Friday, July 25, 2014

"Miami-Dade Raises Taxes To Pay for Libraries"

A year ago this week, the Library HOTLINE led off with this headline: Miami Dade PL To Close Nearly Half its Branches. Over next few months, the rollercoaster ride came to a somewhat safer conclusion:
The news is better this year, though like many of us publicly funded library folk, Miami-Dade citizens and library staff won't heard the final word until September.

July 28, 2014, Volume 43, No. 30

The following is quoted directly from this week's Library HOTLINE

Miami-Dade Raises Taxes To Pay for Libraries
The continuing struggle to fund library service in Miami, FL, and surrounding Dade County took a happy turn for librarians and advocates. On Tuesday, July 16, Miami–Dade County commissioners voted to increase the property tax slightly, increasing the funding available to the Miami-Dade Public Library System (MDPLS).

The hike would leave libraries with a budget of approximately $52 million for the coming year. That figure is short of the $64 million that advocates were aiming for but represents a major step up from the $30 million earmarked earlier this year in a budget proposed by Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez. It also denotes an increase of $8 million over this year’s library budget. The hike will prevent as many as 90 layoffs that would otherwise have been required by Gimenez’s initial budget.

It remains to be seen whether the mayor will veto the higher property tax for libraries, which the county commissioners approved by an 8–5 margin. The mayor, who was aiming to keep tax rates in the county flat this year by slashing budgets and getting public employee unions to pay more of their own health-care costs, had until July 25 to make his decision. He told reporters following the vote, “I’m going to have to consider my actions.”

John Quick, president of the Friends of Miami-Dade Public Libraries, told Hotline, “We are both happy and disappointed. I think it’s a win because we were able to add $22 million to the budget, but we’re disappointed because we think $64 million is what is needed.” Quick and others who sat on a task force appointed by the mayor had recommended the $64 million figure, which would have let the library restore branch hours that have been shortened over the last four years, as well as reinstate programming that has taken a hit as MDPLS budgets have dwindled since the recession began.

The support of community leaders is all the more crucial because the library’s internal leadership is in transition: Raymond Santiago, MDPLS director and Library Journal’s 2003 Librarian of the Year, is retiring effective August 1.

Advocates and library employees also pointed out that the ink is not yet dry on the higher property tax rate. The commission’s vote set the ceiling for the tax rate for libraries, but a final vote to set rates is due later this fall. “This is the first step in a long budget process,” Sylvia Mora-Oña, assistant director of public services at MDPLS, told Hotline. “We’re cautiously optimistic, but until September 25, anything can happen.”
Hang in there, everyone!

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