Library materials budget reduced by $500,000 to pay for pilot after-school program
By Anna Daniels
City Council Public Budget Hearing
Monday May 19, 2014 6pm
City Council Chambers 202 “C” Street San Diego 92101
Library supporters across the city breathed a collective sigh of relief when Mayor Jerry Sanders was termed out. Faced with a tanking economy and structural deficits, his top down leadership style coupled with the demand for centralized control and uniformity had a uniquely savage and disproportionate impact on the library department.
Children in low income neighborhoods were left without computer access when the hours were cut; seven neighborhood libraries were threatened with closure; material budgets were slashed and staff was cut to the bone. By 2011 the library budget had been reduced 22.2% from 2007 levels, while the police department had realized a 9.6% increase in funding and fire a 14.4% increase in that same period.
When Bob Filner was elected, his proposed library budget included additional hours of library operation. This was part of his platform of shifting General Fund support back to neighborhoods. It appeared that Sander’s vindictive, out of touch brand of cronyism carried out by capo Kris Michell and spinmeister Gerry Braun had ended. A more cynical explanation provided by a city council member was that the economy was improving and that explained the additional hours.
It is budget time for fiscal year 2015. Filner is gone as well as Sanders. We are now getting a glimpse of the budget priorities and management style of our third strong mayor, Kevin Faulconer. City General Fund revenues have continued to increase and it is now time to divvy up the pie. And yet again, the library department is getting a raw deal from newly elected Mayor Faulconer.
The good news spin for the library department is that the proposed budget has been increased by $1.4 million over the current budget. Library hours will be increased by four hours at all of the branches (48 hrs/wk)and five hours at the Central Library (54 hours/wk). Twelve branches will have an additional half hour on Sunday and three hours on Saturday (55.5 hrs/wk).
It is misleading to characterize this increase as anything more than a paltry re-institution of hours that had been drastically cut between 2003 and 2009. When you drill down into the “good news” you find that in 2003, the Mission Valley branch library was open 76 hours/wk. That is 20.5 hours more per week than the proposed FY’15 budget. In 2003, the Central Library was open 64 hours/wk—10 hours more than the proposed budget.
The proposed budget includes expenditures for a new after-school pilot program–Do your Homework@The Library. The program utilizes library facilities and materials to provide afterschool homework and general learning assistance to children in elementary through middle school. The branch library locations were selected in communities where at least one school maintained an Academic Performance Index (API) score under the minimum target score of 800 and was in close proximity to multiple other schools. The eighteen libraries are divided into North and South areas.
The cost of this pilot program is $500,000. Instead of increasing the library budget accordingly, there is a $500,000 offset–a reduction in library material funds. There is no other general fund department that has sustained this kind of offset to a departmental increase.
The Office of Independent Budget Analysis (IBA) notes that San Diego’s books/collection budget in 2012 was $2.48 per capita. In comparison, other benchmarked cities had a budget of $5.22 per capita. What the IBA report didn’t mention is that the $2.48 figure in 2012 is less than San Diego’s $2.88 level in 2006.
By both internal and external comparisons, the materials budget is inadequate. It is a real head scratcher to read in the IBA report that the demand for materials will somehow be offset by providing access to materials previously stored during the transition to the new Central Library, which opened last year.
This is a shell game and we have seen Faulconer play it before. When Sanders proposed closing seven branch libraries in Fy’09, library supporters across the city staged rallies, inundated the city council with emails and phone calls and packed the budget hearings. The message was clear and no libraries were closed.
There was an offset however and that offset came from the library budget– $3.1 million in Library System Improvement funds. Kevin Faulconer was on the city council at the time and voted to raid a fund that was part of a long term plan to provide operation and facility funding for libraries.
These improvement funds were budgeted for the facility aspect. Faulconer also voted to waive the Library Ordinance, which would provide the General Fund stream for operations. In his capacity as mayor, Faulconer is proposing to waive the ordinance again this year.
So yes, the proposed library budget is an increase over last year. But that increase remains disproportionately less relative to the other General Fund departments. It also papers over the level of funding the library would be receiving–6% of the General Fund budget–if the Library Ordinance was implemented. The library’s $45.2 million proposed budget (3.8% of General Fund) would be $70.7 million (6%).
The library is being thrown a bone and citizens should pitch a fit. Join with the Community Budget Alliance and Library Friends at the Monday May 19 evening budget hearing before the full council. Ask that the council restore the $500,000 proposed reduction to the materials budget. And ask the council to implement the Library Ordinance.
Author’s Update: The final FY’15 budget hearing is Monday June 9, 2pm in the City Council Chambers. The IBA (Office of Independent Budget Analysis) has recommended re-instituting the Library’s materials budget and has identified funding sources outside of the Library budget to do so. Keep the calls and emails coming.