Following Tuesday's decision by the City Council of Santa Clarita to acquire the libraries within its jurisdiction, staff is set to officially notify the County of Los Angeles of the move and execute its contract with Library Systems and Services, the Maryland-based company likely to manage the City libraries.
According to Deputy City Manager Darren Hernandez, the City can then begin working with the County Library to finalize the transition plan, whereupon the City will purchase facilities and collections.
Before voting at Tuesday’s meeting, City Council heard detailed presentations from all parties involved.
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Among the representatives were Hernandez, Los Angeles County Librarian Margaret Donnelan Todd and Robert Windrow, LSSI Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
All presenters used facts and figures to state their cases, sometimes projecting tables and charts on the large screen for all to see.
And while both Hernandez and Todd cited similar data for the City libraries’ past operating costs, total revenue and the its subsidizing of other County Libraries, their comments on what would become of the special library tax clashed.
In 1997, the Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles drafted a resolution that would levy a special library tax of $22 per parcel on properties within an “Enhanced Service Area.” This area included several of the County’s incorporated cities, as well as all of its unincorporated area, excluding the unincorporated area located within the boundaries of the Altadena and Palos Verdes library districts.
In June of 1997, voters from the City of Santa Clarita passed the resolution by approximately 71 percent.
Since its adoption, revenue from this tax has been coupled with residents’ standard library property tax and sent to the County Library.
As for the special library tax, however, money collected from it can only be used to fund libraries within the Enhanced Service Area, which includes the City.
With the City voting to pull from the County Library system, it will acquire the revenue from the library property tax paid by City residents. While there was speculation as to whether or not this money could be used for different City services, the Education Code maintains that it can only be distributed among Santa Clarita's libraries.
However, whether Santa Clarita residents will continue to pay the 1997 library tax following Tuesday’s vote is up to City Council.
“City Council will decide if it wants to continue the tax,” said Hernandez. “The decision to levy any tax or fee or assessment is made by Council annually.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the County Librarian stood if front of City Council and drew from the original resolution, stating that Santa Clarita would no longer be able to use the special library tax collected by the County.
“What (the resolution’s) language does is prevent the County of Los Angeles from continuing to collect this special tax from an area which it no longer serves. It prevents the County Board of Supervisors from doing so,” said Hernandez.
“It does not prevent a city from levying the tax.”
According to Hernandez, the City might not be able to contribute as much to the facilities if the special tax was not collected.
The library property tax could finance library operations, but the building and maintenance of the libraries would likely require the special tax, Hernandez said.
“It would likely be the recommendation of staff to Council to levy the tax that was approved by the voters for library purposes,” said Hernandez.
“But staff can never assume or presuppose what Council will do.”