Delta County Libraries' services and hours have been cut to balance the budget given declining revenues and increased expenses over the past decade. But Delta County Libraries director Lea Hart says a recent poll conducted by the library board shows a brighter future may be on the horizon. The poll of likely voters was conducted in March 2019 to better understand resident's opinions regarding library services and to gauge support for a possible mill levy increase.
Currently 46 percent of likely 2019 voters within the Delta County Library District would support a 2.75 residential mill levy increase to generate new funds for the district. After being informed of the reasons for considering a ballot question and learning how the funds would be spent, support for the proposed ballot measure increased to 60 percent. An informed ballot test shows more than 50 percent support in each of the five library communities.
"Delta County voters read books, value library programming, and desire more hours," Hart told attendees of last week's Delta County spring Municipal Quarterly update, a biannual luncheon where mayors, town managers, and other local officials share updates. "Without increased funding, Delta County Libraries will be forced to further reduce the number of days and hours of operation," continued Hart. "Because of a decline in funding from property tax revenue and other sources, the libraries simply cannot continue operating at their current level of services."
According to Hart, "Too many people don't understand who we are and what we do." She explained that over 208,000 people walked through the doors of Delta County Libraries in 2018. Other facts Hart shared include:
• Over 20,000 people attended the library's children, teen, and adult programs.
• Hundreds of Delta County kids participate in the summer reading program where they log thousands of hours reading.
• The library's partnership with the school district increases student and educator access to valuable and diverse educational resources.
• Over 1,300 students visited the Discover Health exhibit at Delta Library in the fall of 2018.
• Over 1,800 Delta County students received an ecard in 2018 to access library resources online.
• The libraries provide high-speed internet access and recorded over 30,000 computer uses in their buildings and over 1.2 million wireless sessions.
• The library's High School Equivalency program provides adults the opportunity to achieve educational goals.
• In 2018, 13 adults received diplomas and the library proctored 33 college exams at no cost to the students.
• Library staff deliver books and read to seniors through senior outreach programs.
The library board is considering a mill levy increase of 2.75 mills. This would generate an additional $795,000 per year. An owner of a $200,000 residence would pay an estimated $39.03 per year.
As funding for Delta County Libraries has been declining since 2011 because of the Gallagher Amendment and other lost sources of revenue, the number of service hours per week across Delta County Libraries has declined from 245 service hours to 169 service hours. "We would like to restore these service hours and increase the number of weekly operating hours from 169 to 241," Hart said. "These additional hours would allow for increased programs and services."
Specifically, the polling showed strong support for increasing and improving youth activities and services for pre-school, school-age children and teens. These activities prepare children for reading, develop STEM skills and help them succeed in school. Enhancing senior services, outreach to seniors, improving adult education, broadening collections of books, eBooks, e-audiobooks, DVDs and magazines are all library priorities that likely voters would support.