San Joaquin County officials are asking the city of Stockton just how money from taxpayers in unincorporated areas is being used for county library services.
It seems that the city of Stockton, which runs all libraries in the county except for Lodi, has given county officials some financial details about library operations.
The only problem is that county staff doesn't understand what the figures mean, according to Bobby Magee, a management analyst in the county administrator's office.
"(Stockton) sent over a set of documents, and they are overly complex," Magee said. "We've been working with the city staff trying to understand them."
County officials have been frustrated that approximately $5 million that taxpayers outside Lodi contribute to the library system isn't being accounted for.
"We have no say about the governance of the library; the city of Stockton does," county Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller said at the Oct. 12 Board of Supervisors meeting. "We just write a check to Stockton."
The Board of Supervisors became so frustrated over library operations that it is considering having a private firm, Maryland-based Library Systems and Services, Inc., operate the libraries outside Stockton city limits.
The Lodi Public Library is not involved in Stockton-county battle because it is owned by the city of Lodi and isn't part of the Stockton-San Joaquin County system.
The combined Stockton-county library system has four branches in Stockton, and branches in Thornton, Linden, Lathrop, Manteca, Tracy, Mountain House, Ripon and Escalon. Lockeford and Clements are served by a Bookmobile on Thursdays.
Stockton City Librarian Chris Freeman admitted that the financial figures are complicated.
"It is very complex," he said. "Some are direct costs; some are indirect costs."
Negotiations began recently because the Board of Supervisors want at least two options for ensuring that libraries outside of Stockton are getting their money's worth, Magee said.
One is the proposal by LSSI, the private firm from Maryland. Another is a meeting of the minds with the city of Stockton, with the county having a say in how its share of taxpayer money is spent.
Magee said that county administrators hope to reach an agreement with Stockton fairly soon. Freeman is encouraged by that.
"I am very confident an agreement can be reached," Freeman said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.