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Around the Creek: City Finds Way to Maintain Library Hours

More news, useful tidbits and random tales of what's happening in and around Walnut Creek.

One outcome of the City Council's goal-setting retreat last week was that it found funds to keep the downtown and Ygnacio Valley libraries open at the current number of hours for four years.

Walnut Creek voters passed Measure Q in 2002 to increase the hours at both libraries from 35 to 56. But Measure Q expired in July, the same month the new downtown library opened.

There have been questions about whether the city would need to return to voters and ask for another tax to maintain the 56 hours. The city initially said it could cover the costs of the hours for two years.

But the need now is less pressing, according to City Manager Ken Nordhoff. He announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting that the city had saved enough money to pay for those hours for the next four years.

Both libraries are operated by the county but Walnut Creek voters decided with Measure Q, passed in 2002, to help pay for the additional hours. The city will pay $539,000 to $635,000 each year to staff the additional hours. 

Jojo Potato February 03, 2011 at 03:18 PM
Where did the money come from? Saved enough money how? I may not be the only one who would like to know.
One more time with feeling February 03, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I am glad to know the Measure Q funds are actually being used as directed by voters - as opposed to being used in a manner voters did not direct, like twice ignoring the voters & funding the building of the grossly overpriced Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch Library. That these City funds are being used to pay County employee salaries is disappointing, but Measure Q is what it is, and following directions is appropriate. Interestingly, to "find" twice the amount of money is both great and scary. I know Mr Nordhoff is the new guy - but how many other dollars are now magically appearing because "needs are less pressing" and the City saved more money than expected? Can someone please define "needs are less pressing"? Are people not using the Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch Library? I hope the people purposely walking in/out of that facility to artificially inflate the attendance numbers have finally stopped that practice... At best, stop over-reporting attendance using the counters that cannot differentiate between multiple "visits" by the same body - current practice is like counting multiple web page hits by the same person merely because they clicked the link.
One more time with feeling February 03, 2011 at 04:40 PM
A contribution to the Blue Ribbon Task Force: http://www.smartvoter.org/2002/03/05/ca/cc/meas/Q/ According to Martha's article, all these magically found funds will be used for the increased staffing hours - not "replacing worn and outdated books, materials and equipment; maintaining reading and educational programs for children and services for adults, students and seniors". Fair enough - after all the Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch Library is new, with new computers and everything (put the Ygnacio Valley Library on the shelf, no pun intended, for this activity). 21 more hours per week x 52 weeks per year = 1,092 hours per year. Using the low end, the $539,000 annual County employee salary subsidy the City kicks in divided by 1,092 hours this funds = ~$494 per hour. $494 per hour total divided by $30 per single County employee = 16+ people Assuming $30/hour salary + benefits (around $45,000 annual salary + $15,000 annual benefits), that is 16+ people who are Contra Costa County employees - not City employees... I am sure the 30+ laid-off City employees would be thrilled. And all the "automation" at this facility does what for us?
michael frederick February 03, 2011 at 05:46 PM
Martha, I really think some clarification is in order: What is the source of the "savings"? Is Nordhoff referring to Measure Q money that has been stock-piled? That's fine with me, if that's the case. If, however, the decision has been made to divert funds from elsewhere into a dedicated library pot, as it did in accumulating the $19+ million for the building, I think the public needs to know that, particularly in light of all of the community goal-setting around the "Blue Ribbon task force" and the recent labor turmoil undertaken out of necessity. What need is less pressing? Is the CITY now paying its COUNTY employees less? I'll review the tape to see if there any answers from Nordhoff at the meeting but, this article raises some questions.
SR February 03, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Whoa wait a minute! I thought we were in a bugdet meltdown? We are cutting cops but paying the salaries of Contra Costa County employees to keep the library open a few more hours per day? Where did this come from? There is some shady ENRON accounting going on here.
Sadie Berkhimer February 03, 2011 at 06:25 PM
I am still reserving judgment on the performance of the new City Manager but without a viable explanation of how this money suddenly showed up it is difficult not to harshly judge some of the current staff. Since it has been pretty tough times financially around my house the past several years, I would like to invite the dynamic duo, Lorie Tinfow and her partner Fred Marsh to have a look at my books and do their magic. Now, let me see, which shell is the pea under.............
Jim February 03, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Thanks for staying on this and the Blue Ribbon Task Force Martha. Comparing the names of the finalists for the Task Force I found 15 of the 30 people are listed as members/endorsers on Cindy Silva's campaign website. There are 5 City Commissioners-all 5 on Silva's campaign page. Seven are Yes for Walnut Creek members including 2 of the 3 Board Members (Wynstra and Carlston). Carlston was Silva's campaign manager as well. The Yes for Walnut Creek Board is basically Silva's Political Action Committee. At least two finalists have donated large sums to the Library Foundation. A real "objective" cross section of the community!
Kristin Anderson February 03, 2011 at 06:36 PM
Here are some facts: Measure Q was approved by the voters in 2002 and the funds are only to be used to extend library hours at both libraries in Walnut Creek. The Ygnacio Valley Library and Walnut Creek Library are open 56 hours a week because of Measure Q. The County funds 35 hours. Any library that is open more than 35 hours (like Lafayette) is doing so with additional funding sources. The Measure Q funds are ONLY to be used for library hours, not materials. The City has an agreement with the County regarding the additional hours. As does Lafayette. The City collects the Measure Q funds and if there are savings it is because the actual expenses were less than expected, ie; budgeted vs. actual expenses. Additional questions about these numbers should be directed to the City or County. Extending hours means paying librarians to be at the library. Our libraries are part of the Contra Costa Library system, so the librarians are county employees. It is more cost effective for our city to be part of the county library system rather than have its own city-operated library, and it is a very good system. Both libraries serve anyone who walks in the door, and both Walnut Creek libraries are very busy. The Ygnacio Valley Library has many users who live in Concord. The Walnut Creek Library has users from all over because of its central location. How wonderful that the Measure Q funds were used wisely and there are enough savings to last 2 more years than expected!
Jojo Potato February 03, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Measure Q is over. It expired last year. This year is the first without any measure Q funds. So the question remains, where did the money come from? It's a significant amount and we citizens desire some answers.
Sadie Berkhimer February 03, 2011 at 09:10 PM
Jojo is so right! What kind of accounting system is used that suddenly someone "finds" the extra money mentioned in Martha's article? Why wasn't this grand sum "found" last year when the city was scrambling to get their financial house in order? Seems that there are many unanswered questions, yet again, in regard to the true picture of city finances.
michael frederick February 03, 2011 at 10:08 PM
Deb, Leave the "political crap" out of it? That certainly wasn't the sentiment when Bob Brittain organized you, Kristen, and the other library supporters to elect Cindy Silva, was it? It wasn't the case when you all organized around Measure R, was it? You aren't a library movement, you're a political movement -- because you made yourself so. That doesn't change at your discretion or for your convenience, sorry. Kristen, a shotgun blast of largely irrelevant information but no answers. What are the savings and where did the money come from? If you don't know or won't share, you shouldn't mind if the public asks.
SR February 03, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Thank you Ms. Anderson from the Library Foundation. A question-it appears from watching the council meeting that the city is just extending Measure Q money for four more years. Can you confirm that all of this "new" money is 100% from the saved funds while the library was being built and not "new" from anywhere else? Martha's article gives the impression money was found somewhere in the city budget that will be diverted to thge library to supplement what is left of the Measure Q money. The City Manager also wasn't very clear in the meeting. Thank you.
Martha Ross February 03, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Sorry folks, I should have been more clear about this, and Kristin did a pretty good job clarifying things.... The city didn't use all the Measure Q funds that had been saved while the new library was constructed, and the funds were not being spent as quickly as anticipated.
One more time with feeling February 04, 2011 at 04:55 AM
Library Foundation Director: Your "facts" are not. Replace the fact checker or correct the League of Women Voters, Walnut Creek Nutshell and the State of California. http://www.smartvoter.org/2002/03/05/ca/cc/meas/Q/ is the link I supplied along with the copy/paste of their text - which is the ballot verbiage. This is identical to the text in the July 2002 Nutshell text at http://www.walnut-creek.org/search/default.asp?dispType=full&searchType=filebank - refer to the last page. "Measure Q, approved March 5 by nearly 70 percent of Walnut Creek voters, will generate $790,000 a year for the next eight years to increase hours, purchase newer materials and books, and provide services to students and children, said Pokorney." Then there's the State of California that shows the same summary http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/co_city_sch_elections/city_report_2002.pdf See page 23. Near the bottom. Had I known Measure Q was only for funding County library employee salaries - as you state is a FACT - I would not have voted for it. Shame on me for being misled by the State, League of Women Voters and Walnut Creek's own publication (The Nutshell). By the way... since YOU brought it up, the Lafayette Library Foundation publishes their financials: http://www.lafayettelib.org/foundation/about.html Scroll down and click the links. The balance of your post is irrelevant fluff.
One more time with feeling February 04, 2011 at 06:03 AM
If I may, from a different angle... According to the July 2002 Nutshell, Gary Pokorney says $790,000 will be raised each year based on the City of Walnut Creek collecting "a qualified special tax not to exceed $22 per year per residential parcel or equivalent". $790,000 divided by $22 per parcel = 35,909 residential parcels (or equivalents) http://www.contracostatimes.com/walnut-creek-alamo/ci_17283144?nclick_check=1 "Walnut Creek's libraries are open longer hours thanks to Measure Q, the $22-per-parcel tax passed in 2002 (and which expired July 1, 2010) that generates more than $900,000 a year." And this article keeps changing so I printed it. $900,000 - $790,000 = $110,000 $110,000 divided by $22 per parcel (or equivalent) = 5,000 residential (or equivalent) net newly added parcels (or equivalents) that were built (or annexed or somehow magically appeared & Gary P was not aware of them) in the City of Walnut Creek. That is some serious infill. In a bad economy. When no one is building. Doom & gloom from Gary P & "the new normal". 30+ employees laid off because we had a $20 million deficit. I expect those 5,000 newly added residential units to pay other taxes along with the $22 Measure Q Library parcel tax. Anyone know about any substantial, developed, residential, County land that was pulled in to the City? I can get to a few hundred net-adds (mostly condo development and minor infill), but not 5,000.
One more time with feeling February 04, 2011 at 06:40 AM
Normal stuff. Disclaimer: I voted for Measure Q. The voter-approved Measure Q $22 per residential parcel (or equivalent) is collected, saved and accrued until the funds can be spent on their stated purpose. In this case, "to increase hours, purchase newer materials and books, and provide services to students and children." (Not just increase library hours.) Funds collected under the voter-approved Measure Q could not have been used for other City expenses and these funds were accounted for - basically held in reserve. Only the specified expenses at the Contra Costa County Library system branches (Downtown Walnut Creek and Ygnacio Valley) can use the voter-approved Measure Q funds for the reasons specified on the voter-approved ballot measure. HOWEVER, please recall Walnut Creek voters twice did not approve to fund the Library construction project. And never approved funding the project - but Council ignored the voters and proceeded with the construction project. The tens of millions of dollars diverted from the City's General Fund and Reserves to pay for the City building staffed by County employees continues to be a source of irritation - even more because of the "new normal" and the layoff of 30+ City employees because of the $20 million City budget deficit caused by... the library construction project.
SR February 04, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Martha I wonder if you could look into why it seems the Blue Ribbon Task Force is going to be made up of Cindy Silva's campaign staff. What's the point of even having it if everyone is going to have the same opinions and conclusions?????
michael frederick February 04, 2011 at 05:15 PM
Kristin, I know you think libraries are "good." Promoting libraries 50% more expensive than their models, through promotion and without explanation, is not "good." Promoting $20 million of commercial parking as "library" under Measure R is not "good" ... The PUBLIC asks straight forward questions: Where did the money come from? Given the fact the city quietly squirreled away $18 million from everything else to build the gem, I think it's appropriate. I'm not as comfortable as you, and Martha, with the explanation that we thought it was 2 years but it turned out to be 4: We're swimming in so much taxpayer money, we can't keep track of it? So, is it nefarious money moving or good-natured incompetency? I'm not sure. Our Mayor's first run for office had library as a central theme and used the contacts she made as the head of your political movement. Distinguishing library interests from political interests and City Hall is impossible. The idea that you and Deb aren't part of a political movement is RIDICULOUS. I doubt if anyone cares about your personal resumes. I certainly don't. However, I do question your collective role, as part of a political movement, to misinform the public through your promotional activity. The PUBLIC would probably prefer to see PUBLIC concerns answered with something other than obfuscation and cheerleading: "Go, Kristin, Go. :)" Whether you have PUBLIC answers or not, spare the irrelevant PERSONAL indignation.
Silence Dogood February 04, 2011 at 06:44 PM
You can go down to city hall this weekend and ask that question yourself. The interviews are happening on Saturday starting at 8 AM.
WC-Independent February 07, 2011 at 09:24 PM
OMTWF, Regarding - "grossly overpriced Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch". I remember before the library was built the discussion it being overpriced etc. I did a quick check of the libraries built in the last 5 years (Dublin, Livermore, Orinda, maybe others). The WC price didn't seem out of line. I understand the parking garage was at it issue. Hey I don't have a side just a data fanatic. What research of yours indicates it's overpriced?
One more time with feeling February 08, 2011 at 05:22 PM
WC-Independent, Some of my thought process and background on the project... I am not anti-Library. I am anti-overspending. The *original* Contra Costa County downtown Walnut Creek branch library project was around $56 million. As time passed, voters twice rejected the project funding and the State twice rejected grant requests, the parking that was to wipe out the Maxwell property was eliminated, and we got down to about $43 million that the City Manager at the time said we could not afford. $4,000 sinks, $400 chairs and $500,000 automatic book return notwithstanding we should remember we have two library branches in Walnut Creek. Much of the "justification" revolved around Walnut Creek's population and this single downtown facility. A bit more cutting got us to a little less than $40 million. For my "comps": City of Belmont: $11 million, opened May 2006. Alameda County MAIN library: $22 million, opened October 2009. Logan Heights (branch) library (San Diego), $14 million, opened December 2009. Winters (branch) library, $6 million, opened July 2009. There are several others. Getting the state grant AND voter approval OR something less than $25 million would have been more acceptable and affordable.
One more time with feeling February 08, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Because the City was accruing funds for the County-staffed library construction costs (that voters did not approve), the City fell into a budget deficit of about $20 million. This deficit caused "the new normal" (Credit: former City Manager Gary Pokorny) at City Hall and resulted in the layoff of 30+ employees. The actual funding of the library project was not the only "cost", but the huge impact of the people caught in the fallout of the bad decisions made that had these folks losing their jobs in a very poor economic environment. For the most part, many are part of a demographic that could least afford the loss of income and benefits. When all this is tossed into a blender along with some companion political events, in my opinion, "oh well, we spent too much", turns into "gross overspend" that requires constant visibility so we don't do the same thing again (reference the planned $21 million pools projects updates). Apologies for the long commentary...
michael frederick February 08, 2011 at 07:38 PM
WC-Independent, WC used the highly acclaimed Santa Clara Library as a model. There are, I believe, 9 billionaires in Los Gatos alone; we have none. WC's proposal was 50% more than this model THEY selected. In no small measure, this was due to the fact, as you mentioned, that they tacked $20 million of commercial parking garage onto it -- which commercial interests downtown previously rejected funding under an assessment district. Better for residents to fund it by slapping a library sticker on the side of it? Without getting bogged down in numbers, I think we all can appreciate that having library fanatics determine "library needs" makes as much sense as having Art advocates present data to support the value of Art to justify ever-increased Art funding. It's for the infirm to enjoy. What's next? Are we going to ask 12 year old little leaguers how much we should spend on a downtown sports stadium? Will $200,000,000 be enough? With this city recognizing everyone with an abnormal personal interest as an expert to be deferred to regarding that interest, why not? They're the experts. As One More Time mentioned, the major point -- that I believe is beyond refutation -- is that this library never aspired to meet WC's library needs. Instead, it was a commercial promotion to produce a "gem", "jewel", ... It was an extravagance that any prudent and concerned person would question, given the worst timing in eighty years and NO outside funding.
One more time with feeling February 11, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Sadie, Fred's Walnut Creek city voicemail "greeting" says he left in July (apparently, 2010), is now at Alameda and refers the caller to another finance-department employee. I guess that explains the Finance Manager job posting at the city's web-site. Interesting we have such a plethora of qualified experts to "volunteer" for the BRTF (including those not making the final cut) yet it takes more than seven months to fill a Finance Manager job. Apparently it is essential and just eliminating the position is appropriate. That said, I wonder why Fred left... OMTWF
One more time with feeling February 11, 2011 at 06:10 PM
WC Library Foundation Director: Hows the activity to correct the League of Women Voters, Walnut Creek Nutshell and the State of California Measure Q synopsis going? Has the Walnut Creek Library Foundation financial information been posted (like the Lafayette Library Foundation) at the WCLF web site? Any update on that IRS link you said was available? I know these things can take time - and its only been a little over a week so maybe I am premature for asking. Just checking... Thanks! OMTWF

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