Library Director bullish about district future: Refinancing move saves taxpayers $1.5 million

Even with tough economic times and lean tax revenue, the Rampart Library District has a bullish future and is bracing itself for the digital age and the growing e-book and resource boom.

In addition, the district has reaped the benefits of the current financial climate by refinancing its bonds, a development that will save taxpayers $1.5 million over the next decade.

These were some of the themes of a presentation by Ann Knowles, director of the Rampart Library District, which houses facilities in both Woodland Park and Florissant, before the Woodland Park City Council last week.

Knowles told elected leaders that the current facilities served more than 163,000 people in 2010 and its staff answered more than 9,000 reference questions. She stressed that the district’s theme of “Something for Everyone,” has resonated well within the community in a time when libraries have become much more than a hub for books. “We have helped change people’s lives,” said Knowles, in describing the library as a great resource for job-hunting, educational classes, technology, meetings and cultural happenings.

For example, she said the facilities now have nearly hit the 200,000 mark in items getting checked out in the form of books, DVDs, VHS movies, audio material, music CDs and more on an annual basis. The library also has been a big technology hit with its 23 public computers getting used 18,000 times in 2010. The Rampart District libraries also offer a number of classes in such areas as computers, social media, crafts, nonprofit organizations, contemporary issues, poetry and driver’s safety.

According to Knowles, more than 10,000 people attended various meetings and events, held at the libraries, in 2010. Both library facilities, especially the one in Woodland, offer a variety of meeting rooms. She also reminded the council that the libraries are hosting a big book sale on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15.

More recently, Knowles told the council that the district has entered the advanced digital and e-book and audio resource boom by joining a special “Across Colorado Digital Consortium” and “OverDrive” program. This enables library card holders to access and download books and a plethora of material online onto their computers, cell phones, ipods or e-book readers on a 24/7 basis without visiting any of the facilities or incurring any late fees.

And from a financial standpoint, the library district, which constructed two facilities over the last eight years through an earlier bond issue, has reaped the benefits of the current economic climate, capped by the downgrading of the national credit rating. While local municipalities are struggling with low interest rates for government-related bonds that have created dwindling monies on their investment-related income, this scenario has actually benefited the library district by allowing it to receive a better deal on its bond payments. This is one bright spot in the current economic slump that has inflicted most local government organizations and nonprofits.

According a district press release, the Rampart district has successfully refinanced its outstanding general obligation bond, which will save taxpayers more than $1.5 million in property taxes over the next 10 years. The bonds were issued in 2002 for the construction of the Woodland Park and Florissant libraries. This followed one of the more successful and ambitious campaigns for a tax increase for new facilities in Teller County. At the time, some critics complained about the expense of the new library in Woodland Park, but most residents agreed that new library facilities and programs were badly needed.

District officials have lauded the refinancing move.

“We seem to have timed the market very well to achieve interest rates on our new bonds of just over 2 percent,” said Sylvia Moody, chief of the library district board of trustees. According to library officials, the new bonds will be paid off in 2021 at which time the district will be debt free.

Of all the library announcements, the council was most enthused about the new refinancing move.