Library District Initiative

RESOLUTION 2024-08: INTENT TO CREATE A COUNTY-WIDE LIBRARY DISTRICT

On January 31, 2024, the Lincoln County Commissioners passed Resolution 2024-08. This resolution documents the intent to place the creation and funding of a library district on the upcoming ballot. This marks the beginning of a public comment period on the proposed library district that will culminate in a public hearing on March 6, 2024 at 11am.

The proposed library district will:

  • be county-wide
  • have a 5 member board of trustees
  • require a mill levy up to 13.49 mils (this will replace the current voted mill levy of 3.49 mills)

Please submit all comments to Corrina Brown, Clerk & Recorder, at cbrown@libby.org.

LINCOLN COUNTY LIBRARY DISTRICT

Lincoln County Library is at a crossroads. The library is operating at the minimal State Library standards and yet continues to sustain cuts to its budget. The community values the library, but it is not adequately financially supported to provide the quality library services that our community deserves.

The library is currently funded at $21 per capita, which is well below the Montana average of $31 per capita.

Library District Passes:
Property tax increase
Increase the Annual Tax on a $200,000 home approximately $36.42*

Library District Doesn’t Pass:
No increase in property taxes

Library District Passes: Library District Doesn’t Pass:
Expanding our hours at all three branches, providing more service to all community membersClosing library branches OR reducing hours providing less service to all community members
Funding for increased staff and services  Limited funding resulting in decreased staff and services
Continuing and expanding early literacy and afterschool programs for children, teens and parents Reduced early literacy and afterschool programs for children, teens and parents
Expanding adult programming and activitiesReduced adult programming and activities
Providing computer and technology classes and expanded support for job seekers No computer and technology classes and reduced support for job seekers
Improving Library facilities to better meet community needs Failing to adequately address facility issues, facilities will continue to fall into disrepair
Increased funding for books and other library materialsDecreased funding for books and other library materials
Advancing the Troy Library and Opportunity Center project Pausing the Troy Library and Opportunity Center Project until operations funding is secured
 Failing to meet Montana Public Library Standards, disqualifying the Library from receiving State Library Aid of around $14,000
*Note: this amount is the full tax requirement and does not account for the reduction in taxes due to the loss of the current 3.49 dedicated mills to the library.

HISTORY OF UNDERFUNDING

Library funding was cut in 2017 causing the Library to run on minimal staff and a reduced operations budget. Over the past 5 years, the Lincoln County Library has struggled to meet the rising costs associated with personnel and operations within the confines of a fairly stagnant budget. The Lincoln County Library Foundation and Friends of the Library have worked hard to cover gaps in funding through donations and grants, but this model is unsustainable. This year, the Library’s budget was reduced an additional $17,000. This reduction has pushed the library board into serious discussions about closing branches and reducing services.

Additionally, the Lincoln County Library has struggled to meet the minimum Montana State Public Library standards—specifically the standard requiring a Library serving a community between 10,000 and 24,999 people to be open for service at least 40 hours per week.  This requirement is for the main branch (Libby). Service hours provided by the Eureka and Troy branches do not count towards this standard. Not meeting standards will mean a loss of about $14,000/year.

When the services of the Lincoln County Library are compared to the services provided in the other medium-sized communities in the State, Lincoln County Library falls far short.  The Library is run by fewer staff, open fewer hours, and has the smallest budget.  The greatest challenge to the Lincoln County Library’s budget is maintaining and operating 3 branch facilities. Comparable libraries in the State typically operate with 1 facility.

Lincoln County is currently unable to increase the funds provided to the Library through the existing funding mechanisms. This year, Lincoln County faced a $1.6 million deficit in tax revenues, which was covered by ARPA monies. This money is now gone. With increasing costs and almost flat (and likely reduced) funding, our current funding model isn’t adequate to provide the quality Library services that our community deserves.  The library board feels that moving to a library district model is the best way to secure the best future for the library and library services.

CURRENT BUDGET

Since 1996, the library has been funded by a combination of dedicated tax funding (voted mills) and general property tax revenues (general mills). The library has never operated solely off its dedicated voted funding. 

Overall, the library’s budget has remained fairly stagnant. The increase to the FY24 budget is caused by 2 factors:

  1. Increase in personnel costs- the County approved a cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) which raised salaries. Also, more library staff enrolled in the County’s healthcare benefit.
  2. Cash Reserves- the County auditor determined that we did not have enough money in cash available and added $50,000 to the library’s budget for cash reserves.

Fiscal YearBudgetMill ValueTotal Mill Requirement* (includes 3.49 voted mills)
FY24$540,021$59,6969.046
FY23$431,782$42,14610.245
FY22$422,648$41,35110.221
FY21$416,792$37,31911.168
FY20$427,068$36,46111.716
FY19$397,668$34,80011.427
FY18$400,204$35,20311.368
FY17$449,335$32,25513.931
FY16$450,914$31,60214.269
FY15$450,914$35,15312.827
*Note: this amount does not account for cash reserves and non-tax revenues. The actual mills needed to fund the library’s budget may be reduced. 

To add another historical perspective, in FY98 the library’s budget was $360,006. With a mill value of $29,163, the library’s total mill requirement was 12.345 mills. Using a simple inflation calculator, the value of this budget would be $667,476 today.

STRATEGIC DIRECTION TO IMPROVE LIBRARY SERVICE

In order to understand how to provide our community with the best Library services possible, the Library spent months working with a consultant and community partners to develop a Strategic Direction.  The Strategic Direction provides a vision for the future.  It provides information to guide decisions on facility maintenance and upgrades, library services, community outreach, staffing and funding.   

The Strategic Direction process started in early 2023 and it included the following:

Stakeholder Engagement

  • Staff Discussion Sessions
  • County Commissioner Discussion Sessions
  • Community Focus Groups in Eureka, Libby and Troy
  • Community Survey

Data Analysis

  • Census Data and Demographics
  • Library Statistics
  • Comparison Benchmarks
  • County/City Growth Policies and Health Assessment

The Library Strategic Direction was completed December 2023.  A key finding of the Strategic Direction is that current Library funding is inadequate and must be addressed before other areas of the Strategic Direction can be realized.

READ THE FULL STRATEGIC DIRECTION BY CLICKING HERE. 

LIBRARY DISTRICT FACT SHEET & FAQ

READ THE FACT SHEET BY CLICKING HERE.

READ THE FAQ BY CLICKING HERE.

REVIEW THE LIBRARY’S 5-YEAR STATISTICAL DATA BY CLICKING HERE.

PUBLIC INFORMATION MEETINGS

The Library hosted 3 public information meetings regarding the library district initiative

  • Monday, February 12 (5pm), Libby Branch
  • Tuesday, February 13 (5pm), Troy Branch
  • Thursday, February 15 (5pm), Eureka Branch

Missed the meeting? VIEW THE PRESENTATION SLIDES BY CLICKING HERE.

Have more questions? Please contact Alyssa Ramirez, Library Director, at aramirez@lincolncountylibraries.com.