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Oakland Public Library Is On The Brink Of Near-Total Budget Devastation
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June 3, 2011

Honorable Jane Brunner
Oakland City Council
1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, 2nd Floor
Oakland, CA 94612
 
Dear Council Member Brunner,
 
California Library Association has been closely following the news of the current budget crisis in Oakland. Mayor Jean Quan’s Fiscal Year 2011-13 Budget Scenario A, the “all cuts budget,” is now beginning to gain national attention for its proposal to slash general fund support for Oakland’s library system from $9.1 million in FY11 to $3.6 million in FY12. That cut in and of itself is a devastating reduction to an essential public service that Oakland residents have turned to in record numbers during the economic downturn, however Scenario A is particularly staggering in that it would trigger the forfeiture of an additional $14 million in Measure Q funding for library services, essentially cratering Oakland’s neighborhood libraries.
 
In these challenging economic times, local governments across California are facing unprecedented structural budget deficits. In this unique moment in our state’s history, at the height of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, local government leaders are faced with some of the most difficult choices they will ever have to make about the services they can provide to their constituents. And many of the decisions that those leaders make today will determine the quality of life for their constituents for years, even generations to come. It is landmark decisions such as those being faced today for which many local government leaders will be remembered.
 
In 2004, Oakland voters overwhelmingly approved at 77.1% the Measure Q parcel tax specifically to provide for library services in the Oakland community. Measure Q generates nearly $14 million for Oakland’s libraries annually. In order for Measure Q funds to be released, the city must contribute a minimum of $9.1 million from the general fund, but Scenario A would forfeit Measure Q funds by contributing only $3.6 million for FY12 and $3.7 million for FY13.
 
In other words, in order to save $6 million, which is less than 2% of the overall general fund budget, the city of Oakland stands to lose an additional $14 million in voter-authorized parcel tax revenue from Measure Q, and will all but destroy Oakland’s public library system, which the vast majority of Oakland voters supported when they approved Measure Q. In these difficult economic times, some cuts are understandable. Scenario A is not.
 
Scenario A would result in the closure of 14 out of 18 library branches citywide. The remaining four branches would be open only three days per week. Oakland is a city of nearly 400,000 people, with a large low-income population, and many challenges in its school system and for its youth in particular. The Scenario A budget would result in near-total devastation of a popular public library system in one of California’s largest and greatest cities, a loss from which the community of Oakland may never fully recover, and one which Oakland residents will surely look back upon with deep regret for years to come.
 
California Library Association strongly encourages the Mayor and City Council of Oakland to abide by Oakland voters’ 2004 mandate to support library services through Measure Q, and to sustain the minimum $9.1 million general fund contribution needed to access $14 million in Measure Q funds and keep Oakland’s libraries open.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Paymaneh Maghsoudi, President   
California Library Association                                                 
 
Carol Simmons, Executive Director
California Library Association