Library

Los Altos Library – Funding Formula Tweaked – $68K more

Two animal sculptures look into the window of the Los Altos Library
Written by lalahpolitico

UPDATE: Nov. 28, 2012

Jean Mordo, the City of Los Altos Hills member of the SCCL Board wrote a Nov. 27  letter to Patch.com, “Library Task Force: Why I Am Quitting Before Serving.”  He criticizes the current Los Altos City Council for its Nov. 13 vote  3-2 to form a task force to explore alternatives to the being part of the SCCL system and also defends his assessment of “financial unfairness.”

Mordo wrote, “The Los Altos Council decided Nov. 13 to form an ad-hoc task force to explore options for the library, i.e. pull out of the Santa Clara Library District. The vote was 3-2, with two of the “yeas” stepping down in three weeks. [sic The nays were Jarrett Fishpaw and Megan Satterlee.] This is hardly a consensus. I have suggested to the Mayor to defer the item to a later date to be heard by the new Council. I thought that pushing it through at this time was going to be perceived as over-reach, and be reversed by the new Council. It likely will be.”

 

LALAHPOLITICO COMMENT: I had the same reaction to the lame ducks ramming this through — Inappropriate.

 


UPDATE: Oct.29, 2012

On Oct. 25 the SCCL Board voted down the recommendation of the Finance Committee for a “tweak” to the funding formula. The only votes for the tweak were Jean Mordo, Los Altos Hills; Val Carpenter, Los Altos; and Liz Kniss, Campbell. So the forumla is unchanged.

Lalahpolitico has added Jean Mordo’s letter-to-the-editor below. In it he makes his case for the rejected  “return to source” formula. He also says that my article here  says that he and Ron Packard  “advocated” to leave the SCCL. Actually I would “correct” that if it did say that.  I can only find  my statement “the disappointing funding result may set off another round of crys for LA/LAH to exit the SCCL system and establish its own City Library.” There are no actors in that statement. I do not imply that Mordo and Packard would lead such an initiative, be the only persons involved, or even involved at all.  It is true that Mordo and Packard carefully positioned their talk about the option to leave SCCL and start an independent library as “pressure.” I heard that with my own ears. Of course, when one is in negotiations, you have to let the other party know you have credible options.


ORIGINAL POST

The long-awaited SCCL Finance Committee recommendation on changes to the Santa Clara County Library (SCCL)  Joint Powers Authority “funding formula” has arrived. Jean Mordo, council member of Los Altos Hills,  had argued that Los Altos and Los Altos Hills were being taxed too much, and getting back too little for the Los Altos Library. After over 6 months of study, the Finance Committee suggests that a 5% “tolerance threshold” can be applied to prevent any city’s share of funding from deviating too far from it’s assessed property valuation dollar contribution.  If this approach had been applied to 2012-13, the Los Altos – Woodland libraries would have received an extra $68,000.

If this 5% “tolerance threshold” approach had been applied to 2012-13, the Los Altos – Woodland libraries would have received an extra $68,000.

The SCCL Finance Committee will meet Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 11 am to review the report. The meeting is at SCCL headquarters, 14600 Winchester Blvd., Los Gatos. Download the report.

The “formula” the SCCL has been using for decades calls for equal weighting of the percentages of 1) assessed property valuation, 2) population, and 2) materials circulation contributed by each member city. Population exists as a proxy for the potential use of a library, circulation represents the actual use of a library, and assessed valuation serves as a measure of the financial contribution of each community.  The finance committee observed that the formula was designed as and has operated as a “smoothing” approach that minimizes variances over time.  It is important to realize that most of the resources consumed by a member city library come from headquarters operations. Only about 15% of  of the total resources allocated to a library location comes from the “formula.”

Only about 15% of  of the total resources allocated to a library location comes from the “formula.”

The SCCL finance committee believes that four of the member cities will be increasing their assessed property valuation dollar contributions soon. This is because the Governor Brown mandated  dissolution of of redevelopment agencies and RDA pass-throughs will allow some of those funds to flow to SCCL. The committee evaluated over 15 different funding formula variations. Although the committee is recommending the 5% “tolerance threshold,” it says it might not be necessary once four member cites experience higher assessed valuations because of the end of their redevelopment agencies.

it might not be necessary once four of the member cities experience higher assessed valuations because of the end of their redevelopment agencies

“The Task Force discussed at length the merits of {sic Mordo’s} ‘return to source’ funding when compared with funding according to the needs of each community in the system. All members of the Task Force recognized the benefits of membership in a District.  A full ‘return to source’ approach was rejected because it did not conform to the {sic guiding} principles. Namely that “any funding distribution methodology should provide: equity, proportionality, stability, predictability, and simplicity of explanation and implementation.”  The committee agreed that the formula would continue to be reviewed about every 10 years, as it had been in the past.

 

LALAHPOLITICO COMMENT:

That sure was a whole lot of effort for a measly $100,000 return to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills. Actually I’m more concerned with the time expended by the ALL the City Managers and their staffs to crank the numbers on all the formula variations that were tried. We consumed the resources of Saratoga, Milpitas, Monte Sereno,  Morgan Hill, etc…

This disappointing funding result may set off another round of crys for LA/LAH to exit the SCCL system and establish its own City Library.

This disappointing funding result may set off another round of crys for LA/LAH to exit the SCCL system and establish its own City Library. That would be easy – 1) City of Los Altos owns the buildings and 2) the current North County JPA agreement includes the authority to operate an independent library, not just to raise taxes to pay for extra hours of SCCL operation. As in the past, I hope these crys are ignored. Today in the 21st century, as book technology is changing so rapidly, it makes even less sense to operate a small single city library.  As a separate but related issue, you may hear crys for a new library building. That’s even more ludicrous. We need more space to house paper books? Nah. We need more study space and event space?  Yes, maybe.  But the citizens showed a poor appetite for the Community Center Master Plan bond, are worred about downtown “vibrancy”, and everyone is distracted by the LASD vs. BCS dispute with its quest for the holy grail 10th site.

…you may hear crys for a new library building. That’s even more ludicrous in this economic and political climate


Letter-To-The-Editor FROM JEAN MORDO, Los Altos Hills

I just read in your publication that Ron [sic Packard] and I advocated to leave the Santa Clara Library. That is not correct. We advocated looking at all the options to put pressure on the board to consider a fairer formula for allocating resources. The current formula is extremely unfavorable to the Los Altos Library. Depending on how you allocate fairly the funds, up to $1.4 million a year is the impact. I did analysis many different ways, and the most generous method (generous in terms of sharing our wealth) would give us $600,000 more a year.
That method would consist in:
· pooling all the tax revenues,
· paying all central costs out of that,
· paying for all the “platform”( i.e. minimum opening hours at all libraries) out of that same central pool,
· and only then distributing any remaining funds to individual libraries proportionally to where the funds came from.
This obviously fair and generous method was not acceptable to other cities. Even the paltry proposal approved by the Finance Committee to continue with the current formula but limit the deviation from the “fair” allocation to 5%, was voted down by the Board on Thursday. That approach would have resulted in about $67,000 in higher funding for Los Altos. The only votes for were Val, Liz Kniss, the City of Campbell and myself.

Jean (John) Mordo

About the author

lalahpolitico

Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she only became fascinated with business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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