Why can’t the city of Boulder just fully fund the library directly?

Answer

The discussion over the library’s funding needs began over thirty years ago. As a city department, it has endured the feast/famine cycles of a city budget that is reliant primarily on sales taxes to fund its services. In that time, demand for the library has only grown, while overall wealth across the city has also increased. However, the library’s budget has remained flat — in 2019, it was operating at 2002 funding levels. Prior to the pandemic, some gains were made in the city’s budget, but the pandemic caused massive budget and service cuts from which the library hasn’t recovered. In the meantime, other cities have prioritized re-opening their branches — like Denver — as public health restrictions have lifted. Boulder services remain limited, not strictly because of public health limitations, but because the library lacks the funding to restore staff to its pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, regions that have library districts — Adams county, Erie, Fort Collins — did not see meaningful disruption in their services or staffing due to the pandemic, because library districts are far more stable during times of economic crisis.