Dissatisfied with how much bang Los Altos is getting for its buck, two council members want to explore options for providing library services other than through the Santa Clara County Library District.
The city council will consider a proposal tonight from Mayor Val Carpenter and Council Member David Casas to convene a task force to examine whether the city would be better off partnering with one or more neighboring cities that operate their own libraries, such as Palo Alto and Mountain View.
In addition to Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, the library district provides services to Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and unincorporated Santa Clara County.
Costs are allocated among the 10 members using a City/County Managers Association of Santa Clara County-developed funding formula that equally weighs population, property assessed valuation and library circulation.
However, Los Altos Hills Council Member Jean Mordo discovered last year that Los Altos and Los Altos Hills are contributing substantially more to the library district than the Los Altos Main Library and Woodlands Library are receiving in services, Carpenter and Casas wrote in a report outlining their proposal.
The annual difference ranges from $620,000 to nearly $1.47 million, depending on underlying assumptions.
The funding formula was subsequently reviewed, but the library district's board of directors opted not to make
The board also rejected a proposal in October that would have increased the amount of money Los Altos and Los Altos Hills receive when the percentage share of assessed valuation for a library exceeds the calculated formula by more than 5 percent. Since 1996, the so-called "5 percent threshold" has been exceeded just twice: fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
Had it been adopted for the current fiscal year, Los Altos libraries would have received an additional $66,800 in their budget for personnel and materials, with a corresponding decrease distributed proportionately among libraries that had a deficit in their assessed valuation contribution, according to the report.
"This self-serving response to minor annual service decreases ranging from $8,667 to $35,287 in favor of the nine cities, coupled with the substantial annual subsidy that Los Altos and Los Altos Hills property owners provide to those cities, leads us to conclude that it is prudent for the City of Los Altos to explore alternatives to continuing to participate in the Library District," Carpenter and Casas wrote about the board's recent decision.
The task force Carpenter and Casas want to form would consist of one council member each from Los Altos and Los Altos Hills; both city managers; two representatives from the Los Altos Library Commission; one representative each from the Friends of the Los Altos Library and the Los Altos Library Endowment; and one Los Altos resident not serving on the city council, library commission, or boards of the friends or endowment groups.
The objective of the panel would be to determine whether it is in Los Altos' best interest to withdraw from the library district and form a partnership with another entity for services.
"It's not that we're simply looking to break away," Casas said. "We're looking to provide a better service for the same cost."
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Los Altos City Council will consider a proposal by Mayor Val Carpenter and Council Member David Casas to form a task force to explore other options for library service.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today
WHERE: Community Meeting Chambers, City Hall, 1 N. San Antonio Road.