YOLO SUN OPINION :
Woodland Public Library, despite having recently demonstrated strong political support for keeping its doors open (virtually equal with public safety: 65% to 66%) in the June primary election — immediately faces — “eliminat[ion of] the possibility of completing the expansion of the Library as originally planned” — according to the staff report of Mark Deven, City Manager, related to the revised Measure E (half-cent supplemental sales tax) revenue allocation plan, which appears on the City Council agenda for December 7.
Here’s the detailed bottom-line of this key city council action, now staging itself for performance at your local city council chamber (- Woodland Public Library supporters take careful notice -):
(a) Measure E’s Cadillac-style road-improvement component loses its premium hubcaps and blazing white-walls and must settle for regular hubcaps and tires (its budget reduced by 5% or 10%, with no impact until 2018);
(b) Measure E’s new Sports Park gains its sixth (6th) playing field (cost: $1.5 million) and greatly improves its odds of meeting an optimum re-turfing schedule (cost: $3 – $4 million);
(c) Woodland Public Library loses its voter-advisory based expansion — eventually collecting about $2.4 million — only ~5% of Measure E money — while municipal roadway improvement programs garner about $28 million — ~60% of this 12-year sales tax increment.
(d) The City Manager’s preferred option reduces relevant budgets of both Woodland Public Library and road improvement by equal amounts: $1.75 million (from budgets of $4.3 million and $30.2 million, respectively), in order to create the $1.5 million required to pay for the sixth playing field at the Sports Park and establish a $2 million “reserve fund,” potentially for use in re-turfing its fields.
____ Woodland Public Library Shown Little Respect By City Hall ____
City hall is showing very little respect for Woodland Public Library within these quite revealing economic circumstances — perhaps amply greasing the already contemplated political sled of its fiscal separation from the city, a general topic which has been for several years a regular feature at board meetings of Library trustees (and on occasion even among some city council members).
It’s quite difficult to understand how Woodland City Council can at the same time claim relative allegiance to Measure E voter-advisory intent (already of specious nature because of its time of adoption, 2006, pre-Great Recession) regarding its roadway component and also starkly violate its voter-advisory intent regarding Woodland Public Library and other civic purposes supposedly enabled through this collection of sales tax.
This important matter has not been addressed in a straightforward manner, simply dodged by brief notice of Measure E’s now dated plan to expend an extraordinary amount of its funding (originally 45%, now 63%) on road programs.
City hall has previously acknowledged its use of Measure E funds for purposes outside the ballot scope of its voter-advisories; specifically, to pay capital debt on the municipal sewage treatment facility and the new fire station.
Measure E money is also being used, in an amount ($4.4 million) greater than the higher budget being considered for library expansion ($4.2 million) — to pay bonded municipal debt arising from nose-diving development-fee revenue that was leveraged to build the new Community and Senior Center and Sports Park.
In essence, Measure E is being used as a slush-fund to service municipal capital-projects debt, across the board – action not obedient to the voter-advisory intent on the ballot in 2006.
Yet, city hall wants to be stodgy and stingy about honestly admitting this situation and relaxing its unjustified, overzealous and counterproductive diligence regarding supposed consistency with voter-advisory intent regarding Measure E’s roadway component.
One thing is crystal clear: If Woodland City Council wants to treat Woodland Public Library as it has historically been doing — it must soon agree to happily help obtain successful separation (through LAFCO), Library independence as a special district, perhaps funded through both a proper slice of its municipal property tax, development impact fees and (increased) utility tax.
____ Other Recent Library Items Of Civic Interest ____
There exist a number of fairly fascinating items of current city – library relations.
City hall has recently approved about $4,500 of Measure E money for a new front door at Woodland Public Library — because persons were fairly easily breaking into this facility by means of an obsolete and insecure front door.
Resulting from inadequate or obsolete security processes and inadequate staffing — the library was recently found to be regularly losing in excess than $500 of (mostly audio-visual) materials — every day that its doors are open. Library staff are doing their best attempting to resolve this serious security problem.
While, it’s also recently come to light that because of its inadequate / obsolete municipal, public safety ordinances — the city cannot presently prohibit tobacco-smoking upon library steps and grounds (including its Rose Garden).
No word yet from city hall about when it can repay the money it has — admittedly — misappropriated (basically: stolen via inflated overhead charges) from the library, estimated to be up to $1 million. Aspects of this misappropriation constitute a felony under state law, according to library trustees.
The Woodland Public Library Renovation and Expansion project of about twenty (~20) years ago — was never completed — leaving vacant 10% of its total (renovated and expanded) space.
The bottom-line of this newly revised Measure E allocation is that its funding is now being suggested to be used to — finally — complete this 20-year-old project — not for use with its own (2006) voter-advisory based library expansion project, originally (but inadequately) scaled at 10,000 square feet.
Woodland Public Library currently has only about one-third (1/3) of the amount of library space (and library materials) recommended by the American Library Association — but municipal roads are pretty spiffy.
____ Measure E Budget Demands Such Adverse Reallocation? ____
Projected sales tax revenue from Measure E (2006 – 2018) has been lowered from ~$68 million to ~$48 million, as a consequence of the ongoing Great Recession.
Re-allocation of Measure E funds was previously an item on the council agenda of September 21, falling subject to various objections from council members for: “a reduction to respective budgets in a manner that was not entirely consistent with the original adopted spending plan,” concedes Deven’s staff report.
Other impetus apparently also played some role with producing stunningly new council interest, first expressed at this September 21 meeting, related to reallocating road improvement funds — previously and purportedly remaining established by constraints of “advisory” measures — at a whopping $30.2 million (63%) of this drastically slashed $48 million dollar budget.
Way back in 2006, Woodland voters were asked to approve locking away 45% of all Measure E money for road (maintenance and) improvement, and they went along with it — amidst a long list of other promised civic improvements — such as library expansion.
At the present time, of course, there is — no way — that the Woodland electorate would make such a lavish decision (then strongly inspired by boom-time economics), to keep its streets in such Cadillac-shape — while other prominent civic causes and culture are routinely lost and abandoned.
Finally, post-election, council members have seemingly begun to its reconsider Measure E policy — clearly demonstrating their legal ability to do so — but little else — since Deven’s report, (of course) strongly influenced by council attitudes and plans, reallocates only $2 million of the $30.2 million road component of Measure E into a vaguely described: “reserve fund,” speculated for use in the re-turfing of athletic fields.
Although in his report of September 21, Deven “[considered] the extent to which funds had been committed or were restricted, operating budget impacts and their affordability, existing facility maintenance and availability of other funding sources” — with a “Library Expansion” allocation of $4.3 million — relevant reconsideration has recently somehow reached the conclusion that sorely needed library expansion should now be expunged from Measure E funds — because: “[t]his option would generate less of a financial demand on the General Fund from an operations and maintenance standpoint.”
This approach is described by Deven as: “more financially conservative,” [with] less [ ] financial impact,” than maintaining some small semblance of meager hope for eventual, although inadequate, library expansion.
If so: “financially conservative” plainly equates with hideously inequitable.
Woodlanders are immediately being deprived of essential (and promised) civic culture and social improvement (and cohesion) — for sake of complete fiscal assurance of optimum roadway improvement until 2018. Obedience to Measure E’s obsolete, roadway spending plan is obstructing key civic progress, such as reasonable planning and accomplishment of long-overdue library expansion.
Such municipal policy deserves to be accurately described as civically irresponsible and ethically and politically deplorable.