There is an evening public budget hearing tonight,
Monday, May14, beginning at at 6pm,
on the 12th floor of city hall, 202 C street.
This is the evening hearing scheduled for working San Diegans to attend and give them two cents on the San Diego City budget.
Are Your Library Services “Good Enough?” Mayor Sanders and the City Council Think So
Outgoing Mayor Jerry Sanders recently declared an end to the structural deficit problems facing the city by virtue of his eight year reign of awesomeness. Revenues this past year were a modest 1.9% higher than anticipated, and Sanders was able to play the kindly king, distributing some of the revenue to deserving city departments in fiscal year 2013.
How did he decide to divvy up the booty? We have a strong mayor form of government and if he makes his decisions by examining the entrails of small birds we will never know. Suffice it to say that it is not a transparent, citizen driven process. Keegan Kyle writes “Over his tenure, Sanders hasn’t distributed budget cuts evenly. He’s prioritized public safety and city lawyers at the expense of other functions like libraries.”
The graph that accompanies the Voice of San Diego article says it all. Our libraries have been starved of revenue for years. Remember when Sanders wanted to close seven of our branch libraries, including Ocean Beach, in 2008? There was a massive resistance. Those libraries have remained open and they have also remained vulnerable to cuts in subsequent years. Last year we were resisting an attempt to turn these libraries into second tier “express libraries.”
Library hours have been decimated. The materials budget has been slashed. Staff positions have been eliminated and vacancies have been left unfilled. Mayor Sanders’ act of library largesse in these more encouraging economic times is a four hour a week increase in branch hours. The central library, which is closed on Saturdays, was left out of the distribution formula completely.
Mayor Sanders thinks this is good enough for the citizens. Will our City Council think the same? They absolutely will, unless we act now during the budget hearings. Both the mayor and City Council have ignored the library ordinance which directs a stream of general fund monies, capped at 6%, to operate our library system.
This past year, the library department’s share of general fund revenues dropped to 2.67%. Our libraries have been chronically underfunded and they have been disproportionately underfunded, and yes we notice and yes we care. In fiscal year 2013, the library will receive a negligible increase, garnering a mere 3.3% of the general fund budget.
We have an opportunity now to ask our City Council to provide a plan to reinstate our lost library hours, book and materials budget and the professional and support staff vital to keep the department functional.
Our current library budget is not good enough! This year we should receive 4% of the general fund and with a recovering economy, we should expect an additional 1% in subsequent years until the 6% cap is reached. We know that our libraries provide essential services. They are a core city service. It is time that our City Council and a new mayor recognize their value.
There is an evening public budget hearing Monday, May14. It begins at 6pm, on the 12th floor of city hall, 202 C street. If you cannot make the meeting, please email all of the council members, asking them to reinstate our library hours, material budget and staff.