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Public Library District Handbook
Task P Three: Coordinating Government Participation
Keep local government officials informed throughout the process. Educate local officials about their responsibilities and be prepared to negotiate about how the process will be carried out. We will discuss the responsibilities of city and county governments next. City Government. Working with city councils is important. City council members are opinion leaders in the community, so they must be informed about the districting process. Talk to city council members about the district and how it affects their library. Educate them about the various options open to them and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Establishment The city council and the new library district must work together to resolve many issues. It is imperative that a city council of an established library be included in the planning process for a district that would like to include that city. If the current city library is funded through the general fund, the city council can decide to reduce property taxes by the amount currently paid for library services if the election passes. The city council can also greatly influence the ease of transition from a city library to a district library. If the city owns the library facility, it must agree to continued use of the library building. The council can also decide to provide transitional funding during the first year of the district's existence. These powers influence the operation of the district during its crucial first year of service.
Keep city councils informed about the process and consider their attitude about the process when deciding whether the city should be included in the proposed district.
Conduct negotiations on the continued use of city library facilities, of transitional funding, and of the reduction of the city budget for the portion used for library services during the planning phase. You can find more information on these negotiations later in this section.
Include sympathetic members of the council or sympathetic city clerks in the group for the district. It is the best way to work with city governments. Doing this assures the council that it will receive accurate information about the group's plans, and it gives the districting effort an informed advocate at city council meetings. If this cannot be done, work hard to keep the council informed about your work by sending the council the group's meeting reports. Make an effort to report to the city council meetings on a regular basis.
County government officials carry a great deal of political power and are responsible for carrying out many of the legal activities of the districting process. County commissioners are responsible for receiving the petition for establishment, holding a hearing, carrying out some or all election procedures, and issuing the order that the district is established if the election is successful. After a successful election, county commissioners appoint the first district board.
Include county officials in the group. If they do not have the time or interest to do this, you need to educate them about the process and their role in it.
County commissioners and the county clerk are probably not aware of their responsibilities in this matter. Meet with both the commissioners and the county clerk to discuss the districting process. County officials must understand their legal responsibilities for carrying out and paying for election procedures. Be prepared to work closely with the county attorney. Interpretations of state district law requirements, election requirements, and standard practices of the county commission may differ in some manner from county to county. It is important to discuss and resolve differing legal points of view to prevent them from becoming roadblocks to the district process.
Begin the education process with the county clerk, since this person will do most of the work. Work hard to keep this relationship and others cordial. Have one or two people develop an on-going relationship with the county clerk. This gives the county clerk a point of contact that s/he can become comfortable with. Approaching the clerk with a larger group of people may make the clerk feel that you are trying to intimidate him/her.
Ask the county clerk for his/her advice, as s/he usually has a great deal of useful information. Be prepared to hear about the county clerk's particular issues with the process, and look for ways to compromise if problems occur.
The election's timing process can cause problems for the county when it holds the election. If proposed district boundaries do not follow voting precinct lines, it can make election procedures more complicated. To solve these problems, try conducting an election when other elections are being held or redraw district boundaries to coincide with precinct boundaries. Give the county time to budget for an election by informing them of the election date as far in advance as possible. Consider compromises if they do not drastically interfere with the districting process.
Once you have worked with the county clerk, schedule a meeting with the county commissioners to explain the process and ask for support. Send written reports to the commissioners and county clerk throughout the process. At strategic times, contact the county clerk and make oral reports at county commissioners' meetings.
The New Board of Trustees
County commissioners appoint the board for the new district. This gives the commissioners power over the district at the beginning of its existence. Come to some understanding with the commissioners about whom should be appointed to the board. Usually the commissioners will be happy to receive suggestions about these appointees. They may even ask you to provide a suggested list for all positions, so have a list available and discuss this issue with the commissioners. If two or more counties are forming a district, then the counties jointly appoint the first board. After the first board members have served their respective terms, board members are elected by the public.
What if the County Commissioners Do Not Favor a Library District?
Consider whether or not to proceed. Commissioners hold a lot of power over the districting process and the first year of operation. If they are openly opposed to the idea, you may want to take the time to work with the commissioners until they are agreeable to the districting project.