Los Altos took a step Tuesday night toward potentially withdrawing from the Santa Clara County Library District.

The city council narrowly voted 3-2 to convene a task force that will explore whether Los Altos would be better off partnering with one or more of its neighbors for library services. Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale all operate their own book-lending systems.

Mayor Val Carpenter and Council Member David Casas floated the panel idea in response to an Oct. 25 decision by the district's board of directors not to tweak the formula used to fund libraries that serve Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

The two cities pay $600,000 to $1.5 million more than they receive in services, according to a report by Carpenter and Casas.

The board, however, rejected a proposal to boost funding for the Los Altos Main Library and Woodlands Library by nearly $67,000. That sum would have been absorbed by other members of the district: Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and unincorporated Santa Clara County.

"I have to say I'm disappointed with the actions of the (joint powers authority) board that I've been on for the past two years, but I'm not really too surprised, since many JPA board members were running for various offices at the time of this decision," Carpenter said. "It was before the election."

Casas said the task force would be composed of members who are willing to "honestly explore" whether it's even possible to get a better deal.

"It's not a predetermined outcome," Casas said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jarrett Fishpaw and Council Member Megan Satterlee voted against the task force proposal. Both said the city had more pressing priorities such as negotiating a new contract for fire services with the county.

"This is going to take a considerable amount of staff time and we have other projects coming on the horizon that also require staff time," Satterlee said. "I really think that this particular proposal should be considered in the context of the overall goals that we want to accomplish in the next year."

The city council also heard from two library commissioners who appeared stung that they hadn't been asked to vet the proposal.

"I'm disappointed that we as a body have not heard from any of the council. I would've thought that some of our input, maybe our knowledge of the library and our perspective, might have been useful in some of these deliberations," Commissioner Darwin Poulos said.

Speaking on her own behalf, Commissioner Nancy Tucker said she saw little reason to consider breaking away from the library district, given high levels of resident satisfaction with the current model.

"If you're happy with the services provided, why do you need to consider alternative service options?" Tucker asked.

"And at a minimum, considering these options has wide-reaching implications for the entire community. Why do you need to do this now when a new city council will be seated very soon?"

But Los Altos resident David Smith praised the proposal.

"I commend you," Smith said. "I think it would be a breath of fresh air just to have facts on the table. I don't see any reason to wait until next year."

Email Jason Green at jgreen@dailynewsgroup.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.