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About the Library District

The Library District is a county service district, specifically established under Oregon Law that is granted specific authority to tax, bond, acquire and own property, borrow, and issue contracts for services. The law also allows county service districts to enter into intergovernmental agreements. A county service district is governed by the Board of County Commissioners.

What is the purpose of the Library District?

The district was created in 2008 by a nearly countywide vote as a means of providing a stable funding source for library services within Clackamas County. Due to subsequent annexations the district now includes Damascus and the section of Tualatin that lies within Clackamas County. Only Johnson City is not a part of the district, by choice.

Prior to its formation, funding to operate the county-run libraries and provide additional support to city libraries came from the county’s general fund. The county could no longer afford to provide this support due to other demands for services. The district now collects a permanent tax rate of $0.3974 per $1,000 of assessed value to provide dedicated funding for library services. These funds are intended for library operations and services, and not for capital costs. 

The county’s role

Clackamas County operates a single library serving the unincorporated population in the Oak Lodge area. Under this governing model library operations are provided by cities. When the district was formed the county floated the idea of closing the Oak Lodge Library and reallocating its service area to the cities of Milwaukie and Gladstone once Gladstone completed construction of a new, larger library facility large enough to accommodate Oak Lodge area residents. 

As part of the establishment of the district, all participating cities with libraries were to receive $1 million each from the county’s general fund toward library capital improvements. The same $1 million was earmarked for the unincorporated libraries of Oak Grove and Sunnyside.

Funds

How are Library District funds distributed?

The county signed a Master Intergovernmental Agreement with the cities that provided library services calling for distribution of district funds based on a mutually agreed-upon formula that provides that each Library City receives 100% of the revenues generated from assessed property within each city as well as a share based on non-library city residents within each library’s service area. Under the agreement, the library cities have ultimate authority over their library operations and services. However, the agreement specifies that district funds must be used for operational service standards and to serve all residents – both city and unincorporated - residing in their service area and generally throughout the county.

Advisory committee

The Library District Advisory Committee is a citizen advisory committee, appointed by Commissioners, charged with providing advice regarding district operations. 

What are the qualifications for serving on the Library District Advisory Committee?

The ballot measure that established the district required formation of an “independent citizen committee” to advise the Board on District governance. The measure required members to be drawn from each library’s advisory board. The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) indicates that the “Library City governing body,” shall make nominations to this committee. 

The district bylaws indicate that the “Library Service Provider” (defined in the IGA as the City itself) shall make nominations. While the language is slightly different, it has the same effect: the city council recommends their representative to the Library District Advisory Board.

Gladstone

With respect to Gladstone constructing a new library sufficient to serve an expanded service area, including the majority of residents currently served by the Oak Lodge Library, who is responsible for determining whether that new Gladstone library is “sufficient to serve” the combined Gladstone/Oak Lodge service area?

The Gladstone City Council must determine whether a new library will be sufficient to serve the new service area. Gladstone is responsible for developing a capital plan that meets the needs of Oak Lodge residents for approval by county commissioners as the governing board for the Oak Lodge Library.

Must the Oak Lodge Library Board of Trustees – as that local library’s advisory committee – be consulted prior to the county entering into any new IGA with Gladstone regarding a new library?

Yes, by terms of a board order, consultation is required. Commissioners remain the decision maker for the Oak Lodge Library with respect to that IGA and the transfer of any funds. That consultation requirement applies to the county and the Oak Lodge Library Board of Trustees. The City of Gladstone is not required to consult with the Oak Lodge library Board of Trustees but has been encourage by the county to do so based on the impact to this service population.

Could the board form a new Library District for the Oak Lodge unincorporated area only for the purposes of issuing a capital bond for a new county library?

Yes. This has been done before. It is how the capital funds were generated to build the Estacada library. Citizens in that area voted to form a library district with the same boundary as the Estacada School District for the purposes of issuing a capital bond for new library construction. The bond was then repaid through newly generated property taxes levied by the Estacada district.

A similar approach could be done around the Oak Lodge Library service area. One consideration is that the current countywide Library District – which includes the Oak Lodge service area – would need to retain its original purpose, which is generating operating revenue for library operations, as there cannot be overlapping taxing districts that serve the same purpose. 

Can the county adopt a new order allowing for the expenditure of library district funds for capital and operations?

Yes. Oregon Revised Statute 451 provides the Board of County Commissioners the authority to amend the Master Order for the Library District to allow for the expenditure of district funds for either capital or operational costs of libraries in the county. However, as noted above, if this were to occur then a separate library district could not be formed around the Oak Lodge service area for capital purposes only as that would result in overlapping taxing districts providing the same serve. The two approaches are mutually exclusive. 

What did the county promise Gladstone as a capital contribution for the library planned for the Webster Road location?

The county offered Gladstone the same $1 million contribution from the county general fund offered to every library city to go towards a library capital project. The county further offered Gladstone an additional $1 million in county general fund as support for Gladstone providing a library large enough to serve a majority of unincorporated residents currently served by the Oak Lodge library, representing the $1 million earmarked for the Oak Lodge library.

The county also offered an additional $500,000 from the Oak Lodge Library operating reserves set aside for a new library solution. The combined $2.5 million was memorialized in an IGA between the county and the city. In 2009, Gladstone began planning for a library on Webster Road and two years later signed an agreement calling for the county to distribute $2.5 million in capital funds for the construction of the Webster Road facility.

Was the Webster Road library built?

No. In May 2012, Gladstone residents passed a ballot measure requiring a public vote for any city project of $1 million or more. That November, residents rejected a ballot measure authorizing construction of the planned Webster Road library. This vote occurred after $1 million in county funds were spent planning and design for this library.

What happened to the remaining library money?

The county asked Gladstone to return the remaining $1.5 million in county funds based on the fact that their citizens would not approve construction of the Webster Road Library as outlined in the IGA. Those funds are being held by the county until an alternative solution can be developed. 

Did Gladstone develop an alternative to the planned Webster Road Library?

In November 2013, the city asked Gladstone voters to approve a ballot measure to build a smaller city library on or near Portland Avenue in downtown Gladstone with the provision that no city funds be used for the project. 

Does Gladstone want to exclusively use county money to build a “city” library without contributing any city funds?

Yes. As required by the November 2013 vote of the citizens of Gladstone, the city cannot contribute any city funds towards a new library, so the proposed alternative library – smaller than the originally proposed 19,000 square foot Webster Road Library – would need to be funded entirely with money contributed from Clackamas County.

Commissioners noted that with the lack of city investment, the new library could be built anywhere within the boundaries of the planned service area, where the large majority is in the unincorporated area. 

Did Gladstone seek input from the community to be served by their proposed library in downtown Gladstone?

The city formed a citizen advisory committee made up of over 30 residents. Only three members were from the unincorporated service area, even though that represents a far larger service area than that within the city. Residents currently served by the Oak Lodge Library have expressed concerns that they have not had a proportional voice in advisory meetings and cannot vote on ballot measures approved by the Gladstone City Council to go before their voters. 

Questions and answers prepared by the Clackamas County Office of Public and Governmental Affairs and the Office of County Counsel.

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