County Libraries in the Financial Spotlight

Supervisors Clash on Where County Funding Should Go

Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors
Paul Wellman

It was only a matter of time until county supervisors Das Williams and Janet Wolf erupted in a public argument. But no one knew it’d be about libraries. In 2006, the two liberal Democrats ran against each other for 2nd District supervisor. Although they made amends, some tension has remained unresolved. It boiled to the surface on Tuesday over a dispute about library funding allocations, service areas, and government processes. Wolf essentially accused Williams of cutting Goleta out of its traditional library funding ​— ​and giving it to the branches in his district ​— ​while Williams charged Goleta with getting more than its fair share for years.

The Library Advisory Committee voted last month to recommend increasing the fees each of the branches pays for administrative services over the next three years. But after discovering the Goleta branch has been assigned to cover areas it likely shouldn’t, such as parts of Mission Canyon and Hope Ranch, the committee recommended the funding formula be revised. “I don’t think it takes high-level math for us to know Goleta does not serve nearly 80 percent of the unincorporated [zone that includes the South Coast and Santa Ynez],” Williams said. But Wolf argued the Goleta branch indeed serves everyone from the edge of the City of Santa Barbara to the Gaviota Coast, and this sudden hit was “unfair.” She explained the boundaries were drawn before Goleta became its own city in 2002. “All I’m saying is, do not do that this year,” she said. Goleta Councilmember Michael Bennett acknowledged there might be room to negotiate but added Goleta has spent considerable money on the library’s capital costs.

Wolf sought to keep the process status quo until a consultant can study the number of people each branch serves, but no one agreed. Williams is not known for supporting the status quo. He proposed the library system adopt this new formula, which allocates $90,000 less to Goleta, and fund a study. The motion passed 3-1, with Wolf dissenting and Supervisor Peter Adam abstaining.


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