Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Library Budget

Mayor Mike Huether presented his City Budget for 2011 on Thursday. For practical purposes it is a no growth budget. It holds spending at current levels based on the Munson administration’s 2010 “holdback budget” levels. Sales taxes for 2011 are projected with NO increase and there are no increases in City employees.

The Argus leader proclaimed in their front page above the fold story on Friday, “Mayor Seeks Budget Cuts.” The front page story below a very out of the ordinary photograph of the Mayor’s backside with both arms raised above his head (Elmer Gantry style) has the sub headline, “Huether’s plan trims spending for police, snow removal.” Beyond the unusual photograph is the more interesting headline on page 4, where the news report continues and proclaims, “Budget: City libraries also face cuts.”

It is the Library cuts I wish to address. While factually accurate, the headline takes the facts out of context and leaves the wrong impression.

Public Lending Libraries are important! They are an important element and component of life long education, important to our culture and important to our civilization. As Sioux Falls continues to evolve into a medical research center and as out of state talent are recruited to relocate to Sioux Falls, our Library is becoming a part of our economic development effort as well.

In my youth and at the University much of the best time I spent was at the Library.

I have a strong interest in our libraries (libraries are evolving in how they are being used (extremely digital) – a subject for future posts). Currently I have the honor and the privilege of serving on the Siouxland Libraries Board of Trustees. Consequently I have more than a passing awareness of “what’s happening” concerning the proposed City Budget, particularly as it affects the Library.

Sidebar – The Board of Trustees are not responsible for the operation of the Libraries. The Mayor thru his administration sets budgets (with the approval of the City Council) and operates the Siouxland Library System. Direct operational control is vested in the Director of Libraries. The current Director is Sally Felix who has been at her post for about seven years.

The Library “Board sets policies for the library and provides citizen input and recommendations for administrative actions to the Library Director, Sally Felix, and to the governing bodies.” (taken from the City website)

The Board of Trustees is very committed to assuring that our libraries are responsive to the needs of our Community.

Back to the Budget and the “Argus Leader”

The “Argus Leader” story reported –

“Total expenditures for Siouxland Libraries would drop form $11.7 million in the original budget to $6.6 million in 2011 under Huether’s plan, according to the budget documents.”

The report is accurate but totally misleading. The appearance is that the Mayor has gutted the Libraries budget. For whatever reason, the reporter did not drill into the budget, failed to ask the Mayor, the City Finance Director, or the Director of Libraries for an explanation. The reporter did not actually look at line items in the 2010 budget or for any explanation. Had they done amy research they would have found that the 2010 budget included $4.3 million in one time monies for the planning and construction of the Westside Library that will be built at 26th Street and Discovery Avenue in 2012. The funds were budgeted in 2010 and secured through the Quality of Life Bonds II issued last year. The money for the Westside Branch is in the bank!

In the Mayor's proposed 2011 budget there is also a reduction of expenditures from the use of sales tax monies for the capital acquisition of materials. Much of the materials acquisition shortfall will be made up of the use of funds leftover from the Main Library construction and renovation project. This project came in under costs estimates in part due to the poor economic conditions of the past two years. The budget procedure being employed in 2011 is similar to what is currently being done relative to the 2010 budget holdbacks.

Yes, budgeting can get a little complicated, but the Library will continue to be operated in 2011 without any significant cuts in service. Overall the 2011 is about a 0.4% reduction over the 2010 budget with holdbacks.

The Argus has a duty while getting the facts, intentionally or otherwise not to leave a misimpression.

Siouxland Libraries has a dedicated staff that makes our Libraries one of the Crown Jewels of our community.

A little advertising and promotion –

If you have not seen the renovated and expanded Main Branch Dowtown Sioux Falls, it is a MUST.

In the first two months of operation there were:

126,000 visits – up 53% over 2007
91,000 items borrowed – up 20% over 2007
17,000 computer uses – up 3% over 2007
950 new library cards issued – up 22% over 2007
2,600 people attended programs – up 2% over 2007

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