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6/18/2014 9:41:00 AM
User Fees? Supervisors discuss library district future
"I don't use the library. I get everything I want on the Internet." -- Supervisor Tom Thurman
On Point
The Yavapai County library network has 149,665 active library cardholders or 71 percent of the county population. Total circulation is 2.3 million items.
By Joanna Dodder Nellans
Contributing Reporter

COTTONWOOD - The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors had a long philosophical talk about the county's Library District Monday, including the idea of user fees.

They concluded it's too late to make any major changes for the coming budget year that starts July 1, however, so they will stick with the same library budget and continue to talk about library district changes.

During their annual budgeting process the supervisors have been considering a petition with about 600 signatures seeking a library in Paulden.

That unincorporated community isn't likely to get a library during the coming year because the supervisors didn't appropriate any extra money.

Supervisor Craig Brown, whose district includes Paulden, said Tuesday that the county will continue to pursue the use and renovation of the Paulden volunteer fire department building if it can get a lease or purchase for next to nothing. The fire department is no longer in operation after the community was annexed into the Chino Valley Fire District.

However, the county hasn't budgeted any money for Paulden library staff, Brown noted.

The Paulden petition led to Monday's broader discussion about the library district's finances. It runs mostly off a countywide property tax rate of 0.1491, a drop of 10 percent from the previous year. The supervisors cut the library and Flood Control property tax levies last year in order to increase the county's general fund levy and keep overall county taxes the same.

Arizona began allowing counties to create library districts in 1986, and Yavapai's was created the following year. Its property tax covers about $450,000 annually for the Yavapai Library Network that shares books and other resources throughout the county's 42 member libraries.

The members together pay about $175,000 annually for new technology and upgrades, Library District Director Barbara Kile explained.

Supervisor Chip Davis said he wants a lower library tax rate and he suggested ideas such as shorter library hours, more volunteers, and/or a revised cost-sharing formula between the district and its members.

The Library District also pays to operate 12 rural libraries, so its total annual budget is about $4.17 million and it has an $800,000 shortfall this year. The supervisors agreed to cover the shortfall with the remaining money in the district's contingency fund.

The entire network has 149,665 active library cardholders or 71 percent of the county population, Kile said. Total circulation is 2.3 million items.

Supervisor Tom Thurman said he bets that 90-95 percent of the county's residents never use libraries, so user fees would be appropriate. He suggested $5/library card or $10/family.

"I don't use the library," he said. "I get everything I want on the Internet."

Currently each county resident pays an average of $2.38 per year to support the library district.

The district won't get state grants if it charges fees, Kile said.

Prescott City Council Member Steve Blair drove to the meeting in Cottonwood to express his views about that city's library and the library district.

"We need to look at the system," Blair said. "It's broken."

The Prescott library has a $2.3 million annual budget and the city spent $100,000 on computers last year, but he's been told the city cannot charge any fees to users, he said. He wants to cut the Prescott library hours and employees.

Anyone could afford a $10 annual library card fee, he said.

Cottonwood, Prescott and Prescott Valley all built huge libraries and now they're having a hard time maintaining them, Supervisor Rowle Simmons said.

After books, the DVDs and VHS tapes are the most popular thing to check out at the county's libraries. Blair said that competes with private business.

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Article comment by: Wacka Wacka

Tom "I don't use the library. I get everything I want on the Internet." Thurman never spent a day in a college. He is a trade-tech graduate. The fact that he "don't use a library" is not too amazing. I guess he wants his constituents as unread as he is.

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014
Article comment by: County Resident

71% of the county population has a library card. Yet Thurman thinks 90-95% of the population never use the library. Someone needs to brush up their math skills!

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2014
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

Just because some of the population doesn't use a service doesn't justify user fees for those that do.

We do not have any children, and yet we pay a lot in taxes to our local school district.

We have never taken a course at Yavapai College, yet a huge amount of our tax bill goes to that institution.

But I'm okay with that because an educated community creates a better society for all.

Libraries play an important part in the education of our communities too. They aren't just for casual light reading enjoyment. Besides providing books, periodicals, DVDs and CDs, they provide computer access for those that can't afford it. They provide meeting space for local groups, reading programs for children, mini-courses of interest, etc.

Yes as time goes on more books will be e-books and there will be less need for physical shelf space, but all those other needs will still be there. And the library still has to buy and deliver those e-books.

So please look for other ways to fund the libraries besides user fees. And for those of you that don't use the library. You should try it sometime!

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Article comment by: User Fees Good Idea

Libraries and the culture of borrowing books are rapidly fading away. I too agree with Chip and others that user fees are fair and appropriate for this non essential function.

If computers are the driving force behind usage, fees are absolutely fair. Internet access is not free.

A small annual fee should not unduly burden anyone, only those trying to get something for free because the rest of us paid for it.

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Article comment by: Peppermint Patti

I think Chip Davis has the right idea. Lots of people would probably volunteer...

As far as user fees goes The people who can't afford computers, or internet connections, are rapidly increasing. These people have to go to a library to use computers. Surely, those people would be unduly burdened by a library user fee. I know many, many people in Beaver Creek who do not have computer access at home anymore, and have to go to the library. Some walk a long. long way to get there!

I am glad that you are all concerned about the future of our libraries. Even though I've never used the new library at our school, I am glad it is there for others. I think some day we will look at libraries as museums of sorts. Thank you for protecting them.

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