Our day started very early at 7:30AM, with a read-a-thon at County Hall, even before County Hall itself had not opened.
Library advocates gathered for the read-a-thon and were finally let in to sign up to speak at around 8:50AM -- mere minutes before the Commissioners were to start the meeting.
On top of already 60+individuals who gathered, another 90 MDC students, decked out in teal Coalition shirts, gathered to join us in County Hall. Their packed group even stopped the escalator! County Hall had been filled to capacity, and an overflow area had to be set up on the ground floor -- where more library advocates began to gather.
After presentations that were supposed to start earlier in the morning, the Commissioners finally began the Budget meeting, nearly at 12PM. By this time, many library advocates had to leave -- yet one after another, library advocates of ALL ages took the podium and urged County Commissioners to fund the Library at $64 million.
The public presentations lasted nearly 4 hours.
Stories ranged from staff, who demonstrated the shortfalls of the budget, to library patrons who were downright appalled that any cuts should come to Libraries.
President of the Friends of MDPL, John Quick, presented over 4000 petitions to the Commissioners, urging them to fund libraries at $64million.
Yet, over and over again, Mayor Gimenez stated that with a $45 million budget, achieved by "taking" money from the Fire millage, all libraries would remain open, the same hours, with additional Sunday hours at regional branches. He continued to gloss over the layoffs -- 94 library staff, 81 of whom are listed in public service. These particular numbers were in the budget he had distributed to the Commission, yet he incorrectly stated that only 60 or so library staff would be laid off, 50 of which were vacancies.
Perhaps it was Commissioner Jordan who said it best: "When you make a full-timer to a part-timer, it is a CUT to service."
She was one of the few who understood.
Mayor Gimenez repeatedly showed some temper, with debates heating up between him, Commissioner Jordan and Commissioner Heyman.
Finally, Commissioner Bell asked "Where did this $64 million number come from?"
Library Director, Raymond Santiago came to the stand, and -- rather than stating that this number came from careful deliberation from the Friends of the Library and the Library Advisory Board (whom the Commissioners elected themselves) -- agreed with her notion that the $64million was an arbitrary number.
The heartbreak in the room was palpable.
After Commissioner deliberations it came down to this:
Commissioner Suarez, champion of our cause, motioned for $64million, .3419 mils. Commissioner Jordan seconded.
The motion failed.
Right away, Commissioner Heyman motioned for revenue of $53 million, .2480 mills. Double checks no layoffs, some money leftover for material budget increase, but not defined.
Motion passes, 8 - 5.
Voting in favor of the higher library ceiling were Monestime, vice-chairwoman Lynda Bell and commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss and Xavier Suarez.
Voting against were chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Javier Souto and Juan C. Zapata.
Not a complete loss. Yet, by staying at "status quo"... it is not what the community truly deserves. It is questionable what money is leftover for materials (ebooks, books, dvds, databases, and more). It is questionable what money is leftover for repairs to the branches facing roof leaks and air conditioning issues.
The community came out in full force to fight for their libraries -- to EXPAND funding for libraries.
The majority of the Commission did not listen.
The meeting took about 11 hours.
Via Miami Herald:
"The 8-5 vote leaves Gimenez with 10 days to decide whether to veto the decision by the 13-member commission. A two-thirds vote of commissioners present is required to override a mayoral veto.
If Gimenez were to wield his veto pen, commissioners would likely have to take up the question again later this month, before their annual summer break in August.
Commissioners agreed to set the library tax-rate ceiling high enough that they could eventually authorize $8 million more than the $44 million Gimenez proposed, bringing the library budget to $52 million. That’s more than the $50 million it had this year — but far less than the $64 million advocates wanted.
Though they won’t vote on a final budget and tax rate until September, in practice commissioners may lower — but not raise — the rate after property owners are notified in August of their likely bills."