Malibu Library not getting money’s worth


City officials and residents, who met with the county on Monday, say they want more for their money. County librarian promises city will get what it wants.

By Andrisa Anderson/Special to The Malibu Times

Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich and Malibu residents met with County Librarian Margaret Donnellan Todd Monday at the Malibu Library to discuss concerns regarding questionable expenditures for the 34-year-old library.

Conley Ulich expressed interested in the library during her campaign, comparing it to the ones in Calabasas and Agoura Hills, which have more updated technology such as computers, and more videos and books, as well more activities.

Mayor Sharon Barovsky and Malibu City Manager Katie Lichtig were also present at the meeting.

Todd disclosed what she knew of income and expenditures from fiscal records.

“Right now you are currently providing more property tax than you are getting in service,” Todd said at the meeting.

Funding for the Malibu branch library comes from property taxes, special taxes and county general funds. The tax money goes into one special district/county fund for all libraries in the county system and Malibu’s contribution to that fund is not equal to what the city receives in library services, Todd said.

The total costs of services to the library for the 2002-03 Fiscal Year were $968,262. Property tax contributions for the 2003-04 Fiscal Year to the library were estimated at more than $1.4 million, and it is expected that costs for this fiscal year will be just more than $1 million, leaving a large gap in expenditures. County officials said Malibu is one of four cities where property tax revenues exceed expenditures.

Conley Ulich said she believes approximately $500,000 was not spent on library services last year, nor will be the next year. She also said more should be spent on certain areas such as books and materials. Only $45,381 was spent on such items during 2002-03.

According to the County of Los Angeles Public Library Operating Statement for the 2002-03 Fiscal Year, the city of Malibu paid $107,256 for leasing16, 530 square feet of library space and for 1,700 square feet that makes up the bookmobile garage. However, Barovsky said she measured the library and found less square feet of space than is being paid for. The county librarian did not have clarification on this discrepancy, but agreed to look into a physical measurement of the outside of the library as requested by Barovsky.

Another questionable figure for the past fiscal year was the $115,354 in maintenance of the building and grounds. The facility is located next to the courthouse and the joining facilities may also have certain combined costs for property that the library does not actually utilize.

Todd said she would recommend to the county that Malibu get what it wants and she would untangle this web of payment and architectural issues.

The county will pay for an assessment of the Malibu branch that will determine what is the best use for the library, and any additional space it may house. Barovsky said surveys had been conducted and residents would like a space for visual arts, perhaps a studio and other residents would like more focus on children needs.