Monday, April 2, 2012

Important Public Hearing Tomorrow On Future Of Funding For Seattle Public Libraries


Tomorrow evening at 5:30pm, the public is encouraged to weigh in at a special Public Hearing on a proposed Levy that would keep all Seattle Public Libraries open Sundays, as well as open all year-round.  The cost for homeowners would be roughly $52 per year.

Seattle Public Libraries has gone through five rounds of budget cuts since 2009, resulting in reductions to hours, collections, and staffing, while library usage has increased. The libraries are still in trouble and the Levy would restore hours and staffing to branches, improve collections, upgrade technology, and maintain library buildings for the next generation. The City Budget Office estimates a $5 million operating shortfall for the library system in 2013.
On March 23rd, the City Council heard a proposal to place a library levy on the August 7th ballot. The levy would provide $17 million per year for seven years to expand library hours, collections, technology/computers, and maintenance.
The levy would begin at the start of 2013, the same time the 2004 Fire Facilities levy ends. The annual cost for the owner of a house with the median assessed value for Seattle of $361,000 would be $52 per year.  Under the proposal, all city libraries would be open on Sundays, and libraries would remain open year-round.

In November 2010,  the Council requested a plan from the City Librarian to explore options for library funding
in order to forestall additional cuts.  In December, 2011 the Council passed Resolution 31345 which set out a timeline for the Library Board to hold three community meetings to hear public input.  Over 33,000 survey comments were received.

Having libraries open on Sundays was the highest priority listed by the public. In addition, the one-week closure of recent years would stop with this levy. Users could place up to 50 holds, instead of the current 25. $3.8 million would go toward operating hours, $2.5 million to collections, $1.5 million to technology, and $3.7 million to maintenance, in addition to
covering the $5 million shortfall to maintain current operations.

The Laurelhurst Community Club submitted comments proposing the following changes to the Levy to ensure accountability and public support:
  •  The addition of an oversight committee, that work effectively with the Library Board,  to accomplish the goals of the levy to monitor and ensure accountability for spending of the levy proceeds.  
  •  Ensure that the City’s general fund budget would not be reduced to account for passage of the levy as such a situation could place libraries in the same dismal financial situation in which it currently exists, with insufficient funding for library hours and collections and continued furloughs of employees.
 The Public is encouraged to speak tomorrow about  this proposed Levy and the much needed improvement to services tomorrow at 5:30pm at the City Council's Public Hearing on the Levy at Seattle City Hall (Floor 2, 600 Fourth Avenue).

For more information go here.

Patrons can also fill out this form which will go to the Mayor's Office.   And citizies are also encouraged to contact  all nine Councilmembers: 684-8802 684-8806 684-8808 684-8807 684-8805 684-8801 684-8804 684-8803 684-8800

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