Wednesday, September 15, 2010

#2 - Libraries, Levies, and Lessons on Citizenship. . . Reconsidered

I didn't do my homework - the library levy discussed in my last blog post is much more twisted than I first imagined. After doing more research, I have found more reasons to be wary.

On December 17, 2009 the person who was the Strategic Planning Manager and is now the Community Relations Director at the library wrote the following:
The library has cut its budget in the past two years and has created a sustainable spending plan for the future. Because of the foresight in budget planning, the library has not been forced to conduct staff layoffs or close branches, slash programs or furlough employees like other units of local government have in the past year.
As a result, the library won’t be coming to voters saying that if you don’t vote yes, the library will be slashing programs or services. There’s no “threat” of takeaways from the library if a levy is defeated. It’s a pure choice for voters. It’s a referendum on the value of having a vibrant library system for our community.
Are you willing to say yes to a 1 percent increase in you property tax bill to get more library services, more books, more media, better technology, more user convenience, and new library facilities?
I compared this statement with the current information about the levy on the library website
prepared by the same person:

With no levy increase:
Cost increases beyond the library's control would more than consume the district's annual 1 percent revenue increase.
The library would consider further cuts in the purchase of books and other items.
In the near future, operating hours would have to be cut further, probably forcing Sunday closures. 
Sometime beyond that, the system would likely have to consider closing one or more branches to consolidate operations.
The inconsistency of these statements is to say the least, troubling. Will this levy pay for extra services or basic services? Will it pay for both? If it is both, where are the numbers for basic services.

After further research on the library website, I found a breakdown of how the $3.65 million additional tax dollars would be spent over the next 10 years. There is no mention of using additional funds to maintain existing programs and services only new staffing and new materials for new library buildings along with a few new or expanded programs and more technology. I'm wondering if the campaign strategy consists of promises for more, more, more and if that doesn't work we will cut, cut, cut.

Another deceptive detail voters need to be aware of is that the levy is perhaps an increase of 1% in property owner's total tax bill, but the increase for the library is actually around 40%. So maybe this is only 9 cents a day as the "Vote Yes" information claims, but wouldn't it be better if you didn't feel like you are being manipulated with spin.

The next item is complicated so bear with me. If the measure passes this year, in 2012 the library estimates it would collect $9.7 million even without a successful vote. If the levy passes they say they will collect an additional $3.65. Each year the total of these two amounts will increase by 1%. This 1% increase means the library will collect an estimated additional $365,000 on the $3.65 and an additional $970,000 on the $9.7 million in 2012 and 1% more each following year. If I've done the math right, at the end of 10 years the library will be collecting at least $14.6 million or somewhere around 50% more than what they would collect next year without the levy lid lift. Whew! These figures are too big for me - my head is spinning.

There is no 10 year expiration date on this levy. The 10 years mentioned is just a budget projection by the library. In 10 years the library may continue with this levy amount or ask for more money to maintain or expand services.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because past experience has seriously damaged the trust I once had in the people who run this library. I still have a great deal of respect for many of the managers and quite a few of the staff members, but the self serving actions of those at the top combined with the questions I have raised here and in my pervious post, make me wonder if the watchful eye of the guy on the bicycle will be enough.

If I was still a resident of this county how would I vote considering the information I have recently found? It is hard to choose because either a yes or a no vote would challenge my values.

1 comment:

  1. ML, I agree w/ you and commend you for pointing out the inconsistencies. I am for libraries, but will be voting against this particular system.