April 1, 2002 - From the April, 2002 issue

After Over Two Years Of Regulatory Debate State Library Bond Close To Accepting Applications

With a recently documented need of $2 billion of investment, the announcement that the State Library Bond Act of 2000's regulations and implementing framework were complete and ready to receive applications has been welcome news to cities, counties and library jurisdictions across California. To delve deeper into the application deadlines-Jun. 14, 2002; Mar. 28, 2003; and Jan. 16, 2004-as well as the minutia of the requirements and the system of dispersement, TPR was pleased to sit down with Richard Hall, Library Bond Act Manager for the State Office of Library Construction.

Richard, it's been almost 2 years since the Library Bond Act of 2000 was approved by voters. Remind our readers what the driving vision was behind that bond.

At $350 million, the Library Bond Act of 2000 is the single largest allocation of funds for public library construction and modernization by any jurisdiction, at any one given time, in the nation. The bond is made available to local jurisdictions-cities, counties and library districts. The funds will be dispersed in a formula, which requires local jurisdictions to provide a 35 percent match to a state matching grant of 65 percent. The need for this Bond Act was based on a statewide needs assessment in the late ‘90s that showed public library construction needs in California at over $2 billion.

You mention that the locality must match the state's 65 percent allocation with a 35 percent allocation of their own. Can that local match be from a school bond?

For the most part, the Library Bond Act is silent on where the local matching funds may come from. Given this it appears that local jurisdictions may use any source of funding-local, private, state or federal-as part of their matching funds. The only prohibition that is in the Bond Act is that the value of any land acquired through the 1998 state school bond fund may not be claimed as an eligible cost or used as a credit to reduce the local match.

Richard, Section 19-994 of the library bond which states, "The first priority shall be given to joint-use projects, in which the agency that operates the library in one or more school districts, have a cooperative agreement." Is that still the first priority of the bond measure?

It is one of two first priorities. The part you quoted is the first priority for construction of new public libraries.

If you read further in that section, under subsection (b) (1), it indicates that first priority "shall be given to public library projects in the attendance areas of public schools that are determined, pursuant to the regulations adopted by the board, to have inadequate infrastructure to support access to computer and other educational technology." That section in the Bond Act pertains to the remodeling or rehabilitation of existing public libraries.

And how does a project garner funding for those types of projects? Give us a sense of some key portions of the implementing framework as it relates to construction/modernization.

As indicated, the Bond Act indicates that for new construction projects, a joint-use project is first priority. As the California Public Library Construction and Renovation Board progressed through the development of the regulations, it was decided that there needed to be two different aspects to the definition of "joint-use."

First, we have what is called a co-located library-a public and school library under the same roof, sharing space, collections, furnishings, equipment and staff.

Second, we have what we call a joint-venture project-a broader interpretation of joint-use including a list of the different services a library can provide to K-12 students such as: Computer centers; Family literacy centers; Homework centers; Career centers; Subject specialty learning centers, Shared electronic and telecommunication library services, and other similar collaborative library services that directly benefit K-12 students.

In both cases-co-located and joint-venture-the applicant must have a cooperative agreement between the agency that will operate the library and one or more school districts in order to qualify as a first priority project.

What will be the criteria used to determine who will be eligible for this bond funding?

Section 19-998 of the Bond Act is quite specific in reference to the review factors that the Board must use in making funding decisions. Major factors considered in the review and consideration of applications include:

• The needs of rural and urban areas.

• Population Growth.

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• Age and condition of existing facilities.

• The degree to which the existing library facility is inadequate in meeting the needs of residents in the library service area and the degree to which the proposed project responds to the needs of those residents.

• The degree to which the proposed site is appropriate for the proposed project and its intended use.

• The financial capacity of the local agency submitting the application to open and maintain operation of the proposed library for applications for the construction of new public libraries.

We learned in the last state school bond that while there was supposed to be balance between urban and rural locations, oftentimes greenfields and more rural areas had an advantage over urban districts because of their relative ease of acquiring environmentally clean property. Will it be difficult for urban areas to get in line for this bond?

This Bond Act is meant to fund a balanced set of libraries in both rural and urban locations. There is no "first-come, first-served" in this program like there used to be in the allocation of school bond funds. Any applicant that submits a complete and eligible application before the deadline is considered on an equal basis with the other applicants regardless of where they are located.

Let's continue with our focus upon urban localities for a moment. In an April 2001 TPR interview L.A. City Librarian Susan Kent said that a fatal flaw in the implementation framework was that, "A project is only eligible for matching funds if it is in the schematic design state. Once you've entered the design-development stage, it's no longer eligible." Is that still a correct statement?

Ms. Kent's quote was made over a year ago when the regulations were still in a pre-regulatory phase. At present, the only thing that is required in order to make application is that there at least be conceptual plans. A project may be further along and be in schematic, design-development, or even construction documents stage and still be eligible to apply. The only thing you cannot do-and this is actually in the Bond Act itself-is apply after you have advertised your project for bids; that action will make a project ineligible for bond funds.

Another issue that's arisen in a number of our interviews is the sustainable architecture movement. Is there anything in the bond language that encourages those concepts to be incorporated in the buildings?

Again, there is nothing specifically in the Bond Act itself regarding that, but we certainly encourage jurisdictions to be as energy-efficient and as sustainable as possible in their library construction projects regardless if they are being funded with state or local funds. As a matter of fact, the State Library will soon be releasing soon a publication specifically written to encourage energy efficient design as part of our on-going technical assistance program.

Richard, now that the implementation language is out and your first funding cycle is expected in sixty days, please give us a sense of how much money will be available to grantees and how it will be awarded. If TPR comes back in January of 2003, what do you expect to be able to report to our readers?

The Board has allocated an expenditure ceiling of $150 million in the first cycle. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that the first cycle will utilize that entire amount. However, this will depend upon the number of applications submitted and how well those applications meet the review factors in the Bond Act.

After that the Board has allocated $110 million as the ceiling for the second allocation.

Lastly, in the third cycle the Board will allocate all remaining funding available.

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