city to charge a new sales tax, with revenues dedicated exclusively for the library. Another option night be to seek voters’ approval of creating a special tax-supported library district whose costs and operations would be separate from Longmont city government and city budgets.
No other council members commented Tuesday night about the staff’s study-session presentation of highlights of the preliminary report from the consultant, Indiana-based Kimberly Bolan and Associates. Staff has said it has been working on a final version of that preliminary report and expects to deliver the full preliminary report to council later this fall.