Library Finance: The Long and Short of it
The District has been very focused on construction for the past two years, and this trend will continue into 2013. You should see all six libraries open by late October of that year, and with that will come the next phase in our growth and renewal. While new, larger facilities are a big part of our long-range plan, so is making sure that we can operate those facilities into the future. Lately our financial forecast has been greatly hampered by some difficulties with state sales tax collections, and we are hoping that once this is over, the District can get back on track.
This past July we learned of an overpayment of sales tax to the state due to a lawsuit brought by the fracking industry that impacted Garfield County to the tune of about $4 million dollars. The refund has meant that the state has withheld a portion of our quarter cent sales tax revenues for the past nine months, and we have seen a further decline in our already reduced revenues. The combination of a poor economy and this refund would have been far more dire had not the Garfield County Commissioners stepped in and agreed to cover 50% of the originally projected $947,000 share of the District's sales tax refund burden. The original projections have been revised, and it now appears that the District's share will be closer to $1.4 million. We will continue to watch this closely so that we can plan accordingly and revise our budget to match our available revenues for operations.
As you may already know, sales tax is only part of the picture. Luckily, the voters gave the District one mill of property tax for 20 years starting in 2007 that we are using as our capital funds. We have borrowed ahead on these collections by selling two rounds of certificates of participation (2009 & 2010) that are financing the Rifle, New Castle, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale projects. Parachute and Silt are being financed out of our capital reserves. The total amount equals $25.5 million in capital projects. The voters gave us the ability to use capital funds for both construction and operation of new facilities. The additional funds the District has gained from property tax has allowed us to weather this economic storm, but we don't take these funds for granted. Our goal is to ensure that new facilities are "cheap to keep," and we are designing them to be as energy- and staff-efficient as possible. Our annual debt service is about $1.8 million, and the additional property tax collected will help us build reserve funds for future ups and downs in the economy.
How are we helping the local economy? The District employs 65 people in our libraries and a number of others as contract labor through maintenance contracts for landscaping, snow removal, custodial services and the like. Additionally, we've hired over 50% of the subcontractors on our construction projects from Garfield County, with more than 75% coming from the West Slope. We are pleased with our ability to hire locally and help keep your tax dollars in our county. While its not possible to get every trade locally, we do our best to support the local economy, both in construction and in our daily business.
Our other focus is on building and maintaining green and sustainable facilities. To date, we have installed over 73 kWh of solar on our buildings. Most recently we partnered with Colorado Mountain College's Integrated Energy program to install a 9 kWh system on the New Castle Branch Library. All six libraries actively recycle all paper waste and use environmentally friendly cleaning products in their buildings. We believe these efforts help us "walk our talk" about creating sustainable facilities and lessening our impact on the environment.
As always, I value your feedback. Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts, whether through our online contact form, suggestion boxes at all six branch locations, or by email at email@example.com.