On Monday evening, I attended a Seattle City Council meeting regarding the proposed city budget for the coming year. Due to the economic situation, not just here, but all over the country, in the past year, Seattle city revenue is down, down, down. I pleaded the Seattle Public Library System's case here at that time. I also left a copy of my little speech to them. I couldn't say it all, despite the fact that I pared it down to a bare minimum, as you can only speak in front to he Seattle City Council for two minutes.
Perhaps in response, or perhaps because I sent an e-mail urging them not to cut anything more from the Library System's budget, I got an e-mail from one member of the Seattle City Council, Nick Licata. In conjunction with the Seattle Public Library Board, and the City Librarian, he has proposed several alternatives to these drastic cuts. This would involve spending some money, but it would also have the benefit of keeping the library branches more or less open as they are now, though some staff would still have to be cut. If adopted, it would probably also relieve the library system of being shut down for a week -- again.
Finally, the most important of these proposals is, to create a dedicated fund, similar to what another regional library system has done, which would help to soften the blows rough economic times deliver, and perhaps help people locally in their efforts to find jobs and further their educations. I hope the Seattle City Council is sensible, and passes one of these proposals, and finds a way to create a dedicated fund for the library.
For those interested, here is the proposal Mr. Licata has put forward:
Thanks for writing.
I urge you to write other City Councilmembers and ask them to support my proposals to restore library hours at neighborhood branches in 2010.
As Chair of the Council committee overseeing the library’s City budget, I am sponsoring four proposals to restore library hours and related staff positions. The Library Board and the City’s Librarian submitted these options and support each one for consideration by the Council.
Option 1 calls for $1.2 million to restore all 330 branch hours and 27 related staff positions proposed to be cut by the library in response to the Mayor’s 2010 budget proposal.
Option 2 seeks approximately $1 million to restore 191 hours and some of the 27 staff positions.
Option 3 would cost $860,000 to restore 140 hours and some of the 27 staff positions.
Option 4 requests $433,000 to restore 65 hours as well as some of the 27 staff positions.
Additionally, the Council is asking the Library to explore the creation of a dedicated funding source that could provide more stable and predictable financing in the future.
You may know that the City is required to balance its budget. That means every time the Council proposes to add funding to the Mayor’s budget we must find a corresponding cut. As you might imagine, this poses a significant challenge for me and my colleagues, particularly this year.
As our economy continues to slip, City resources are stretched thinner than ever. The Mayor has again asked all departments to reduce their budgets for 2010, including The Library’s, because 2010 revenues are expected to drop even lower than previously predicted. Our financial forecasts indicate a $72 million revenue shortfall in the city's 2009-2010 biennial budget.
The Mayor asked the Library to identify approximately 5 percent in cuts adding up to roughly $2.8 million. $1.2 million would be saved by cutting library hours - 23% fewer hours than this year. The remaining $1.6 million in savings would come from a one-week closure of the Central Library, management and administrative reductions, putting off replacing staff computers, and absorbing citywide inflation, health care and rate adjustments that don't affect services or staff.
I believe reducing access to books, computers and library services when times are tough is not in the public’s best interest. During economic downturns, demand for library materials and services actually increases because people find themselves more in need of the free high-quality services and materials provided by libraries.
You may wish to consider listening live by phone to any Council budget meetings in progress by dialing 206.684.8566. You can also watch via streaming video by visiting http://www.seattle.gov/council/ and clicking on ‘LIVE! Council Meetings’. To watch previous budget-related meetings, visit http://www.seattlechannel.org/ and enter “budget” in the search field toward the top of the page. Then, in the results, click on “Budget Committee and Events”.
To learn more about the City’s 2010 budget and its schedule, please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/council/.
And finally, you are welcome to contact my staff member Frank Video with any Library-related budget questions you may have. Frank can be reached Tuesdays through Thursdays at 206.684.8849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again for writing.
Chair, Seattle City Council Culture, Civil Rights, Health and Personnel Committee
P.S. If you'd like to keep up with Council goings-on, subscribe to my Urban Politics, Seattle’s longest running City Council e-newsletter.
I wrote to the rest of the Seattle City Council in support of these proposals.