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SCVNews.com | 2/3 of Money in Bank for Stevenson Ranch Library | 11-22-2011
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County also plans libraries in Newhall Ranch, Castaic and Placerita Canyon by 2020
| Tuesday, Nov 22, 2011

Two-thirds of the $18 million needed for a new Stevenson Ranch Library is in the bank in the form of developer fees, according to an annual report filed by County Librarian Margaret Donnellan Todd.

It’s one of four libraries Todd’s agency plans to build in the Santa Clarita Valley by the end of the decade.

The County Library’s updated capital improvement plan calls for new libraries in unincorporated Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, Placerita Canyon and the future Newhall Ranch community by 2020. Construction would be paid through developer fees as the areas grow.

Tuesday’s report from Todd to the Board of Supervisors was an annual requirement under state law, which requires government agencies to disclose how they’re spending developer fees.

The county has collected developer fees for libraries since 1998 as a means of averting the “unacceptable service levels” that would otherwise result from population growth in the county’s unincorporated communities, a board resolution states.

The county keeps its library developer fees in separate accounts for seven different geographical regions. The Santa Clarita Valley comprises one such region. (The Antelope Valley is separate.)

The SCV’s library developer fee account stood at $10.7 million at the beginning of the last fiscal year (ending Sept. 30). It added $1.06 million during year, the bulk of which was a $922,946 severance payment from the city of Santa Clarita to repay the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment in the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library when the city withdrew from the county library system.

In the SCV region, fees are assessed at $805 per dwelling unit. With a slowdown in housing construction, only $138,034 – roughly equivalent to 172 new homes – was collected in the SCV last year on top of the city’s payment.

The SCV fund earned $139,892 in interest, and the county spent $109,253 on costs associated with upgrading the Canyon Country Library and planning the future Stevenson Ranch library – leaving a year-end balance of $11.79 million.

The Stevenson Ranch library is in the early planning stages. The county has held meetings to gather residents’ ideas about a location.

Money-wise, the county is two-thirds of the way there.

Under the capital improvement plan filed Tuesday, the Stevenson Ranch library is budgeted for $18 million, including $3 million for 60,000 square feet of land, $13.6 million for a 15,000-square-foot building and $1.36 million in library materials.

It would be roughly equivalent in size to the Canyon Country Library, which is 17,000 square feet. By comparison, the Valencia Library is 24,000 square feet and the old Newhall Library that’s being replaced is 4,482 square feet.

Todd’s plan calls for a substantially larger and more expensive library to serve Newhall Ranch. At 36,000 square feet, it would overshadow the city of Santa Clarita’s 30,000-square-foot Old Town Newhall library that’s now under construction.

As envisioned, the Newhall Ranch library would cost $43.8 million, including $7.3 million for 144,000 square feet of land and $32.6 million for construction.

Assuming the Sevenson Ranch library is built first, at $805 per dwelling unit, developers would need to build 54,400 new homes to pay for the Newhall Ranch library outright – or the county would need to identify additional funding sources. (Supervisors conceptually approved 20,660 homes for Newhall Ranch.) Property tax assessments collected in communities served by the Los Angeles County Public Library system are insufficient to cover the system’s current operating costs, according to previous county reports.

On paper, before the decade is out, both Castaic and Placerita Canyon would see a 10,000-square-foot library on 40,000 acres of land at a total cost of roughly $12 million each.

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