City Council Tuesday night asked for new ideas on who to fund needed facilities and projects in Longmont, including a library that has fallen behind in several key areas in serving the public.
Council members, during a work session, directed staff members to list priorities of city needs that all could be tied together for funding through a “quality of life” general sales tax increase.
The list would include a list of needs that would not pit one project against another one for funding, councilors said. “We could bring back a package of acknowledged needs to avoid winners and losers,” Council Tim Waters said. “We wouldn’t pit the library against the museum…I think that is a smart approach.”
“We want a list of various options…and innovative ways” to fund each, Mayor Joan Peck said. “What we are doing now is insufficient.”
City Manager Harold Dominguez told the councilors the city should also learn to better market funding needs to the public, pointing to the failed 2019 ballot issue that proposed a sales tax increase to finance a new indoor aquatics center and ice rink in Longmont.
Councilors reviewed a report by Sieger Consulting which studied and compared peer libraries in Colorado in order to estimate how much increased funding the library needs today, the staff report states.
The consultants say that since 2010, when normalized for inflation, library expenditures have been decreasing. The library has had to maintain its current level of service with fewer and fewer resources while the cost of service has increased, the report states.
The 51,000-square-foot library was opened in 1993 to accommodate a population of about 68,000. Longmont is now on track to post a population of 100,000, consultant Annie Sieger told the council.
While the population is going up, the library has been stagnant when it comes to funding, Sieger told the council.
“The library staff in real numbers have gone down while demand has gone up,” Sieger said. She credited library staff members with keeping the library relevant despite budgetary constraints.
“The library has done a lot more with less,” Sieger said.
The consultant stopped short of advising the city to form a separate library district to help library funding. Several speakers, who spoke up during Tuesday night’s public invited to be heard, said forming the district is the best route to boost funding.
“You (the city council) have demonstrated that funding the library is not a priority,” Warren Wang said.