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Politics

San Diego Council Members Support Increase To Library Funding

The San Diego Central Library is pictured in this undated photo.
Patty Lane, KPBS
The San Diego Central Library is pictured in this undated photo.
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A bipartisan group of City Council members Wednesday expressed support for increasing the San Diego library system's fund for acquiring books and audio/visual materials, which was reduced in Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The council is in the midst of a one-week series of hearings on the $3.2 billion budget proposal, combing through plans for individual departments and agencies.

The issue surrounding the library materials acquisition fund stems from last year, when the mayor proposed redirecting the full $500,000 toward a new after-school study program. The spending plan adopted by the council for this fiscal year, however, maintained the half-million dollars through a mix of ongoing and one-time funding sources.

The proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year only continued the library materials fund with the ongoing sources, leaving a hole of $209,000, according to Chris Ojeda of the city's Independent Budget Analyst's Office.

Library Director Misty Jones said her department could cover the shortfall through philanthropic matching funds, but Ojeda pointed out that overall spending on the library system was reduced when taken as a percentage of the budget.

Sal Giametta, the past chairman of the Board of Library Commissioners, said that works out to a $2.1 million cut.

"As the IBA has noted numerous times in recent years, San Diego continues to lag behind our peers in spending for these resources," Giametta said.

He said this comes in a period in which the library has set all-time usage highs, with 5.3 million books circulated in the most recent full fiscal year.

"A lot of kids like books — they like to hold the books," said Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who has two daughters.

Zapf, along with council members Marti Emerald, Todd Gloria and Sherri Lightner, all asked for the materials acquisition budget to be restored.

Faulconer will issue revisions to his budget proposal later this month.

His plan, which envisions spending 7 percent more than the current fiscal year, has generally been well-received by the council and public, with calls for some fine-tuning in a few areas. The plan includes increasing operating hours at recreation centers, repairing 300 miles of roads and upgrading broadband Internet access at public libraries.

The spending hikes were made possible by projections of across-the-board revenue increases, such as sales, property and hotel room taxes and franchise fees paid by utilities.

Jones said spending on her department as proposed would be $46.7 million.

The council hearings are set to continue through Friday. A night council meeting to take public input on the spending plan is scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m.

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