With deficits and costs to the city’s general fund inevitable no matter how they sliced it, on Tuesday evening, Goleta’s City Council plunged into the first step to forming a municipal library and separating from management by the City of Santa Barbara library system.
Gaining membership in the Black Gold circulation system – of which Goleta is a net user, rather than a net giver of texts – and recognition by the state Library Service Board, as well as recruiting a new library director, all have timetables that prompted four of the five councilmembers to vote “aye” to begin the library ordinance process, with Councilmember Roger Aceves the sole holdout.
A key issue, explained Kathleen Trepa, Goleta deputy city manager, was the “significant operating deficit that has plagued the library systems for years.” Santa Barbara’s library director, Jessica Cadiente, told The Independent that Goleta’s reserve at the end of fiscal 2015-2016 stood at $396,727. With the reported deficit of $370,653, she said, that reserve would be exhausted by year’s end.
Uncertainties over the library’s future county funding and the calculation of its user population will affect the City of Goleta’s outlay if the ordinance passes. Should Goleta’s library form its own Zone 4 amid the library systems – it’s currently in Zone 1 with the Santa Barbara libraries; Lompoc and Santa Maria form zones 2 and 3, respectively – a different county calculation could be considered, Trepa told the council. The fact that Goleta owns its building and would be a single branch could make a difference in funding for the other multi-branch libraries, she explained.
User population has to do with who borrows from where, and who owns the items borrowed, Cadiente elucidated, and also net borrowing and net lending. “The zone Santa Barbara manages encompasses about 235,000 people,” she said, “and that doesn’t really change with the potential departure of Goleta and the possible creation of a Zone 4.” Any change to the county amount would also involve Lompoc and Santa Maria, Cadiente affirmed, and “it is important to hear all voices on this issue before making decisions.”
Any way they laid it out – with the county continuing to contribute $7.80 per capita or changing that amount; with that headcount of the area served being 90,000 or 85,000; and with the overhead fee of 18 percent being paid to Santa Barbara or staying in Goleta – Goleta’s library would stay in the red, somewhere between $300,000-$500,000 depending on the variables chosen. The money, which includes the children’s librarian salary, would come out of Goleta’s general fund, said Trepa, who has been bird-dogging the complicated issue for the city since arriving from Claremont in 2015. Tuesday’s meeting was her last as she left the city on Thursday to take a similar position in Concord. She is the third high official in Goleta to depart this year, following city attorney Tim Giles and planning director Jennifer Carman out the door.
The annual $48,000 donation from the Friends of the Goleta Valley Library, largely raised from its daily book sale in the library lobby that nets roughly $40,000, would likely change as book sale revenue would stay with the library. Other funds come from donations and membership fees of $10. Corinne Horowitz, president of the library Friends nonprofit, had previously told The Independent that the donation, initially given to fund “extras,” has increasingly gone to pay for basic services, like keeping the library open on Mondays, buying books and laptops, and providing supplies for children’s programs. The Friends gave $15,000 to replenish the children’s nonfiction books this year, she said, and the nonprofit has funded the reworking of the storytime “well” to the tune of $30,000. Right now, the annual auction of rare and signed books is being prepped for April.
The library’s overall funding uncertainty made Councilmember Roger Aceves uneasy, as he spoke about the need to balance the civic feeling that Goleta’s library should strike out on its own with the dismaying picture of unknown costs to the city. He made a motion to have staff provide more information before the series of ordinance votes proceeded – there are three before a new ordinance is enacted – but Councilmember Michael Bennett provided counterpoint, stating it was costly any way they looked at it. Postponement would only delay the inevitable. Acting City Attorney Winnie Cai noted that an ordinance could always be repealed.
If looked at through the rosiest of variables – including hiring the needed librarians and technician, and having current funding remain in place – staying with the city caused a deficit of $370,000 versus a Goleta municipal library initial operating deficit of $195,000, though the latter would be accompanied by onetime start-up costs of as much as $150,000. The new library could take shape by July 2018.
Editor’s Note: Jessica Cadiente’s first name was corrected in this story on February 27.