Responding to pleas from two Ventura County supervisors, the Thousand Oaks City Council has decided to hold off on a proposal to charge residents in the communities of Lynn Ranch, Ventu Park and parts of Newbury Park to use the Thousand Oaks library system like all other out-of-towners.
Council members voted 4 to 0 to wait 60 days before reconsidering the $55 per library card for the 5,500 residents of neighboring unincorporated areas. Councilwoman Linda Parks was absent.
Supervisors Frank Schillo and Kathy Long wrote Thousand Oaks on Tuesday asking for the delay, saying the city should give county leaders some time to continue their efforts to reorganize the beleaguered county library system. The City Council agreed to postpone its decision so it could attempt to work out a deal with the county regarding library fees and services for the three communities.
"I think it's important for us to show support to the county in its efforts to restructure its library system," Mayor Judy Lazar said during Tuesday night's meeting. "But it has to be beneficial to the city."
City library officials are recommending that the council abandon its policy of letting residents of the three communities, which are either next to or completely surrounded by the city, use the Thousand Oaks library at no charge.
The reason: An agreement between the city and the county that was supposed to reimburse Thousand Oaks for such service has left the city subsidizing those nonresidents instead, according to Marvin E. Smith, the city's library director.
"We'd gotten to a point where we calculated the costs and it was well over a million and a quarter dollars," Smith said of the subsidy over the years.
Thousand Oaks signed a deal with Ventura County in 1989 to provide library services to the three county areas. But the fee the county has paid has ranged from a high of $21.54 per capita to $12.13 now. That is much lower than the per-capita amount Thousand Oaks residents have been paying during that time, between $42 and $46, according to a city report.
As a result, Thousand Oaks library officials estimate the city has spent about $1.24 million subsidizing library service in the three areas since it signed the contract with the county.
Moreover, Thousand Oaks has yet to be paid by the county for providing the service last year. And county officials have indicated they are not interested in maintaining the agreement, so the city needs to find another form of compensation if it is to continue serving the unincorporated county areas.
"The county has not paid us for last year, so I'm not terribly optimistic at this point," Smith said regarding the prospect of continued county subsidies.
Under Smith's proposal, everyone who goes to public or private school in Thousand Oaks, from the Conejo Valley Unified School District to Cal Lutheran University, would still be exempt from the fee.
The City Council also voted Tuesday to postpone a recommendation by Smith to stay out of--for the time being--the proposed countywide library reorganization.
A countywide committee is looking at ways to reorganize the county's 15-branch library system. Among the ideas being proposed are placing control of the libraries in the hands of independent library districts made up of Ventura County cities, bringing independent city library systems into the fold, and sharing costs through a central agency.
City library officials considered taking part in such an alliance, providing services such as technical support, but concluded that at this time, doing so was financially unsound and would probably lead to a watering down of library services for Thousand Oaks residents.
"We certainly do want to contribute on an informational basis, but so far, nothing has been proposed by this [committee] that would be of benefit to the city," Smith said. "We certainly don't want through the [committee] to open the library to the entire county."
Thousand Oaks' library system is one of the healthiest and most financially stable in Ventura County. The city's recently renovated, 59,000-square-foot main library holds more than 320,000 books. Thousand Oaks also operates a branch library in Newbury Park.