YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
Despite voter approval last June of a quarter-cent elevation of local sales tax, accompanied by a ballot advisory specifically restoring library access to 54 hours per week, its trustees have adopted a new plan scheduling only 44 hours of access, the maximum possible under the new budget adopted by the city council.
A series of other relatively serious municipal mismanagement issues related to library funding also occupied library trustees during their regular meeting of September 16. The city has delayed the annual report to city council by library trustees, from September 21 until October 5.
Also, in a quite startling development at its September 21 meeting, the city council has directed staff to immediately begin analyzing potential parameters and consequences of creating a separate “reserve fund” out of a portion of the road maintenance component of Measure E — now $30.2 million (about $25 million remaining unspent) — of the newly projected $48 million of total revenue gained from this 12-year (2006-18) half-cent general sales tax measure.
Previously, during its recent budget process and election season, the city council had unanimously taken the position that there could be no general fund access to revenue related to this road maintenance component, despite the status of Measure E being a general fund revenue initiative.
Suddenly, a prospect now exists that the library may receive funding to again function on its former weekly schedule of 54 hours and complete and operate the final 10% (2000 sq. ft.) of its twenty-year-old, original renovation project, as well as beginning to fund a proper expansion program.
Satisfying American Library Association Guidelines, a current topic of discussion among library trustees, would mean that Woodland should triple the present size of its library.
____ New Library Schedule ____
Changing its presently alternating schedule of Saturday and Monday closures and operating 44 hours the library will now be regularly closed on Fridays and Sundays, and open only four hours (12 noon until 4 pm) on Saturdays. Monday through Thursday hours will be 9 am to 7 pm.
With a 54 hour schedule in place, prior to 2009, the library was open all seven days per week, including Sundays.
____ Current Political Context of Library ____
Facing municipal threats to close the library, voters stepped up at a 54% majority during the recent primary election, in disregard of opposition from the Woodland Chamber of Commerce and Yolo County Taxpayers Association, raising by a quarter-cent the local sales tax — while voicing virtual parity between support for the library and public safety (65% to 66%).
During a joint meeting between the city council and library trustees earlier this year, a decision was reached to place full restoration of library hours, to 54 per week, within the official ballot advisory language — in order to elicit favor at the ballot-box for this increase in sales tax among (numerous) library supporters.
During the previous year, library trustees were constantly in the process of investigating establishment of some form of new, special library district, independent from municipal influence. This cause arose in response to trustees’ perceptions of chronic malfeasance regarding city funding.
Trustees were then persuaded that short-term stability, rather, may be best advantaged by adoption of this new sales tax proposal — in the midst of severe economic turbulence — and they temporarily set aside research on their long-term goal of permanently separating from municipal control.
Revenue projections regarding this new quarter-cent of sales tax, however, soon failed to indicate funding (with the library receiving 30%, along with parks and recreation, while public safety received 40%), that the city council believed sufficient enough to adhere its original agreement with voters and trustees, of restoring 54 hours of library access.
Trustees were in the city budget provided with only an amount of revenue that would barely allow the library to maintain its present 40 hour weekly schedule.
However, its trustees and the new Library Services Director, Heather Muller, have been able to stretch this fiscal allocation, assisted by adding about 16 hours of temporary-staff time, to permit 44 hours of access.
____ City Refuses To Replace Key Library Staff Position ____
After recent resignation of a senior librarian, trustees have determined to hire a new — children’s librarian — (as last two remaining librarians move up in seniority).
This staff position would be at entry-level (Librarian I), at a beginning pay-scale. However, City Manager Mark Deven has informed trustees that this position — cannot be filled — until ongoing labor negotiations and an agreement between the city and its unions are completed.
Mid-September, city labor associations turned down what was purported to be the city’s: “best and final offer.”
At the present time, there is no estimate of time regarding pending resolution of these municipal labor negotiations.
One trustee at the meeting quickly spoke up, wondering: What’s the rational connection between hiring a new children’s librarian and the city’s general labor issues?
Trustees speculated but arrived at no adequate understanding of this refusal to hire the children’s librarian. They determined, however, that any prolonged delay would become intolerable and considered how to best approach this important personnel situation.
____ The City “Wants Us To Suborn A Felony” ____
Library trustees have personally delivered a letter to city council, following their September 16 regular meeting, outlining intolerable illegality of the municipal practice of “recharging” (deducting administration / overhead related fees) the library’s 917 Fund — which contains Public Library Act funds that are fully exempt from any and all general fund attachments.
One trustee described a practically decade-long battle with the city related to such revenue — by law totally immune from municipal interference — including an incident a few years ago where the city had to return — “about a half-million dollars” — to the library, following trustees’ becoming aware of these unlawful fiscal circumstances being perpetrated by the city.
City staff — again — “wants us to suborn a felony,” a trustee expressed with palpable outrage and exasperation.
Another trustee exclaimed: “Let me get this straight, now. There are two different things going on here, the city is taking library money without any fiscal justification; plus, they are violating felony law at the same time?”
This two-pronged assessment / conception of municipal abuse was confirmed.
Trustees’ ‘demand letter,’ soon delivered to the city council, outlining their legal / policy position and insisting that the city immediately rectify its unlawful conduct and restore to the library such funds that the city has absconded — is not yet available for public inspection.
A trustee estimated that these particular municipally misappropriated monies would likely amount to around $30,000.
____ The Much Larger Issue Regarding Overhead Charges ____
Library trustees’ action in response to this patently illegal behavior by the city, is just a part of a matter — of much broader scope.
Earlier this year, when the library was being threatened with closure, consequences of that potential outcome of the city budget crisis — attracted keen attention from county library-system administrators — because that system would suffer serious impacts from an avalanche of Woodland’s dislocated library patrons.
As an example of such impacts, trustees at this meeting received an alert from the county library system that its Davis branch will be closed (for purposes of moving) from early October until early December — causing a significant surge of Davis’ library-less patrons who will find their way to the Woodland Public Library.
Library Services Director for Yolo County, Patty Wong, appeared before trustees — bringing with her a county fiscal analyst / administrator — to inform them, among other things — that according to her careful analysis: The city has for many years been dramatically overcharging the library for (indirect) overhead.
Responding to questions at this meeting from Yolo Sun, Wong and her county fiscal analyst specifically estimated that the city has been / is currently charging — twice the amount — that would seem reasonable and proper (for example, what the county library system experiences).
The City of Woodland now charges Woodland Public Library about 20% of its annual budget in overhead; while, Yolo County charges its library system only about 10% — for substantially similar services.
Wong went on to describe in great detail the fact that: The city’s (purported) formulas for determining the amount of overhead to be charged to the library — have absolutely no analytical justification(s), specific nexus or reasoned basis, whatsoever — but are simply arbitrary figures the city has pulled from thin air.
Library trustees vividly recollected memories about the fact that, for many years, the former city fiscal administrator continually refused response / obfuscated / distracted and digressed whenever trustees inquired about the details, specific nature and justification of these various overhead charges.
Now, . . . they know why.
The city is involved in vastly and chronically overcharging the library for its overhead, in essence creating a small, annual slush fund out of whatever could be separated from library possession.
Dimensions of this overhead overcharging are relatively huge, over a potential decade of municipal abuse.
Estimates, based on 10% of the library budget during this (uncertain) time period, arrive at somewhere between $1 million and a half-million dollars of wrongfully appropriated funds.
Wong suggested that the city should rebate this absconded revenue, perhaps though some approach of eliminating all such overhead charges for some period of years, until a proper balance of fiscal equity was restored.
Resolution of these several overhead overcharging and “recharging” situations is a recent topic of private meetings between library trustees and council members, such as this one, during which trustees’ — ‘demand letter’ — related to the library’s 917 Fund was delivered.
____ Council Alters Attitude About Measure E Road Component ____
In a quite startling turn of events, Woodland City Council, at its September 21 regular meeting, responded to the agenda item relating to Measure E reallocation — by requesting that city staff prepare an analysis of the consequences of carving some yet undetermined millions of dollars from its previously pristine road maintenance component — establishing a “reserve fund,” which could then be appropriated to various, alternative uses — all upon four-fifths (4/5) council approval.
Vice-Mayor Skip Davies stunned most everyone within council chambers, during progress on this agenda item, by suddenly describing that he believes the city council needs more — “flexibility” — with which to allocate resources produced from Measure E.
Davies implied in his statements at this meeting that his decision to propose breaking-open what was a hitherto sacrosanct fund (because of ballot advisory language (Measure B, 2006) requesting that $30.2 million or 45% of all generated revenue be allocated to road maintenance and improvement) — was made very recently.
Davies indicated that he “didn’t want to blindside” city manager, Mark Deven; so, he advised him of these new plans just prior to this meeting.
Councilmember Martie Dote swiftly seconded Davies’ notion. “I’d be in favor of creating a reserve fund” such as described, she expressed, and for a similar reason: improved “flexibility” to best address municipal needs.
Councilmember Jeff Monroe then provided a working majority to direct city staff to soon perform a study relevant to these purposes.
Mayor Art Pimentel also indicated a generally favorable attitude toward this consideration, but still expressed concern regarding the existing allocation schedule, which should become resolved upon reallocating some of this road money.
Councilmember Bill Marble at this meeting didn’t announce his view on this topic. If such a reallocation is to occur, four councilmembers must support it.
The degree of reallocation from the road component to other uses, entirely lawful since Measure E was adopted with a simple majority (rather than a 2/3 super-majority) at the June 2006 ballot box, will be the subject of further council / public consideration and likely lively debate.
Davies suggested that $2 or $3 million should be considered, but said he had no specific amount in mind. Responding to questions after this council meeting, Councilmember Monroe expressed that “$6 million or whatever,” should be considered as an amount to be redirected to alternative municipal uses.
Apparently, this newly resolved redirection of road component dollars will become whatever the 4/5 city council traffic will bear.
____ Library Relevance Of Measure E Funds ____
Importance of such reallocated Measure E monies coming to the library should not be underestimated. For instance, from a potential pot of several million dollars, basically — but not altogether — intended for capital projects, council members may indeed entertain the prospect of moving forward with long-awaited completion of the library’s twenty-year-old renovation and expansion program.
About 2000 square feet of unfinished space exists within the ground-floor of the library at its southwestern corner (adjacent to the Leake Room).
Prior to what’s being termed the ‘Great Recession’ — library trustees were busily planning this key and long-delayed improvement. Woodland Public Library is significantly undersized, according to information contained within the American Library Association (ALA) Guidelines relevant to such facilities, which advise three-quarters (3/4) to one (1) full square foot per resident.
With about 60,000 residents and growing, Woodland should have a library of 50,000 to 60,000 square feet.
Woodland Public Library now has only about 20,000 square feet of space, with a planned, eventual expansion of 10,000 square feet — eventually becoming only about half the size it should be to satisfy ALA Guidelines.
Woodland’s General Plan sets city library service standards at just a half of a square foot per resident, a level of space — that was obsolete before it was adopted (2001). Yolo County updated its library service standards at about this same time, adopting ALA Guidelines as its performance goals.
Also, the number of books, computers, audio-visual materials and facility design features of Woodland Public Library are seriously deficient (on the order of a half to a third) when measured against ALA Guidelines.
These ALA standards were a subject of discussion during this meeting of the Woodland Public Library Board of Trustees, being referred to as a “needed benchmark,” during the future for setting basic library goals.