Taxing Library Issues
The Santa Clarita City Council voted unanimously to adopt a resolution Tuesday night to not levy the voter-approved special tax dedicated to fund library services, effective Fiscal Year 2011-12.
The Library Ad Hoc Committee and staff determined that levying and collecting the special library tax approved by City of Santa Clarita voters in 1997 is not needed to operate the Santa Clarita Public Library to implement all of the planned service improvements and to repay all public library start-up costs within ten years.
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Those improvements include:
- Increasing the operating hours of the Canyon Country and Newhall libraries by 10 hours each week.
- Opening the Canyon Country and Newhall libraries on Sunday.
- Enhancing the local collections of library materials by increasing the budget.
- Increasing the number of titles available by nearly 90,000 titles through participation in the Inland Library Network partnership of 8 independent library systems.
- Implementing new customer service technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID)
- Building and fully staffing and stocking library materials the new library in Old Town Newhall.
In regards to the above mentioned RFID, the City Council approved a contract with Integrated Tech Group in the amount of $312,112 for the purchase, installation, and integration of a new Radio Frequency Identification check-out and security system.
A 10% contingency cost added to the contract, plus $45,000 dollars needed for a Public Computer reservation system brings the cost total to $338,323.
Members of the public decried the hit to the general fund which could be better spent elsewhere and called the forthcoming facility in Newhall a 19th century library that will be obsolete before it’s paid for.
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE
In related library news, wresting control of the libraries from the county necessitated the appointment of a five member board of library trustees to manage the new Santa Clarita Public Library.
The City Council was given the responsibility of making the appointments and chose – themselves.
Despite calls from the public to appoint an independent body, City Attorney Joe Montes assured the City Council that there was no prohibition in Education Code and that many cities follow a similar path. He added that the trustees could earn a $50 per diem for library business, however, staff recommended they not accept.
Councilmember Bob Kellar, obviously uncomfortable with the self appointment, said, “The situation begs for the community to staff this rather than the council.” He stated it would create transparency.
Mayor Marsha McLean defended the action saying the council wanted to make sure their promises to the city were followed through.
The council agreed to revisit the issue and would look at transitioning to a public board of trustees on July 1, 2012, after the libraries have been up and running for a year.
The motion was approved unanimously.