Joni Teter

Library nerd, Egyptophile, sustainability warrior.

Joni Teter's latest activity
published Businesses in Blog 2022-05-13 13:31:27 -0600

How are libraries good for business?

As former Governor John Hickenlooper said: Two of the most important assets any town has are its library and its Main Street.

As former Governor John Hickenlooper said, “Two of the most important assets any town has are its library and its Main Street.”

Should businesses support the library district? 

Let’s be clear: Thriving cultural assets – such as arts, libraries, and parks – are a big part of what draws businesses (and people who become employees and customers) to a region. Attractive amenities attract.

So, yes! The answer is yes.

Having more libraries — and robust, accessible library services — also leads to a more educated workforce in the community, which is good for business. An educated workforce helps a business's bottom line, and the long term benefits of a healthy library system greatly outweigh the short term costs. It's a good investment to make for the community. That’s why we are driving the campaign to get stable funding for what the library does. 

In the meantime, your library currently supports small businesses in countless ways despite massive budget cuts, and that’s why many small local businesses support the formation and funding of the district. If you're a local small business and would like to endorse us, please do that here:

What do libraries do for business? 

The library has so many small-business resources to make owning and operating a business easier in Boulder. Here’s a list of services that are free, and freely available (though currently under threat of cancellation due to lack of stable funding):

  • meeting rooms and co-working spaces
  • support with creating business plans
  • access to financial and marketing research databases
  • tech training resources like computer skills and email basics
  • essential workforce development via direct support such as job coaching, including real-time interview practice, full-service resume review, skills building and a writing lab
  • access to dozens of self-paced classes to learn new skills, upgrade existing skills and earn certificates and high school degrees

BLDG 61, the library's makerspace, has seen over 75 small businesses launched, including 12 patent applications. BLDG 61 is an incubator for small businesses. It provides free access to high tech tools like 3D printers, looms, woodworking equipment, laser cutters, a CNC router, and electronics.

Through BoulderReads, adult learners can get GEDs to go and work for small businesses. All of the services mentioned above are under threat due to lack of stable funding, and many of them are directly supported via grants. 

Commercial property owners are not the same as small business owners

Businesses and their employees are heavy users of library services. But when people ask about how the district will impact businesses, we need to differentiate between businesses and commercial property owners

While the exact percentage of commercial property in Boulder that's actually owned by residents living here in Boulder County is not known, from what we can tell, it’s less than 50%. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only 10% of small businesses own their own buildings. The Boulder Office of Economic Vitality does periodic informal business surveys, and in their most recent survey, they indicated that two thirds of businesses in Boulder lease their space, while only about 17% of local businesses own their own building.

Nationally, according to SBA, 50% of small businesses are actually home-based, and home-based properties aren't taxed as a commercial property.

What does the Gallagher Amendment do in terms of taxation on commercial property? 

There’s no dispute that commercial property owners are disproportionately taxed in Colorado, and that this is a result of the Gallagher Amendment, not a library district proposal. The higher rates for commercial properties account for the fact that properties designated as commercial can sell things out of their space and therefore have a higher tax burden than residential properties. 

Currently, commercial property is taxed at about 4 times the amount as residential property owners. And locally, this is true for how:

  • the city of Boulder's own property tax is assessed on commercial property [14% Boulder property tax] 
  • Boulder County’s property tax is assessed on commercial property [28% of Boulder property tax], and 
  • Boulder Valley School District's tax is assessed on commercial property [54% of Boulder property tax]

The library district proposal does not change that taxing rate, because it is a matter of state law. In 2020, the Gallagher Amendment was repealed, which will lead to a greater level of predictability in terms of the taxes commercial property owners will pay, and will ultimately — down the road — stabilize the amount of taxes paid by commercial property owners over time.

The proposed library district represents a flat 4% increase on commercial and residential properties alike. That equals $23 per $100K of residential value, and $97.60 per $100K of commercial value. It’s true that commercial property owners pass those taxes on to small business owners through NNN (triple-net) leases. In that arrangement, the tenant agrees to pay for all real estate taxes. We believe, for most office type spaces, this equates to an additional $0.15 - $0.18 NNN cost per square foot per year.

To repeat: in accordance with state law, and in accordance with the way all city, county, and school district taxes work, the tax on commercial properties is levied based on the Gallagher Amendment, and in the case of the library, it's a flat 4% increase. If rental prices increase beyond 4%, that would not be due to the library district. 

Supporting businesses as the district forms 

If we want to talk about lessening the tax burden on commercial property owners, city leaders can focus on how they can use the savings they get from the library becoming a district (should voters approve it in November) to ease that burden during our COVID recovery and ease the burden on locally owned small businesses in Boulder.

The Library Champions have suggested a grant or rebate program for small business property owners in the intervening period. Ultimately, what the city does is up to the city, and residents should provide input to them. The library district itself can further invest in some business-focused services (such as a business helpdesk, for instance), that would help offset the increase for small, local businesses in the district area. 

If you're a local small business and would like to endorse us, please do that here:

David Farnan, Library & Arts Director, a hidden gem

There are everyday heroes all around us. The individuals who make a difference in our communities. In these extraordinary times we see these everyday heroes going above and beyond. The health care workers on the front lines, delivery drivers, school principals and teachers who have had to adapt to a new normal and support our kids along the way, neighbors who are buying groceries for each other, friends sewing masks, the list goes on. Heroes like this don’t wear capes but make a big impact.

In Boulder, we are incredibly fortunate to have David Farnan as our Library & Arts Director. David is truly one of Boulder’s hidden gems. In the last 6 years, David has been able to overhaul the library on a shoestring budget; oversee growth to over one million annual visitors (or 9.56 visits per capita, the highest rate of any city or metro area library); and amass 126,000 loyal cardholders (118% of Boulder’s population!). Clearly, the library is a popular place and David’s work to overhaul the system shows. David’s work has not only avoided significant deterioration of service at Boulder Public Library, it has propelled BPL to one of the most innovative libraries around -- even leading to it being named the 2016 Library of the Year. 

The stories of those impacted by the innovations at the library are as heartwarming as they are numerous. From the TreeOpp program transforming an environmental challenge into art and social change to Reading Buddies helping children find the motivation to read, to the incredibly quick pivot for virtual programming and wifi hotspot roll out as COVID-19 shut Boulder down, you can’t get through the website without finding a unique offering chartered by David and his staff. We eagerly await this fall's One Book One Boulder, a timely event in which the library staff and the Boulder Library Foundation will bring the community together to read and discuss "So You Want To Talk About Race," and to listen to its author Ijeoma Oluo.

Often, the measure of a great leader are those who choose to come work for them. Looking around BPL, it’s clear David has assembled a world-class team and that the team is as invested in David’s vision as he is. David's singular superpower is his openness to listen to his capable staff's ideas and then to create the space for them to bring those plans to fruition. Under his leadership, many programs have been given life and been nurtured even against the current of dwindling resources.

He is the Library Evangelist. He is enthusiastic and cheerful about all things library and he will spend any amount of time sharing with people the small and great accomplishments of his staff and of libraries everywhere. His passion originates in the sincere belief in democracy, justice, and the place of public libraries in preserving those values. It’s clear Boulder is fortunate to enjoy one of the most dedicated library staffs around with a visionary leader that brings it all together.

Several groups of library lovers consider David Farnan to be a hero within our community: The Boulder Library Foundation, Boulder Library Commission and Boulder Library Champions would

all like to thank and commend David for the job he’s done. So the next time you’re browsing the website for a book or event, remember one of Boulder's hidden heroes, the guy who has strengthened Boulder Public Library into a cornerstone of our City. 



The Boulder Library Foundation

Boulder Public Library Commission

Boulder Library Champions

donated 2022-05-02 09:27:41 -0600

Shining a Light on Boulder's Budget: How Would a Library District Help Boulder's Budget?

Forming a library district would free up at least $9.7 million/year in the city budget.   The library district would be responsible to implement the community’s vision for our library, so funding for increased staffing, future capital projects and maintenance of facilities (including the facilities backlog) would no longer be a city responsibility. 

These revenues would be freed up to go to other programs and services, or be refunded to taxpayers. Savings over ten years would add up to over $100 million dollars

 Most library districts continue to rely on their city government to provide administrative overhead services.  “Contracting back” with the library district for these services would turn this paper revenue stream into a real revenue stream of up to $3.4M/year.

The chart below compares cost savings realized by the city if a library district is formed, compared against city "unfunded needs"  projected from 2025 forward.


Read on for details about how forming a library district can help relieve pressure on the Boulder city budget.

Read more
published Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go? in Blog 2019-10-01 23:33:43 -0600

Shining a Light on Boulder's Budget: Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?

 Boulder's City government implements over 300 "community" and "governance" programs spread across 21 departments. Community programs provide direct service to residents and businesses, while governance programs provide support services to other city departments.


More than 50% of the operating budget goes to 5 departments: police, open space and mountain parks, parks & recreation, utilities and city governance/administration (city council, attorney’s office, clerk, communications, city manager, finance, HR, IT).  

Note that “governance” includes city debt payments and operating reserves. The city has been building towards a 20% operating reserve for the last ten years.

Read more
wants to volunteer 2019-03-17 17:08:06 -0600

Become a volunteer

Will you join our team of volunteers and help secure sustainable funding for our community library's future? Where you can help:

  • Yes, I will host a house party or neighborhood gathering

    Learn More: The campaign will work with you to schedule and host an event where friends and other potential supporters from your network can learn more about the Boulder Library Champions campaign. 
    When? Ongoing
  • Yes, I will help spread the word through social media

    Learn More: Help us spread the Boulder Library Champions’ messages via pre-approved messaging, graphics and images designed to be copied and pasted into your social media feeds.
    When? Ongoing
  • Yes, I will help with fundraising for this fall's election campaign.

    Learn More: Help to identify and engage people who might be willing to donate to the Boulder Library Champions campaign. 
    When? Ongoing
  • Yes, I will help distribute campaign literature

    Learn More: Getting the word out in a busy election year is more important than ever. “Lit drops” include going door-to-door to distribute campaign information to likely voters and other supporters in the proposed Library District boundary. 
    When? August through Election Day
  • Yes, I will write/submit a Letter to the Editor or Guest Column to a local newspaper

    Learn More: We’ll help you deliver informed and authoritative commentary about your support for the Boulder Library Champions on the opinion pages of your local newspaper. 
    When? Ongoing
  • Yes, I will help canvass or phone bank

    Learn More: Make phone calls and send text messages to help us identify supporters and provide voters with information on why they should vote yes to create a Library District. 
    When? June-Election Day
  • Yes, I will place a sign in my yard

    Learn More: Show your support for a Library District to passersby, customers, friends and neighbors. Most signs are suitable for neighborhoods, but we’re happy to design larger signs for supporters who have high-visibility or high-traffic locales.
    When? August through Election Day
  • Other -- let me know what you need!

    Learn More: Want to roll up your sleeves in some other way when demand warrants? Let us know that you’re available. 
    When? Ongoing

Sign up here to be added to our volunteer list to get a heads-up when we need a hand. You can also email us at [email protected] with questions or other ideas for how you might help.

Become a volunteer
signed up on Subscribe 2019-03-15 11:02:19 -0600

Subscribe for Updates

Sign up here to stay informed about our efforts. We'll keep you up to date about how you can support sustainable funding for our libraries.

You can also follow us on:

Sign up