City officials have begun looking for a consultant to study how much residents will need public libraries.
City Council members Tuesday directed City Manager Bruce Channing to find a consultant to study whether existing and proposed library facilities in neighboring communities will adequately serve Laguna Hills residents in coming years.
Channing estimated the study can be done for between $5,000 and $20,000.
The city has no county branch library within its boundaries and the county has no plans to build one.
Residents primarily use an overcrowded branch library on Chrisanta Drive in Mission Viejo. The county plans to build a 15,000-square-foot branch in Aliso Viejo by 1997 that is intended for Laguna Hills residents as well.
But city officials are concerned the Aliso Viejo branch may eventually prove inadequate as the community grows. And with Mission Viejo now considering whether to secede from the county system and build its own library, and county officials proposing a November ballot measure to create a new taxing district to pay for library services, Laguna Hills is faced with several variables that could affect its level of service, Channing said.
Councilman L. Allan Songstad Jr. asked Channing if the city should hold off on the library study until after some of those questions are answered.
Channing said the city could respond faster if the city has a study detailing residents' library needs once Mission Viejo's and the county's directions are known.
When Laguna Hills incorporated in 1991, it signed a resolution agreeing to have the county provide it with library services. Whether the city could secede, in light of that agreement, is being studied by City Atty. Lois E. Jeffrey.
Property owners in the city now pay a total of $538,000 a year in property taxes for library services. If the proposed taxing district is put on the November ballot and approved, it would require homeowners to pay $18 a year more, raising the annual amount to over $675,000, city officials said.
"We're talking about spending $500,000 a year for services we don't get," said Councilwoman Melody Carruth.
Added Mayor R. Craig Scott: "Our community is woefully lacking in library service, and I don't think the county has kept its promise under the (incorporation) resolution."