Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos City Council nixed a proposal to establish a task force set to study alternative library services options.
The Los Altos City Council last week opted against ratifying a task force set to explore library services outside of the Santa Clara County Library District.
The council rejected a proposal to form the joint Los Altos-Los Altos Hills ad hoc group Feb. 26, voting 4-1 against it after some councilmembers said it wasn’t a pressing priority for the city.
The vote came during an update on the Library Management Options Task Force by Councilwoman Val Carpenter, the task force’s chairwoman. Among other things, Carpenter’s update included a final roster of potential task force members, including Los Altos Hills City Councilwoman Courtenay C. Corrigan and members of the Los Altos Library Commission and Friends of the Library of Los Altos and Community. Carpenter cast the lone vote in favor of the proposal.
“It’s not the merit of whether this could be studied,” Councilwoman Megan Satterlee said. “It’s (about) the priority of studying this now.”
The former city council – which included since termed-out councilmen Ron Packard and David Casas – originally opted Nov. 13 to move forward with the task force after a narrow 3-2 vote. Casas, Packard and Carpenter cast votes in favor of the task force.
At the time, Casas and then-Mayor Carpenter cited the need to explore alternate library services after a report by former Los Altos Hills City Councilman Jean Mordo noted that the cities’ combined annual contributions ranged between $620,000 and $1.4 million more than the library services the two cities received.
“I’m sorry that council does not wish to pursue the $600,000 to $1.5 million that we’re sending to other parts of the library district,” said Carpenter after the Feb. 26 vote.
The Joint Powers Authority (JPA) Board of Directors – the library district’s governing body – uses a funding formula weighing equally each member city’s population, property assessed valuation and library circulation to allocate funds.
The JPA board rejected a request to change the funding formula, as well as a follow-up appeal in October for a “5 percent tolerance threshold” mechanism that would have given Los Altos libraries an additional $66,000.
Just before the Feb. 26 vote by the current council, Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins questioned the use of city staff time on the issue. She noted that the November vote was a narrow one that included two yes votes by members no longer on the council.
“Two of those three votes are no longer with us,” she said. “Two of those votes against this (Satterlee and Mayor Jarrett Fishpaw) are still with us. … I don’t feel comfortable as a new councilmember feeling encumbered by a decision that had this type of a split vote. I think I would be speaking differently if it had been a 5-0 vote.”
Councilwoman Jan Pepper, who currently serves as the city’s representative on the JPA board, expressed concern that the task force might “muddy the waters” for the district, which is planning to seek (by mail-in vote) a renewal of a $33 parcel tax, slated to expire in 2015.
The tax is paid annually to the district by residents of member cities and unincorporated county areas.
“Everyone loves the libraries,” Pepper said. “They’re not broken. It’s not something that needs to be fixed.”