Today, the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for MDPLS met for the final time at County Hall.
Mayor Gimenez had assigned Library Director Raymond Santiago to draft two strategies to deal with two possible budgets for FY2014-2015: a $30million budget from a flat millage (tax) rate, or a $50million budget collected from an increased millage rate.
This fiscal year, ’13-’14, the Library millage stands at .1725 and collects approximately $30 million in revenue. To maintain hours, staffing, and services, $20 million in reserves were used and completely depleted that source for the Library department. This leaves the $20+million budget fiscal cliff to which is continuously referred.
Library Director Santiago began his presentation with the somber, and gut-wrenching reality of a $30 million budget. With the Mayor’s mandate that NO libraries be on the chopping block – perhaps reflecting on last year’s outcry in the summer and the heavy backlash he got from the community.
As said succinctly in the Miami Herald:
“If forced to operate with a $30 million budget in 2015, Santiago said the system can still keep all branches open, thanks to shorter hours and the four-day schedule. In all, the schedule reductions outlined by Santiago would reduce library hours countywide by about 35 percent — from 2,000 hours a week to 1,328, according to scheduling information posted online and Santiago’s report. (Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/03/19/4004285/miami-dade-county.html#storylink=cpy)
The reality is striking.
Under a $30 million budget, straight from the powerpoint presentation, revised Hours and Days of operation:
• 5 day service at Main and Regionals, Coral Gables Branch and Northeast Branch (8 hours per day)
• Sunday operations at Regionals, Coral Gables Branch and Northeast Branch
• 4 day service at 22 libraries (8 hours per day)
• 4 day service at 19 libraries (4 hours per day)
• Consolidation of units
• Increase span of control for librarians and unit supervisors
• Managing multiple units
• Increase use of part-time staff
Under a $50 million budget, dramatically decreased hours are still included:
6 day service at Main and Regionals, Coral Gables Branch and
Northeast Branch (8 hours per day)
• Sunday operations at Regionals, Coral Gables Branch
and Northeast Branch
• 5 day service at 29 libraries (8 hours per day)
• Sunday operations at Homestead Branch
• 4 day service at 12 libraries (4 hours per day)
See Santiago’s presentation and preliminary plan here: http://www.miamidade.gov/mayor/library/2014-03-19-preliminary-library-plan-presentation.pdf
Yet, along with the decreased hours – a shameful 4 hour day schedule for 12 libraries in the ‘best’ plan – the draft plan offers a number of wonderful new services such as a Library Tech Mobile, short-term leased office space, a YOUmedia at South Dade Regional, Technology Center, and Library TechMobile.
Admittedly great ideas – one of which may have actually in its initial planning stages prior to the flat-millage proposal of ’13-’14. Libraries are spaces for the community and places of innovation and creativity and these new additions allow for new users and even new engagement in the community.
Yet, why is it that cut hours and services are still being touted, even with an increased millage? One Task Force Member posed this query, and pointed out that these new services are being paid for in sacrifices to operating hours and staffing levels. She recommended that a plan be drafted with an even higher budget to prevent such losses – and Santiago jokingly asked for another two days to draft it.
Even so – was it not the Task Force members’ recommendation to “*maintain* and enhance library services” with an increased millage? Why is it that BOTH of the draft plans require dramatic and appalling cuts in hours? How is that “maintaining” service?
Commissioner Javier Souto again asked for philanthropy from our success-stories that rose out of Miami, and Mayor Gimenez seemed to like the possibility, even stating that County had funded Libraries, so perhaps philanthropists saw no need to give, remarking again upon the millions of reserves the Library department had saved in the years prior to his entry into office.
But perhaps to rely on donations to fund a public county service is not only unreliable – its downright irresponsible. Both reps from the Miami Foundation and Knight Foundation made it clear that they would love to work with MDPLS (YOUmedia Miami was made possible from grant monies from the Knight Foundation) – but remarked that in no way could donations stem a “bleeding budget.”
After the presentation and some remarks, Mayor Gimenez quickly wrapped up. There was no vote. There was no further confirmation that the Task Force members were happy or even unhappy with the final report. Chief of Staff Lisa Martinez stated that the final recommendations to the BCC will have public input at the libraries before going before Commissioners, and the meeting closed.
So is that it? Is that the final say?
We say no. We say: not good enough.
So now, we stand, ready to fight once again for our Libraries that we deserve as a community.