A library is more than a place to borrow a free book. It is a vital civic space for people to meet and have conversations, study, hang out with friends, and engage in fun, educational activities and cultural experiences. It is evident from increased usage and requests for expanded programming that the community values its public libraries.
The Boulder Public Library’s 2018 Library Master Plan revealed that without sustainable funding, it is estimated that library funding will fall short by at least $3.2 million every year due to the community’s increased library use and requests for expanded services. This estimated shortfall does not include the $1.4 million in budget reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, $800,000 of which has not been restored.
In the plan, the Library Commission unanimously recommended creating a library district as the most “fair and equitable” way to sustainably fund the public library, leading to an improved ability to meet current community needs and plan for the future.
For the past six years, the Library Commission, City Council and City staff have built on a public discussion exploring numerous ways to adequately fund the library, including finding revenue streams beyond sales taxes as the primary source of library funding.
- Background memos to council
- May 18, 2021 Boulder City Council voted unanimously in favor of beginning the work of forming a library district.
- April 5, 2022 City Council and the Boulder Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) held a joint public hearing to create a library district by resolution. City Council adopted the resolution.
- April 21, 2022 BOCC voted not to adopt a resolution to form a Library District.
- May 31, 2022 Boulder County Clerk & Recorders Office certified a petition by the Boulder Library Champions to form a library district serving the City of Boulder and the surrounding unincorporated Boulder County areas.
- July 14, 2022 City Council voted 6-3 to pass a resolution indicating their support of the City of Boulder’s participation in the proposed library district.
- August 16, 2022 BOCC approved the November 2022 ballot language and title.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a library district?
A library district is a political subdivision of the state, created by one or more governmental entities and governed by a Board of Trustees appointed by these entities. Dedicated property tax revenues fund the library district and voters within the district boundaries must approve any new or increased taxes.
It is the most common form of governance for public libraries within the State of Colorado and for communities similar in size to Boulder, with 56 district libraries throughout the state. Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Arapahoe and Adams County, Greeley and Fort Collins have formed library districts.
What services would the new library district offer?
The 2018 Library Master Plan and subsequent budget requests outline the following services:
- Address facilities maintenance backlog
- Restore library hours to pre-pandemic levels
- Restore staff position for the Carnegie Library for Local History and resume open hours
- Increase staff for the Canyon Theater to resume programs and rentals
- Restore staff positions for the BoulderReads family literacy program and expand the program
- Restore staff positions for BLDG61 Makerspace and resume programs
- Fully fund construction and staff for the new North Boulder Branch Library
- Open a Gunbarrel Corner Library
- Expand early literacy and outreach programs to Latinx community members
What areas would the proposed library district cover?
Visit the interactive map of the proposed library district for district boundaries and tax amounts.
How much will my property taxes increase if voters approve the library district in the November 2022 election?
The property tax increase amount depends on the mill rate, also called the mill levy. The mill rate in the ballot measure is 3.5 mills. Community members can calculate property tax estimates on the Boulder County Assessor website or by using this interactive map.
How can a library district be formed?
There are two ways that a library district can be formed.
One way is if one or more governmental entities adopt a resolution to form a library district.
Another way to form a library district is through a petition signed by a minimum of 100 electors in the proposed library district service area boundary. The petition defines the mill levy and service area boundary to be written into the ballot item.
In either option, final approval for the district formation must come from voter approval through an election.
The establishing entities and library district representatives then negotiate an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that sets forth the rights, obligations, and responsibilities, financial and otherwise, of all parties. This includes details on funding and the transfer of property and employees.
The establishing entities for the petition-proposed Boulder Public Library District are Boulder County and the City of Boulder.
What is the Board of Trustees?
Trustees are residents from the library’s legal service area who are appointed to serve and govern the library district. Their powers and duties are detailed in Colorado Library Law (CRS 24-90-109) and include:
- Adopt Board of Trustee bylaws, rules and regulations
- Have custody of all property of the library
- Employ the Library Director
- Adopt an annual budget and make appropriations
- Accept gifts of money or property for the library
- Hold and acquire land by gift, lease or purchase for the library
- Borrow funds and enter into contracts for library purposes
- Submit an annual report to the establishing entities and the state library
How is the Board of Trustees established?
The board is established according to the Colorado Library Law (CRS 24-90-108). If voters approve a library district, a committee with members from each establishing entity (City Council and the Board of County Commissioners) selects the first trustees.
First, the establishing entities decide if there will be five, six or seven trustees in total. Then, the committee recommends trustees chosen from the residents within the legal service area of the library.
Finally, trustees are appointed by ratification of a two-thirds majority vote from City Council and the Board of County Commissioners.
What happens if there is a vacancy on the Board of Trustees?
The establishing entities and the library district, represented by the Board of Trustees, must agree on one of two options from the Colorado Library Law (CRS 24-90-108) to fill vacancies: either the board recommends new trustees or a committee with members from the establishing entities recommends new trustees.
In both cases, trustees are appointed by ratification of a two-thirds majority vote from each establishing entity. If either City Council or the Board of County Commissioners fails to act within sixty days of receiving a recommendation from the committee, the trustee recommended by the committee will be considered appointed to fill the vacancy.
What does the intergovernmental agreement include?
The Colorado Library Law (CRS 24-90-107) states that if voters approve a petition-proposed library district, involved parties must negotiate an intergovernmental agreement (IGA). This legal agreement between the establishing entities and the library district would include the rights and responsibilities of the involved groups regarding:
- The transition from the library to a library district, such as:
- Ownership of real property (such as land and facilities) and personal property (such as furniture, books, computer equipment, etc.)
- Transfer of staff
- Provision of administrative services during the transition
- Financing of library operations during the transition
- The method of trustee selection
- Other necessary terms and conditions as may be determined by the establishing entities and the district
What makes up the library’s current budget?
The Boulder Public Library annual budget is funded by multiple sources within the city’s financial structure.
2022 Operating Funds
- Eighty-four percent from the city’s General Fund revenues, which are a combination of sales and use tax, property tax, and fees collected in Boulder.
- Twelve percent from a 0.333 mill property tax dedicated to the library
- Four percent from library department revenues including grants, such as the $250,000 annual grant from the Boulder Library Foundation to support library programs, proceeds from the library book shop, book sales, and printing and photocopying revenue.
One-time Capital Project Funds
- Development Excise Tax (DET) and Impact Fees collected for the library
- Community, Culture, and Safety Sales Tax revenues
- General Fund Government Capital Fund
- Library Fund
The Boulder Library Foundation generously funds over 90% of all BPL programs, as well as unique opportunities, like covering the start-up costs of the BLDG 61 Makerspace (including specialized machinery, tools and supplies). Since 1974, the Boulder Library Foundation has been bringing people together to ensure BPL can continue offering meaningful educational programs for the community. Learn more and please consider donating on their website.
Who pays for library services?
City of Boulder residential and commercial property owners support the library through their General Fund property taxes and the 0.3333 mill of city property tax dedicated to the library. Additionally, any person who purchases a taxable product that is picked up or delivered inside the Boulder city limits helps support the library.
Any person who purchases products within Boulder city limits but has them delivered to an address outside the city does not pay city sales tax. Any person who purchases products online and has them delivered to an address outside the city also does not pay city sales tax.
What are the library’s funding needs?
The graph below shows the library’s operating budget since 2002:
In July 2018, City Council reviewed initial funding needs and requested a balanced and impartial analysis of funding options for each of the 2018 Boulder Public Library Master Plan service levels.
The financial analysis presented to Council in November 2018 showed that funding the master plan goals would be a significant investment, estimated as an increase of between $3.3 million to $6.1 million in annual operating funding depending on the service level desired.
The Council-approved 2022 library budget funds most of the Maintain Service Levels goals is $10.3 million ($9.1 million for operating and $1.2 million for capital expenditures for the North Boulder Branch Library), which does not include restoring the $800,000 in budget reductions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2022 budget funds most of the Maintain Service Levels goals.
What are the Boulder Public Library Master Plan service levels?
One of the primary goals of the 2018 Boulder Public Library Master Plan is to obtain secure, stable, and adequate funding for the library. Master plan goals are categorized into three service levels.
Maintain Service Levels (Fiscally Constrained Plan)
Primary goal: Continue to make the most of existing resources and make essential operational changes that require limited funding to accomplish.
- Add staff, operation and maintenance budget to maintain current service levels.
- Incrementally fund the facilities maintenance backlog.
- Provide one-time funding for a Main Library north building renovation feasibility study and modest reconfigurations.
Meet Community Demand (Action Plan)
Primary goal: Strategically enhance existing programs, begin new alternative programs and address unaccomplished 2007 Library Master Plan vision plan goals.
- Open a North Boulder (NoBo) branch library.
- Expand youth programs at branch libraries.
- Increase library materials budget.
- Hire additional staff system-wide to meet demand.
Service Expansion (Vision Plan)
Primary goal: Based upon community input, implement new programs and expand services and facilities.
- Open a Gunbarrel corner library.
- Add staff for a Gunbarrel corner library and system-wide outreach programs.
- Add support staff to activate community use of the Main Library Canyon Theater.
- For a comprehensive list, please view the 2018 Master Plan.
Library District Advisory Committee
City Council reviewed input from a Library District Advisory Committee (LDAC) with members who resided within the proposed district boundaries. The LDAC met twice per month from October 2021 through January 2022. Committee members included:
- Alicia Seidle
- Annette Dula
- Cara Schenkel
- Chip [no surname]
- Deborah Read Fowler
- Jane Sykes Wilson
- Joanna Rosenblum
- Joni Teter
- Kevin Miller
- Michelle Denae Garcia-Morrissey
- Miho Shida
- Peter Pollock
Committee members were evaluated and selected based on experience, interests, skills, and equity. Those selected represent business owners, renters, property owners, various age ranges, races and incomes.
The LDAC submitted recommendations which City Council discussed during the Feb. 8, 2022 study session.