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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 3:36 am | Fair 45º


Santa Barbara County Supervisors Debate Library Funding Ahead of Budget Deliberations

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors debated changes to per-capita library funding and governance this week, but punted decisions to next week’s budget hearings.

The Library Advisory Committee recommended taking 5 percent off the top of county library funding and allocating it to branches based on immediate need, but libraries asked the county not to implement the change this year.

The supervisors gave direction to staff to backtrack on previous actions, including votes to support that 5-percent earmarking amount and capping administrative fees at 20 percent.

According to county staff, Santa Barbara (which manages its own two libraries and four more) said limiting administration fees means the city would have to subsidize the county branches.

The Santa Barbara City Council in May said it would try to renegotiate its contract with the county or consider pulling out of the county library system.

County staff said seven of nine libraries have projected budget deficits for the 2018-19 year (all but Orcutt and Vandenberg Village), and the board may want to consider one-time funding to let libraries keep status-quo hours and programming.

County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said there will probably be about $370,000 available in ongoing funding and $4 million in one-time funding from the cannabis business tax, which voters approved on Tuesday.

A county staff report said it would take $236,000 to keep status-quo operations for county libraries next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The Board of Supervisors budget deliberations start at 9 a.m. Monday in the County Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St.

Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam surprised people by suggesting the county evaluate a dedicated sales tax to boost library funding.

“This may either be very brilliant or very stupid,” he said, adding that he had hatched the idea on the spot.

With a dedicated sales tax, the county could end its contract agreements with libraries and instead use that funding for road maintenance, one of Adam’s budget priorities.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors debated over increasing the per-capita funding, with Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf suggesting it go to $8.20 from $7.80.

First District Supervisor Das Williams argued that an increase in per-capita funding is not helpful to small libraries, which are in danger of cutting hours, since the majority of per-capita funding goes to the Goleta branch.

The issue of equity and governance kept coming up during the meeting.

“In my view, we don’t have consistency, we don’t have transparency and we don’t have equity across the four zones,” said Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann.

“The county shouldn’t pay for city residents to use city libraries,” she said. “The county pays for unincorporated residents to use city libraries and for branch libraries in unincorporated areas so we have easier access to library services.”

Currently, the Santa Barbara Public Library administers Zone 1, which includes the downtown and Eastside branches, Montecito, Carpinteria, Buellton and Solvang.

Buellton and Solvang want to move (together) to another zone, administered by either Santa Maria or Goleta, which is going independent in the newly-created Zone 4.

Zone 2 includes Lompoc and Vandenberg Village.

Zone 3 includes Santa Maria, Cuyama, Guadalupe, Los Alamos and Orcutt.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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