Thursday, April 7, 2011

Draconian budget cuts

We have now watched a decade of ill-informed and resentful rebellion by voters against supposedly outrageous and ever-increasing taxes.

This is even though, in fact, tax rates and revenues have been decreasing throughout that same time.

Even though Americans are taxed less that citizens of other developed nations, and corporations and the wealthy pay far less of their income than workers on the street.

Even though Floridians don't pay state income tax, keep voting to reduce property tax further, and pay less of their income in tax than residents of almost any other state.

The result is that national and state and municipal governments can no longer provide essential services. (See further comment below.)

Jacksonville's Fiscal Year 2012 budget takes effect on October 1st. The City Administration required that all departments present proposals for 15% budget cuts by last week, as the first step in the budget process. (This follows 10% cuts in each of the last two fiscal years.)

The following is the proposal from Jacksonville Public Library's Board of Trustees:

Jacksonville Public Library
FY 2012 Budget Submission
Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the library budget being cut again?
  • City Administration requested departments under the purview of the mayor reduce their budgets.
  • The reduction target for JPL is $5,940,414.
  • The reduction must come from salary, benefits and expendable accounts including library materials. This amount comes to $25,524,985.
How did the Board decide what to cut?
Reductions were based on clear messages from the community and City Council over the past two budget cycles:
  • Keep libraries open
  • Treat all neighborhoods the same way.
What was cut?
To keep as many libraries open as possible while trimming nearly $6 million, we had to reduce the following:
  • Hours at all locations (30% reduction)
  • 103 staff FTE positions cut (78 full-time + 25 FTE part-time) (23% reduction)
  • Materials budget (24% reduction)
  • The Maxville Branch Library would be closed (the location with lowest overall activity level)
What are the specifics behind the cuts?
  • Main Library open 40 hours per week, Tuesday – Saturday (closed Sunday – Monday). Main Library is currently open 67 hours per week.
  • 19 branch libraries open 40 hours per week, Tuesday – Saturday (closed Sunday – Monday). Hours per week currently range from 40-65.
  • Schedule would be a mix of morning and evening hours at all libraries
  • Total hours libraries are open would be reduced by 335 hours per week
  • Service hours per week in FY 06 were 1177; service hours per week in FY 12 would be 800
Staff positions
  • Management of libraries restructured to flatten the organization
    103 staff FTE positions (78 full-time + 25 FTE part-time) cut
  • The reduction in positions from FY 11 to FY 12 represent a 23% cut
  • The reduction in positions from FY 06 to FY 12 represent a 31% cut
Materials budget
  • $879,500 cut from the materials budget (24% reduction)
  • Materials budget in FY 05 was $5.3 million; materials budget in FY 12 would be $2.8 million (48% reduction)
  • Library circulation has increased 14% since FY 06.
What are the impacts of this budget cut?
  • Reduced access to libraries
  • Reduced access to information, collections and technology
  • Significantly fewer new materials
  • Increased wait time for popular materials
  • Reduction in services and programs
  • Increase in use of electronic materials, resources and holds service
  • We will lose some customers; other customers will adjust to the changes.
So here's my question.

In the depths of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, one which was caused by the combination of huge tax cuts and irresponsible financial market speculation on a mammoth scale, why are voters fantasizing that the way to fix things for ourselves, our children and our children's children is to slash education, libraries and healthcare?

Earth Abides, by George R. StewartIncreasingly I am reminded of George Stewart's 1949 science fiction novel, Earth Abides.

In Stewart's dystopian vision, his protagonist is one of the few survivors of a global plague. He finds the local library and, even though there is no power, he recovers there the information which might allow those few people who are left to maintain some of their technology, healthcare and other life-sustaining resources.

However, as the decades continue, he cannot convince any of the surviving parents that they should still teach their children reading, math and science.

Am I being too pessimistic?


Traci said...

Thank you for sharing, Mike. This is all very painful. I always hold hope that Florida libraries will survive and ascend the fear-based mindset that is crumbling our foundations (and those of other govt agencies who are also terrified) but it is not easy, and decisions and events seem increasingly difficult to bear.

Elaine McCreary said...

Living in Tallahassee, and therefore subject to the yearly debacle that passes for government in Florida, I am not totally convinced that it's the taxpayers wishes as much as it is lawmakers' perceptions of taxpayer wishes. Most of the polls we see here seem to indicate that. That said, there is certainly an element of the public that would indiscriminately whack everything, but that element shrinks everytime something gets cut. Our governor has been in constant hot water for his actions since taking office, as well he should be. He is totally clueless. And the legislature is nothing to brag about either. I have lately come to think that term limits - which I voted for - was the worst possible thing we could do. Nobody here has to deal with long term anymore. While trying to build a favorable business climate to attract jobs, no one has considered that management is not going to be interested in moving business to a state that so neglects its citizens.