During Tuesday’s marathon City Council session, Councilwoman Laurie Ender noted the surplus in tax funds for local libraries. Money accumulated from Santa Clarita residents’ property tax toward library funding has not been spent completely by Los Angeles County, leaving a $416,000 surplus from last year.
As the issue was not up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, this left questions as to how the money would be spent specifically: Would this be used to fund new libraries? Would the City improve current library services? Would the money be spent elsewhere – outside of the library spectrum?
“For us, it’s about the service. And that library revenue can only be used for library services,” said Santa Clarita’s Director of Administrative Services, Darren Hernandez.
Since 1997, Santa Clarita residents have paid a special library parcel tax of about $28 per year as part of their property tax.
The City currently owns the Jo Anne Darcy Library in Canyon Country, and will also own the new Newhall library builiding once construction is complete. The County, however, operates all branches, including Valencia’s. If the City were to acquire the libraries from the County, it would both run and operate them.
There are no plans to acquire the Castaic and Agua Dulce branches nor give them funds from the surplus.
The City would like to use the money to build new facilities and improve services, but the County doesn’t currently allow it. Thus, the City is using redevelopment money to finance the Old Town Newhall Library. If the City acquires ownership of each of its libraries it could then distribute the library surplus money accordingly.
The City must first alert the County by December 2 of its desire to acquire the libraries. The issue will be brought public discussions when Council regroups on August 24 after its summer recess.
According to Hernandez, the community will have its say in how the funds are spent. Residents can decide on such programs as adult literacy, senior book clubs and children’s reading groups.
“This will all happen once we begin operating the libraries,” says Hernandez. “We would go through a process to determine what special programs they would want for the library.”