After reading the front page DURA article in last week's DCI, I feel the need to clarify Delta County Libraries reasons and thought process for signing the IGA with the DURA board. In 2013, we tried to increase our mill levy due to the decreasing funding from much reduced property tax values. The public voted "NO" on the mill levy increase forcing us to cut staffing and hours to respond to the continuing decrease in property tax revenue. Have annual visits also gone down? Yes, and it saddens me to know we can't afford to provide the level of service our patrons deserve.
Last election the voters also gave a resounding "NO" to the ambulance district mill levy increase. The only way special districts can improve our overall revenues and start recovering is through the property tax values going up or increasing the mill. It is obvious the voters in Delta County will not be receptive to increased mill levies. Therefore, we must find ways to improve economic development in our county. Improvement will not happen by ignoring the problems and doing nothing. We must find ways to attract development and thus bring jobs to our county.
The DCI article said, "The school district, library district, ambulance district and hospital district have agreed to give up all property taxes that would be generated through project development." What I want to clarify is that we are only giving up the increased property taxes generated on those properties identified in the proposed urban renewal area. If the overall property tax values increase in the surrounding properties, all those increases will go to the special taxing districts. In addition, if the base property tax level goes up on the identified properties, the special taxing districts will also get that increase in value. All we are giving up is the increase over the base value. I would think it would be beneficial for us to increase the value of property that currently is not bringing much value to anybody.
Every special district that has signed an IGA has a lot of "skin in the game." We are almost totally dependent on the revenue produced by our mill levy. These special taxing districts are some of the largest employers in Delta County. We are all service organizations, which means that our most valuable asset is our people. We are facing increased costs for salaries due to mandates of the minimum wage act and health care. Yet the only thing we can cut are employee numbers, employee benefits, patron programs or hours of operation.
I cannot speak for the other districts, but Delta County Libraries signed up for improving all of our revenues within Delta County. There is no plan "B" because the DURA minimized the impact on each special taxing district in hopes each of them would see how this will benefit all of us. I would encourage those entities who have been reluctant to sign an IGA with the DURA to reassess what committing the full 100 percent TIF could mean in moving the Delta County economy toward a brighter future.
Board of Trustees
Delta County Libraries