23. What’s with all this hugely amassed library money?

Everyone solving mysteries has heard the expression “Follow the money.”  In the case of the proposed Atherton library, there clearly is something up with all that amassed library riches.  I am not suggesting that there is any indication of thievery, bribery or embezzlement going on. Rather, there are just a lot of strange facets to the facts, as we have been told them.  I am wondering if anyone has any answers to these questions:

A.  How much of Atherton’s total tax revenue is allocated for Library purposes?

B.  What percent of the town’s total income is that?

C. What has it cost us to run our Library historically?

D. Who is responsible for watching how Library funds are spent?

E. If there is so much money available, why would those deciding how to spend Atherton’s money not approve the $300,000 in seismic upgrading that (in 2009) was deemed necessary to make the existing building safe—but instead allow the space to continue to be used in an unsafe condition?

F.  Does the Library pay “rent” of any kind for its use of one of the town’s new in-town locations? If not, why not?  What about paying for the wear and tear? Electricity? Heat?  Who decides which is yes and which is no?

G. If the Library funds have to be used “only” for library purposes and they don’t pay Atherton rent on even the use of the existing facility, why would it be acceptable for those funds be used for “construction” of a new facility? Construction is not a library service.

H.  Who is authorized to make those decisions and how are those decisions made on behalf of Atherton and its residents?  Why don’t Atherton residents get to decide these questions and use their judgement?

I.  If the Library went into the park, and, for example, the Dames ran out of money to pay for the high costs of watering the lawns around the library, would the library pick up those costs to keep the park beautiful? How about adding flowers in the borders, more trees, a couple of lovely outside seating areas?  Seems like there is plenty of landscaping activity anticipated by the project EIR.

J. If demand for Atherton’s new library were so high, that it was clear that more parking spaces were needed in the park and McKeithen and Dobbie succeed in grabbing the tennis courts to use for Library Parking overflow, could the Library funds be used to pave over the tennis courts and lay new roads throughout the park?

K.  If the Library funds can be used to pave or beautify broad swaths of area surrounding it in the park, why couldn’t this work in the Town Center?

L.  If the Library funds can be used to build luxurious-sized “Community meeting rooms” that are large enough for the council to meet in and the Town Council wants to meet there—but the Library wants to hold “Movie Night” for ten-year olds—who gets to use the space?

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One thought on “23. What’s with all this hugely amassed library money?

  1. Dear D.R.,

    You ask some good questions.

    I only know some of the answers to your questions, Hopefully others who know more will post.

    Questions A, B, D. When Prop 13 was passed approximately 3.4% of property tax dollars were allocated to the Library. around 2000 Atherton was running a surplus of $200,000 a year for the library. That has grown to $700,000 a year. The council is responsible for watching how the tax dollars are spent. In reality the county spends the money with little oversite from the Atherton Council.

    Question E– Good point. We have been hearing for years that the current library is unsafe for earthquakes and children are at risk from those who want to move the library to the park. Yet no one has said it is so at risk we need to spend the money now. What happened if there is an earthquake tomorrow, will the council regret not having improved the library last year?

    Question L– One idea I suggested was to use the library funds to retroofit council chambers, which also has seismic problems, The council only has one scheduled meeting a month. Turn the council chambers over to the library when not in use by the council.

    A question you did not ask: This is a county library to be used more than 50% of the time by non-Atherton residents. Shouldn’t Atherton be paid compensated by the county for the land being turned over. The building with parking spaces and driveways could be 2-3 acres. Set that money in a trust to maintain the park.

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