Services Departments Government

Library District Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

June 14, 2016
Clackamas County Development Services Building, Rm. 115


Advisory Committee Voting Members

Others present

The meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m.

Chair Hoyt introduced several attendees in the audience, including Commissioner Paul Savas, Commissioner Martha Schrader, BCS Director Gary Barth, and Assistant County Counsel Chris Storey. LDAC members also introduced themselves.

Don Wright moved that the minutes of the April 12, 2016 be approved, Sandy Nelson seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

Chair Hoyt then requested nominations for LDAC Chair and LDAC Vice-Chair for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Don Wright nominated Pam North for Chair, the motion was seconded by Nancy Niland.

George Hoyt nominated Sandy Nelson for Chair, the motion was seconded by Jeff Bornefeld.

Nancy Niland moved that nominations for Chair be closed, the motion was seconded by Don Wright and passed unanimously.

The votes for Chair were as follows:

  Votes for Sandy Nelson Votes for Pam North
John Smith   X
Jeff Bornefeld X  
Connie Redmond   X
Katie Lewis   X
Robin Wheeler   X
Nancy Niland   X
Sandy Nelson   X
Don Wright   X
George Hoyt X  
Pam North   X

Pam North was elected LDAC Chair for the fiscal year.

Don Wright nominated Nancy Niland for Vice-Chair, the motion was seconded by Pam North.

John Smith moved that nominations for Vice-Chair be closed, the motion was seconded by Don Wright and passed unanimously.

Nancy Niland was elected Vice Chair unanimously.

Chair Hoyt then then asked for members to relate feedback or opinions from their cities and library directors on the possibility of opening the master order.

Nancy Niland relayed that the City of Lake Oswego and the Lake Oswego Library Director feel that the master order should remain closed, to remain consistent with what voters approved in Measure 3-310.

Robin Wheeler relayed that while the Happy Valley service area is 52,000 people, only 18,000 of them are residents of the City of Happy Valley. There was concern that a minority of citizens in the Happy Valley service area might end up bearing costs on behalf of the entire service area. Jeff Bornefeld sought to clarify Robin’s concern. Jeff stated the ballot measure passed by voters indicated funds were to be used for operations only, and that a proposal has been suggested by the County to open the master order to allow District funds to be spent for other purposes. He asked if Robin had any additional comment. Robin indicated, as a newer member of LDAC, she’d take some more time to study the proposal.

John Smith asked for clarification on what exactly the master order is. Chair Hoyt invited Chris Storey (Assistant Clackamas County Counsel, in attendance) to provide a briefing on the master order. Chris described that when a measure creating a County service district is approved by voters, Oregon Revised Statute requires an order be adopted which indicates how district revenues can be spent. When Measure 3-310 was passed, the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners drafted an order which indicated district revenue would be spent on library operations. The order adopted did not allow district funds to be spent on capital as, at the time of the County-wide library service district formation, an Estacada library service district, which had funded the construction of the Estacada Library, already existed. State law prohibits two overlapping service districts from collecting money for the same purpose, so in drafting the master order for the County-wide library service district, the Board had the choice of (1) excluding Estacada from the County-wide district, or (2) making the distinction that library service district funds were to be used for operational support only. The Board chose the latter option. 

Chris Storey explained the master order was adopted under ORS 451, which does specify a process for amendment. The process does not (necessarily) require a public vote. These changes can initially be made by the governing body of the service district; if sufficient objections to the proposed changes are received in public hearings, a public vote may be necessary. Jeff Bornefeld asked how many people would need to object for a vote to be required. Chris did not have the relevant statute with him, but indicated he believed it was a formula-based threshold, perhaps based on the number of people in the district who voted for Governor in the most recent election. Jeff indicated he thought the threshold would be around 15,000 people. Chris agreed it would likely be a high number, as nearly all Clackamas County residents (with the exception of Johnson City residents) are served by the Library District

John Smith asked what purpose or advantage was there to opening the master order. Chair Hoyt indicated while he had a list of five reasons he had heard for opening the master order, but he thought the reasons would be different for each library city, and before sharing his list, he suggested going around the table to hear feedback from individual representatives first.

Robin Wheeler began the discussion by asking Nancy Niland why she felt the master order should remain closed. Nancy indicated she believed the IGA should match the ballot measure, and was concerned about embarking on a “slippery slope”. Voters approved the district for a specific purpose, and to open the master order for changes sets a dangerous precedent.

Pam North offered a reason to open up the master order, namely that the standards contained in Appendix C of the IGA are obsolete and not reflective of current Oregon public library standards. Reopening the master order would provide an opportunity to address those standards.

Sandy Nelson observed that while the IGA restricts use of district funds to operations, a library cannot be operated with a facility that isn’t appropriately sized. She indicated it would be beneficial if the master order could be changed to allow use of district funds for new construction or capital improvements. However, she did observe that the ballot measure approved by voters did not permit this use of funds. In the future, Molalla’s share of district funds would be sufficient for a new library and to maintain operations, but Sandy personally does not feel using funds in this manner would be right.

Don Wright said he did not see any reason to open the master order at this time.

Connie Redmond indicated that Estacada agreed with the assessment provided by Nancy Niland.

John Smith said his understanding was that the ballot measure provided the income, but that the Board of County Commissioners budget how the funds are spent. He asked if his understanding was correct. Chris Storey and several members made the distinction that the Board of County Commissioners distributes the funds, but each city is responsible for budgeting how the money received is spent. Jeff Bornefeld observed that the IGA signed by library cities was largely similar to the language of the ballot measure, in that district funds were to be spent on library services. Other than requiring funds be spent on library services, there was no desire (by either the County or Cities) for the County to prescribe how district funds would be spent. Jeff also stated that LDAC was constructed in a specific manner (with members drawn from individual library boards), and that role of members is to weigh in on questions like this on behalf of citizens, not any particular jurisdiction.

Katie Lewis indicated that with the current questions regarding Oak Lodge and Gladstone, it might not be prudent to open the master order until some of those questions are resolved. It may be better to focus on the issues at hand, rather than creating new issues to deal with.

Karol Miller expressed a concern that opening the master order might have unintended consequences and could create additional problems in the future. 

Nancy Niland related her understanding that the district was created in order to protect libraries’ operating budgets, and to avoid cuts in hours and staffing. She shared concern that opening up the master order to allow district funds to be put aside for non-operational purposes (like a new building) would diminish resources available for operations, and libraries might be back where they started, facing cuts in hours or staffing. She also reiterated her belief of the importance of honoring the choice made by voters.

Chair Hoyt asked Pat Duke (Wilsonville Library Director and LINCC Directors Group Liaison) what feedback the LINCC Directors Group had. Pat reported a plurality of Directors thought it would be reasonable to open the master order to allow use of district funds for capital purposes, but there was dissent. In general, the Directors who would be in favor of opening the master order see it as a way to help libraries advance and improve the services they offer, and if using district revenue for capital purposes accomplishes that purpose, it’s a use of funds in the citizens’ interest. But, Pat noted there was dissent, for some of the same reasons LDAC members had already discussed.

Chair Hoyt mentioned five reasons that he had heard people give for opening the master order, namely:

Jeff Bornefeld asked if Chair Hoyt, when speaking of unclear language, was referring to the master order or the IGA. Chair Hoyt indicated he was referring to the IGA. Jeff indicated he preferred to keep the two topics separate, as he felt the master order shouldn’t be open to modification (as the focus on providing revenue for library services is clear) but that there might be opportunity to adjust the IGA.

Don Wright asked Chair Hoyt what actions this group might take to try and resolve these issues and concerns, or what specific process the group might follow. Chair Hoyt indicated that, as the Library District Board was considering opening the master order, he anticipated that at some point LDAC would be asked to provide a recommendation. He hoped that the current discussion, in addition to member consultation with cities and library directors, might provide some clarity, and ultimately help the group make an advisory recommendation. He also indicated that any proposed changes that resulted from the LDAC discussion would need to be discussed/implemented at the city level.

Nancy Niland asked how many cities have used district funds for non-operational purposes, and what dollar amounts were involved. In order to make sure the group received accurate information, Pat Duke volunteered to collect this data from the LINCC Directors Group and provide it to LDAC.

Chair Hoyt noted that two County Commissioners (Martha Schrader and Paul Savas) were in the audience, and asked if either of them might like to address this topic. 

Commissioner Schrader indicated she was glad to have a deliberative body like LDAC reviewing these issues. While the district has been working well for 8 years, after this amount of time some issues have (not unexpectedly) come up. She identified some of the issues the BCC, as elected officials, are grappling with, including whether or not to open of the master order, and how best to deal with cities who may have already used district funds for non-operational purposes. Commissioner Schrader indicated it was important for LDAC, as a citizen advisory committee, to consider, deliberate, and provide the BCC with an opinion. She also mentioned the current situation with Gladstone and Oak Lodge, and how best to meet the needs of the residents of that service area. She observed that significant work had gone into creating a District that would serve the needs of both city and unincorporated residents, and that it was the Board of County Commissioners’ job to maintain this County-wide perspective.

Commissioner Savas indicated he largely agreed with Commissioner Schrader’s comments. He also indicated he appreciated the direction LDAC was going and the questions being asked, particularly those pertaining to finances. Commissioner Savas feels that once the group has the information they need and a good grasp of the district’s complexities, LDAC will be better equipped to make decisions. He encouraged the group to continue finding the answers to their questions. He also relayed a question he had, namely are district funds sufficient to fund other expenditures without jeopardizing operations and quality of service? He indicated that question might be answered differently in different cities, but that it would be necessary for LDAC to have those answers before making any decisions or recommendations.

Commissioner Schrader also mentioned that the question of spending money on operations vs capital expansion is a “chicken and egg” type problem; for example, a library can’t offer expanded programming without having sufficient space in the facility. Chair Hoyt observed that historically, for libraries within the district, individual cities have always provided buildings. Chair Hoyt believes that one of the questions to be resolved is whether money currently provided to support operations should be converted to paying for facilities 

Chair Hoyt also observed that, when examining City finances, it appeared that a percentage of district funds were being paid to cities as allocated charges. In the course of the discussion, particularly when offering interpretations of what was/wasn’t permitted by the IGA in terms of district funds being used to pay for city cost allocations, Chris Storey, from the audience, cautioned against drawing any legal conclusion about proper use of funds without further discussion or examination of the issue. Gary Barth, from the audience, also expressed the same concern. Chair Hoyt clarified his goal was to examine this topic in the future. Jeff Bornefeld observed that the IGA only allowed the recovery of allocated costs that were directly related to library operations, but clarified he was not drawing any legal conclusion. Chair Hoyt observed that, in his view, usage of funds for allocated costs did need to be reviewed, and the corresponding language in the IGA needed to be clarified.

Jeff Bornefeld observed that, at various points of the evening’s discussions, the group was talking about changes to both the master order and to the IGA. Jeff wanted to keep those discussions separate, as the documents are different, as is the process for amending each one.

Chair Hoyt then started a discussion about what LDAC members had discovered when they talked with the Directors of their libraries about how district funds are currently spent. He emphasized there were no right or wrong answers, but that his goal was for LDAC members to better understand the complexities of library operations.

Connie Redmond reported that the City of Estacada is growing rapidly, offering the example of a newly approved, 300-home subdivision. They do see revenue increasing, but the library also sees a corresponding need to expand services. She offered the examples of younger families moving to the area, as well an increasing number of home-based workers; both are groups which want their library to provide a broad range of resources.

Don Wright reported that Oregon City was building the first new library in the City in 100 years. He reported that the library receives $200,000 a year in support from the City, as well as receiving assistance with the bonds for the new library. He felt the library’s financial situation was good. With the construction done, the library can now think about expanding services, not only to different areas of the City, but to farther reaches of their service area. The library has a lot of ideas about expanding services, however there is uncertainty about whether it would be permissible to use district funds to pay for some of these expanded services.

Karol Miller reported she had discussed the same issues, specifically the lack of funds for staff or facilities to provide additional services. She mentioned that, with the recent bond approval, the Ledding Library will be doubling the size of the facility, but there will be no additional staff. They are hoping to design the new facility in such a way that additional staff won’t be required to operate it, but there is a concern that this might not be possible. Currently, all funds are used for operations, and she feels that there wouldn’t be enough money to set aside for capital improvements.

Pam North feels very fortunate to have excellent City support. West Linn is looking forward to continuing to provide excellent service and staffing levels in the future.

Nancy Niland reported that while the Lake Oswego Library is an older building, all District funds are spent on operations. There are no additional funds available to set aside for capital.

John Smith reported that the City of Canby is building a new library which will result in additional operational demands, however, local funding (to John’s knowledge) has not been proportionately increased. John fears that existing staff, for example, may not be sufficient for the much larger facility. Community support and donations have helped by providing funds for things like new shelving (although the library will still need to use 30-year old shelving from the current facility). The Canby Library is in a very delicate position; if things get tighter, operations will go downhill.

Robin Wheeler reported that the City of Happy Valley was pleased to take over operations of the Happy Valley Library. The library is growing slowly, to ensure that services can be maintained in the long term. The library has strong community support, and helps draw the community together.

Chair Hoyt reported that Sandy is in pretty good shape. Looking ahead to the next 5 years, the Sandy Library Director is comfortable that the budget will be sufficient. One concern, however, is the pending increase of the minimum wage to $15/hour, although the Director does expect to be able to absorb this increase (although perhaps not without some “crimping” elsewhere in the budget). In the last year, the City completed the relocation of the Hoodland branch. The project was completed close to budget, with fundraising providing the remaining needed funds. The City of Sandy is growing as well.

Katie Lewis spoke of the huge need to improve Gladstone’s current library facility. There is also significant focus on coming to some resolution about how to provide services to residents of the library’s service area. Katie also observed that, while there are boundaries which prevent outward growth in Gladstone, there is significant construction within Gladstone. Population growth will result in new library patrons to serve. There is excitement and support for a new facility, and the new Gladstone Library Director is eager to serve patrons in a new facility and support the community. Katie feels that the City uses existing funds wisely, and she is looking forward to making changes which will provide citizens with better service.

Jeff Bornefeld (Oak Lodge) relayed that, as part of the committee to interview the new Gladstone Library Director, he was pleased to meet the extraordinary people from the Gladstone Library Foundation and Friends of the Library. Jeff spoke of his frustration that both the Gladstone and Oak Lodge communities have substandard libraries. He also expressed frustration that the staffing levels at Oak Lodge were not commensurate with other libraries (for example, Sandy) with similarly-sized service populations, and that the building was too small to support the needed staff size. Jeff also relayed frustration that of the District taxes he (and other Oak Grove residents) pay, a significant portion has gone (and continues to go into) a “holding tank”. Jeff feels Oak Grove residents have been paying for 8 years, and that the community is growing, but (due to the political situation) they are not receiving improved library service. Karol Miller asked who is holding Oak Lodge’s funds. Jeff indicated that the funds were being reserved, per an existing agreement, for use on a joint facility to serve the Gladstone and Oak Lodge service areas. Originally, this joint facility was supposed to be a 19,000 square foot facility, but that did not come to pass.

Sandy Nelson feels very fortunate to have a wonderful library. The district money was a godsend, and without it the City of Molalla would not have a library. The City is growing, but the funding is adequate for the current library. If the size of the library increased, funding might not be adequate. Don Wright asked Sandy about the current ownership of the library building. Sandy reported that the school district owns the building, and leases it the City for $1/year. This is one of the factors they take into consideration when thinking about a new building; a new building would be nice, but would likely be more expensive.

Chair Hoyt then asked if any members wanted to share what they learned about the ins and outs of finance.

Don Wright reported he found that numbers can be slippery (other members agreed)! He relayed that salaries and benefits consumed about half the Oregon City Library annual budget. He also reported that the new facility is nearly twice the size of the old facility, but staff size is not increasing. Don reported that the Oregon City Library Board preferred a one-story building, but voters chose a two-story design, which does make staffing more difficult (but he’s confident it will be feasible).

Chair Hoyt asked if Commissioner Schrader or Commissioner Savas had any additional comments.

Commissioner Schrader expressed her appreciation that LDAC was a citizen committee, as it avoids placing Library Directors (who are City employees) in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Citizen members don’t have to serve two masters, and can serve the residents of their service areas. She feels it’s beneficial to have representatives who can more easily steer clear of city and/or County politics.

Commissioner Savas indicated he felt LDAC was headed in right direction by asking the questions they are asking and evaluating financial information to help determine long-term funding viability and ensure service provision. He observed that every City has a different financial situation. He was happy to see the Milwaukie bond measure pass, and felt that was a good approach for asking voters to provide funding for capital projects (and that other cities facing similar growth-related capital needs might follow the same approach).

Commissioner Schrader also encouraged members to think of their service areas, not just their City boundaries. The intent of the district was to provide service to residents both within and outside of City borders.

Greg Williams asked members to provide updated meeting availability information. Once those responses are collected, Pam North and Greg will discuss future meeting schedules. Possible future meeting dates were discussed, but no decisions were made. Jeff Bornefeld did observe that he had heard the Board of County Commissioners express a desire for LDAC to weigh in on the proposal to open the master order, and anticipated the group would need to do so eventually.

The meeting adjourned at 8:18 p.m.

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