Coordinating Local Government Efforts

Keep local government officials informed throughout the process. You will need to educate local officials about their responsibilities. You should also be prepared to negotiate about how the process will be carried out. Here are the responsibilities of the various local government officials.

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 district when deciding whether the city should be included in the proposed district.

Be prepared to 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 handbook.

Consider including sympathetic members of the council or sympathetic city clerks in the initial district planning group. 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.

Resolution Needed: If you are currently a city library you will need the city council to pass a resolution allowing you to join the library district. See MCA 22-1-705 Consolidation of existing public libraries or public library districts for more information.

County Government

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.

Try to include county officials in the district 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. Approaching the clerk with a larger group of people may make the clerk feel that you are trying to intimidate them.

Ask the county clerk for their advice, as they usually have 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. If necessary be prepared to pay for part of the election costs. If you have a special election the county can ask you to come up with the money to pay for the election costs. It may be in the best interests of the district to have a special election, so don't ignore this possibility simply because you don't have the funding. Fundraising is always an option.

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.

Resolution Needed: If you are currently a county library and the county was the one who established your library you will need the county commission to pass a resolution allowing you to join the library district. See MCA 22-1-705 Consolidation of existing public libraries or public library districts for more information.

ASPeN: The New Library Directory

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