Shay Castle Profile picture
Mar 16 91 tweets 11 min read
OK, the library district. Feels like the 800th time we've talked about this over the last 3.5 years.…
Here's where we are right now: Council is (most likely) going to vote to form a district on paper. (Probably) in the fall, voters will weigh a tax to fund it.

What we're working on now is how the district and city will work together, assuming it gets formed and funded.
This is something called an IGA, or intergovernmental agreement. (I should add that to the Local Gov't 101…
There are really 3 sticking points here:
- Buildings
- Board of trustees
- Dissolution of district (assuming voters don't OK a tax)
Buildings: There are 4 branches we're dealing with here that the city owns
- Main
- NoBo (still being built)
- Carnegie
- George Reynolds
And there are 3 options for dealing with ownership of these buildings

Option 1: Lease to the district
Pros & cons
- Many templates for this with other facilities
- Leases need re-approved every 20-30 years
- City would need to approve any modifications to buildings
I didn't label those as either pros or cons. Staff called them "considerations" which is a really great way to do it.
Option 2: Transfer ownership of buildings AND land to the district
- Would allow district to maintain buildings as it sees fit, rather than getting approvals from city
- Would also allow ability to use them as collateral and/or as a source of funding
- It would also give the district the ability to "dictate the geographic distribution and diversity of services and facilities through the sale of property"

That is, they could decide where branches should go, and if they were needed (or not) in the future.
This may seem silly to consider, but I think the library is planning for 100, 150 years in the future, knowing we have no idea what the area and its population may look like in the future.
Option 3: Building transfers, but not land
- City responsible for maintaining the land

Staff recommendation: Building and land transfer for every branch except Main, which would be a land lease but transfer of building, all for no or low cost
Right of first refusal clause could be written if district wants to sell buildings in the future, and/or a right of reverter so if they are no longer used for library purposes, they are returned to the city
Staff made sure to note that this was the recommendation of folks from multiple dept, not just the library. (Attorney, facilities, etc.)
OK, issue No. 2 is the governing board of the library

Option 1: Council, commission members appoint in perpetuity

Option 2: Council, commission members appoint initial board, board appoints subsequent members that are then ratified by council, commissioners
No staff recommendation on that one, that I saw
Issue No. 3: Dissolution

This is an issue bc if voters turn down a tax to fund the district, it ceases to exist. Standard procedure is to have 3 attempts to pass the tax. Some council members felt that, if the voters said no to a tax, why should the library keep asking?
Option 1: Council can define how many attempts on on what years they can be made

Option 2: Set an end date for when the tax must be passed by

Staff recommends option 2, which gives library board flexibility to decide
I should note that, when we're talking about trustees, those will be appointed by 2 members of council and 2 BoCo commissioners, and then approved by 2/3 of the respective bodies.
Council and the commissioners will have a (virtual) joint meeting April 5 to approve whatever terms council decides on tonight, which will then officially create a library district.
Also... I think I need to correct an earlier tweet. I think state law says that the district has 3 years to pass a funding tax or it ceases to exist.

I remember the number 3, but I can't remember if it's time or numbers of tries. My apologies! I'll look through my notes.
4 years of notes...
Benjamin asks about what other districts/cities have done (there are ~57 districts in Colorado)

Here's a table, but of course that only includes a few.
It's all over the map, says David Farnan, library director. "This is a policy decision" for council.
Wallach Sigh-O-Meter: 1
How many other districts had buildings/land worth as much as Boulder's? Wallach asks.

Farnan: We didn't include value in our analysis.
I suppose one consideration for the city is that it loses the ability to borrow $$ against the libraries (using them as collateral). I believe the city is about maxed out on that, but of course it won't always be.
Winer: Why would we not lease? What was on your minds, you who decided this was the best way?

Farnan: I wasn't really in on it.
David Gehr was! He retired but came back to help out in the Planning Dept.

"For better or worse, this is kind of like a divorce. If we're going to do a library district, we're going to do our best to set it up for success."
I don't think most divorces have that as a value, Dave.
Gehr: We wanted to set it up in a way that would "reduce the entanglements." That's why we're recommended a land lease for only the Main library, bc it's part of the municipal campus. It's too entangled. The others aren't, and we wanted the library to be responsible for them.
Chris Meschuk: We have leases with other nonprofits (Dairy Arts Center, BMoCA) but they're a little bit dif than this situation. That's a nonprofit providing a service. The library district is another gov't with guaranteed revenue; we wouldn't be subsidizing them.
Brockett: "Idk if this is a divorce. It's setting up a child in their own home."
Folkerts: What did we hear from other communities about how their respective agreements are working out for them?
Gehr: We didn't solicit that, but we did get advice around older buildings, like Carnegie, which have special considerations.
Another consideration, Gehr says, is that we can only do leases for 20-30 years. Which, when it comes to libraries, isn't a long time. And it impacts what maintenance or upgrades they want to do.
Friend: We've gotten a lot of emails lately like, 'why are we looking at a library district? What are the benefits?' Can we hear some of those?
"There's some belief this is an asinine thing to consider and keep talking about," Friend says.
Farnan: There has been a conversation on this topic going well beyond a couple decades. I have notes on my desk from the 90s; this was in the 2008 master plan, when I first started working at the city.
From Farnan:
- Library districts are the most common form of governance in CO
- Provides stable revenue
"The conclusion the Library Commission drew is that library districts tend to grow financially with their communities," Farnan says.
"It's the process by which 13 of the 14 larger communities in Colorado" actively have or are considering, Farnan says.
Friend: " I do think a big part of my job is to protect city assets and not give away the farm. What do you see as worst case scenario? What's the worst thing that can happen if we transfer" these buildings?
"What do you see as realistic cons? Leasing seems like the least risky option." Friend says.

Gehr: You're correct. That is the least risky option. The "doomsday scenario" is the library district would fail, they'd have leveraged the building and they'd be foreclosed.
But the revenue source is property tax, Gehr says, which is "one of the most stable sources of revenue in Colorado."

"The risks I just described are pretty out there."
Farnan: My worst case is that you transfer the buildings to the library, then there's a massive flood and now the library district is responsible for that huge loss.
Friend: Can we lease them for, like, 5 years, and if the district is going well, then we can transfer the ownership?
Gehr: Yes. Some districts have done that.
Speer: "What is compelling to me is ... the benefit that the library district would have having their own buildings, being able to take out loans. My main motivation is how we can ensure the best chances of success."
Farnan going over the plans a library district has that aren't on the table with current city funding, including:
- Niwot & Gunbarrel branches
- Reopening the Canyon theater
- Reopening the Carnegie library
- Rehiring, buying more books
- More programming at maker space, etc.
Plus getting on top of the backlog in maintenance.

There's a list; I'll include it in the eventual story about the district tax. Idk why we're even talking about it right now!!! This is for voters to decide.
"Those aren't massive stretch goals. They are focused on taking care of what we already have," Farnan says. (Although he says one "stretch" goal is to reopen the Canyon Theater.... which we already have but can't afford to staff/use)
Yates: I am unlikely to support formation of the district on April 5. But I do want to make the IGA better.
Doesn't want to transfer buildings bc it's too risky. Gov't can and do go bankrupt, Yates says.
"I would be in favor of a $1/yr lease," Yates says.
Brockett: I think the library could be successful with either a lease or owning the buildings, so I'm going to go with the will of council.
Friend: I would go with a lease. It's the less risky option and I haven't heard strong advocacy on this from folks who also support a library district.
After we get a community understanding of how the district is going, Friend says, we can revisit and possibly transfer the buildings.
Wallach also favors a lease. "All that a commercial lease does in the end is say we expect you to maintain the property up to a certain standard."
"I've done too many of these (as a lawyer) to buy into that theory" that leases are somehow burdensome to the tenant, Wallach says. You can write whatever terms you want into the lease.
Folkerts supports a lease for the Main library, but transferring ownership for the other branches. "While leases can be made clear, there is nothing as crystal clear as ownership for who is responsible."
"It's just good to have total clarity around who is responsible for all the pieces," Folkerts says.
Speer also supports a lease for the main branch and ownership for the others.
Benjamin, too.
Winer agrees with Friend, which is leasing all the branches.
Sorry, that's what Friend and Winer are supporting.
Gehr: "We don't have to decide this tonight." We're trying to get consensus. "There is still time to continue to talk about this."

Oh, goody. More talking!
I'm sorry, but I have just covered this so. much. Let's get to the vote already!
Moving on to the other 2 issues of the library district, even tho we really didn't settle the first: Trustees and how long/often the district should be allowed to ask voters for $$ to form.
Yates prefers that council/commissioners appoint library trustees forever, rather than just the first board and then only OKing appointments in the future.
If that's confusing, it's bc council would still have a say no matter what. It's just making appointments vs approving appointments that someone else made. That's how they did it with the Police Oversight Panel.
Speer and Winer are in favor of just ratifying the library board's appointments.

"I would visualize that the library folks know who was best for the library," Winer says, "rather than it becoming political."
Wallach is with Yates: It's gonna be council who is ultimately responsible, so we might as well bite the bullet and appoint trustees ourselves.
Friend: "I'm going to be completely honest about this. I don't care a ton about this."

Same, girl. Same.
She prefers council ratify the trustees rather than appoint, but will change her mind if BoCo commissioners feel strongly about it.
Folkerts and Benjamin also for that, so that's a majority.

We've tried to whittle down our micromanagement of other issues, Benjamin says, so we can focus on the larger questions. This is the same, to me.
Lastly: How many times should the district be allowed to try to pass a tax to fund itself? Reminder again that options are: Set an end date and leave it up to the district, or dictate how many times and when.
This is a good point to offer clarification: State law doesn't say how long/how many times a district can ask for a tax before it has to dissolve. My apologies for futzing that up.
Yates and Wallach: Many qs about why this should come back multiple times. We don't do this for any other tax.

Gehr: It's not a have to. It's simply that you allow it to.
That is true (RE: we don't do this for other taxes) but I can think of one example from my own history where this happened. My school district. They tried multiple times to raise $$ for a new school.... We had ~5 buildings across the district, most of them built in the 1930s
They didn't have AC, there was asbestos and no track facilities (not that we could use for meets, anyway) plus so many other issues. It took a couple tries bc voters were poor. And the need never went away. So they kept asking.
It passed, eventually. We moved into the new building in 2003.
Anyway, back to council...

Benjamin: There are many dimensions to this tax, and we can't suss them out in just one ballot question. What if ppl support the district, but not at the first amount we try? So the multiple tries serve a purpose.
(That's what happened with our school district, too.)
Winer: "You're setting a precedent" by allowing taxes to come back "over and over." Is OK with 2 attempts

The majority wants to pick an end date and then allow the library district itself to decide how many/when.
Now we choose expiration dates. Yay!
"Treating our district differently than every other district in Colorado" doesn't seem like the right thing to do, Speer says. Many districts have only passed a tax after multiple attempts.
One of my readers noted that taxes are often attempted multiple times other places... it's just that they pass the first time in Boulder. (Reminder: We haven't turned down a local tax since 2009.)…
That seems like a valid point to me, but I've only been a government reporter here so... idk. Anyone got a thought on that?
I *think* we landed at 2024 — that's when a district tax will have to pass, or the library district will dissolve.
How many tries the district gets, and when, will be up to them.
Next time we'll see this: April 5, for the joint hearing with the commissioners.

And then the vote to form a district is on April 7.
I'm sure those will be riveting meetings in which nothing old is rehashed and decisions are reached quickly.
Until then... I'm done.
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Mar 16
Quickly to our public hearing: Budget stuff…
This is a process called an adjustment to base. It's when the city has extra revenue or expenses that it didn't budget for ahead of time. (The current year's budget is worked on April-Oct and approved in Dec of the previous year.)
This adjustment is special, though, bc we've got all that $$ from the feds (ARPA), additional tax revenue from the CCS tax extension (OK'd by voters in Nov. 2021) and expenditures from the Marshall Fire and wind storm.
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And a 2-hr+ discussion on the library district. Council hashing out some key sticking points tonight for a potential future district.
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Now a report on traffic/street safety in #Boulder.…
So much to report here.... basically, aside from 2020 (an anomaly), the number of crashes overall has declined in recent years but the number of crashes resulting in severe injury and/or death has stayed fairly consistent.
Boulder does a Safe Streets Report every 3 years that looks at crashes and trends

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Mar 9
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Lots of interesting data in that one.
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Yes, I am still here. Next: When will council return to chambers for meetings? COVID transmission is still high but falling pretty quickly.…
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That would be for regular and special meetings only; study sessions would stay virtual.

And even in-person meetings would be hybrid, with some council members, staff and public able to participate remotely.
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