Letter to the editor: another look at library cuts

inyocourthouseI am concerned about misinformation and misleading information being circulated by county officials.

But first, I want you to know up front that I am the daughter of the Library Director. If this fact makes you doubt my words, then I’d rather you know right away than realize it later. That said, as someone who feels strongly that the people’s access to free information is an absolute necessity of a healthy republic, my words and actions would be the same no matter my relation to the library.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting of July 1, I stated during public comment that the Inyo County Free Library budget for Fiscal Year 2014 (decided by the Board in August 2013) had been cut by 27%. I also said that the library had lost more than 50% of its staff in the past five years.

One board member corrected me, stating that he did not know where this 27% came from. The library, according to him (and later in the meeting, according the the County Administrative Officer), had been cut by 7%.

I’m always open to the option that I may have been wrong, so I spent the afternoon of July 1 reading the Budget Books and support documents. It turns out I was wrong. But so is the board, and so is the CAO. Here are the numbers, but I would like everyone to know that the county budget and supplements are public documents. You have the right to request these documents so you don’t have to take anyone’s word for it, mine included.

For the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved a library budget of $649,477. For the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved a library budget of $493,673. The difference between the two is $155,714, which amounts to a 24% cut of the total library budget.

However, since it is useless to speak of any department’s budget without considering the staff who actually run the department, it is instructive to look at the cuts made to the library personnel salaries and benefits. For the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved library salaries and benefits in the amount of $575,475. For the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2014, the Board of Supervisors approved library salaries and benefits in the amount of $401,852. The difference between the two is $173,623, which amounts to a 30% cut of the library personnel salaries and benefits.

Furthermore, in the last five years the library has lost more than 50% of its staff. These workers have not been replaced.

As I looked through the FY 2013-2014 Budget Book, I did not find any other general fund departments impacted in a way even remotely comparable to this level of cutting.

I am trying to understand this claim by the Board and CAO that the library was cut by only 7% last year. It seems that they must be comparing the Year To Date Actuals for FY2013 to the Board Approved library budget for FY 2014. What the YTD Actuals reflect is this: the Library managed to save money through frugality (like ordering used books instead of new books), but the Library also did not spend out its budget because staff retired and were not replaced. Basing a budget cut upon this number, then claiming the cut was only 7% is the same as punishing a department for saving money and for losing staff.

This is important because the budget cuts to the Library have been cumulative over many years. (By the way, I refuse to use the misleading euphemism “money savings” instead of saying budget cuts, as the Deputy CAO and Board Members requested at the July 1 meeting.) The decision the Board made on July 1, 2014, which results in another significant cut to the Library, cannot equitably be considered by itself: this cut must be viewed together with the 24% surprise cut to the Library budget for FY 2013-2014, as well as with the unmitigated loss of 9 out of 16 staff members since 2008.

These numbers speak for themselves, so I’m not going to summarize with my thoughts. However, I do think it is important for all of us to ask: Why for years has the Library been taking the only massive budget cuts in the county?

If anyone does not have time to go request these budget documents, I would be happy to share them with you. Please feel free to email me at [email protected].

I also welcome any and all response to this letter, because I believe that public discourse among the people and with elected officials—especially at a Board of Supervisors meeting—is as essential a part of healthy government as is access to your Free Public Library.

Rose Masters

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Mongo the idiot
Mongo the idiot
8 years ago

Have any of you ever considered that blogging here satisfies a primitive tribal social instinct for community expression. In other words, the activity could be viewed as a compulsiive rather than a cognitive behavior. An example from my experience follows. I post a comment and then get a basal feeling… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago

Just for clarity, comparing a current year budget to what was actually spent the prior year is the correct way to measure changes in budget. A proposed budget wiil be subject to a mid-year change as actual reveunes exceed or fall short of the revenues projected when the budget was… Read more »

DESCO
DESCO
8 years ago

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx

Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
8 years ago

Gosh, Mongo, you fired off a psychiatric shot gun load dude. Personally; I think that I may be one of the most content people you could ever meet. I am very comfortable in my surroundings. I have… enough. I care about my community and humanity in general. But, under the… Read more »

mongo the idiot
mongo the idiot
8 years ago
Reply to  Russ Monroe

Russ and Phillip, I had a 18 month taste of the high desert in the 90’s and ran back to civilization after loosing my house, store, and money. I never lived anywhere I felt more part of the earth than in the absence of civilization. I agree, my bride may… Read more »

Mongo the idiot
Mongo the idiot
8 years ago

Evyone will squeal like a stuck pig when all information is accessed via Internet. I can’t wait to hear the “boo hoo! they are tracking my reading habits!” or “i can’t read the English version of mein kampf to see what all the fuss is about.” And then the rebuttals,… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago

Mongo: More dire warnings of Big Brother. You don’t have any reason to make the claim you just made except to gain personal notoriety.

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Pull your head out Ken. Retailers are now tracking the location of individual smart phones within their stores and have software that makes offers to the phone’s user, displays product information and price and records what products you stood and looked at. Every movement in their store is recorded and… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago

DT:

1) I don’t got no stinking smart phone.

2) Private industry is not Big Brother. Big Brother was emblematic of a totalitarian, repressive government. Which we don’t have. We barely have a government that can do anything let alone repress the whole society.

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Consider the Wizard of Oz books in which the scarecrow only wanted a brain and the tin man longed for a heart. Without books, writing and keen observation , Frank Baum would not have been able to help any of the characters find the virtues they lacked yet admired. The… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.

Russ Monroe
Russ Monroe
8 years ago

You write a fun read Mongo! Evidence of our declining literacy abounds(read: anything posted by Tourminion). Unfortunately the problem here is gross mismanagement of public funds. These issues have been created by the county CAO and the Board of Supervisors. Their was no “structural deficit” until those five people manufactured… Read more »

mongo the idiot
mongo the idiot
8 years ago
Reply to  Russ Monroe

When the heck do I get to live life? There aint no time left after I pay my debit to society. I sure as Hell aint makin’ it on the “personal notoriety” Ken Warner says I have. Russ Mon-roe sounds like he’s got a life, I’ll bet he works his… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

Everyday Ignacio, that we do the wake up is a gift and the renewed opportunity to attempt the quest for justice . There is the call out for truth connected to this opportunity and that is the best kick since coffee to get the motor haulin. There are a lot… Read more »

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
8 years ago

Libraries, like buggy whips, have had their time. Technology has obsoleted both. Three words: Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia. Good-bye.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Tourbillion: No, libraries are not like buggy whips. There’s not many horse drawn transportation vehicles but there are still plenty of books and written words. I use google, Amazon and Wikipedia in the library. I don’t use a buggy whip to get there. While our own libraries don’t yet provide… Read more »

Mongo
Mongo
8 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Internet news is media and advertising driven. Wikipedia is user content generated. Proprietary sites dispensing information are commerce motivated. Big media as we suspect is frequently manipulated. Can we afford to destroy our history? Books are written by writers, researchers, historians, educators, and others who are education motivated. Books share… Read more »

Mongo the idiot
Mongo the idiot
8 years ago
Reply to  Mongo

Furthermore, big media is the new God. Those who control it are worshiped. Their agents are officers of the new world order. Powerful Arrogant Privileged Irreproachable And greedy… Is that who you want controlling your books? Or, would you like to be able to go to a brick and mortar… Read more »

Bob
Bob
8 years ago
Reply to  Mongo

Can we afford to destroy our history?

Might as well, the history of this Country doesn’t mean anything to anyone anymore.

Chris G
Chris G
8 years ago

Administrators can make themselves look like good stewards of the public money by manipulating the budget to make it look like they are “saving” costs. When they take the money from the library to do this, they appease those who don’t want a tax increase, but at the cost of… Read more »

Sunoma
Sunoma
8 years ago

At the June 17th meeting the Board insisted on hearing from the Library Director. On the July 1st meeting they refused and said they had enough information. According to the above Letter to the Editor by Ms. Masters, they don’t even have the right information. and most likely don’t know… Read more »

The Rug
The Rug
8 years ago

He will just ” sweep it under the rug”, avoid the issue, and wait for the dust to settle. Then do what he wants to anyway, like he has done tfor the last 7 years. I don’t understand why anyone is suprised or upset, misdirection and half-stories have been happening… Read more »

Angela R.
Angela R.
8 years ago

24% cut? 30% cut? Board members who are in fact not fully informed on the severity of the situation? Where does that lead for FY 2015? FY 2016? It’s a narrow path being paved should it continue. As an American, that scares me. As a mother, that terrifies me. “Whatever… Read more »

Daris
Daris
8 years ago
Reply to  Angela R.

“The greatest homage we can pay to truth is to use it” – James Lowell It is time for the whole truth and nothing but. Assuming and speculations do not a budget make.

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

The Inyo County CAO, Kevin Carunchio has offered a varied set of numbers/percentages regarding Library Budget Cutbacks to the numbers that the Rose Masters has presented in this letter to the Editor . The discrepancies are not small, are confusing and offer little public understanding of the truth and the… Read more »

Bryan Kostors
Bryan Kostors
8 years ago

Rose is far too nice in her last paragraph. She could explain how she was told at the BoS meeting not to involve the supervisors in discourse with her over the topic at hand; instead she uses the opportunity to mention the importance of public interaction with elected officials. The… Read more »

Charles James
Charles James
8 years ago

Rose, very nice work on following up on the numbers in the budget. It will be interesting to see if there is a response to your numbers. Like you, I have been really taking a look at the budget…and it is not an easy thing to do. Part of the… Read more »

You go girl
You go girl
8 years ago

I would just like to say you wrote and excellent factual letter. I appreciate you taking the time to clarify the numbers for everyone to see. I can tell you are very passionate about the library and that is nice to see also. It is too bad that the people… Read more »