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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jul. 11, 201412:00 PM EST

Same funding may mean fewer services at library

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Jacksonville’s public libraries may end up being funded next year at the same level they were funded this year, but that could result in a net reduction in services.

That was the consensus Thursday when the Board of Library Trustees Finance Committee reviewed the city budget process days before Mayor Alvin Brown presents his 2014-15 budget to City Council.

There even was some high-level lobbying done by Brenda Simmons-Hutchins, chair of the trustees.

“Brenda had a very frank meeting with the mayor. It sounded like it was very productive, but he told her there wasn’t any money,” Jacksonville Public Library Director Barbara Gubbin said.

That discussion was about “Fund the Future,” a $3 million proposal from the trustees that would restore library hours that have been reduced due to previous budget cuts; increase the budget to buy books and other library materials; and provide other enhancements in the 21 public libraries in Duval County.

It also would require a 9 percent increase in the library budget.

Trustee Mark Wood said the library submitted a budget of $36.8 million, $3.2 million more than what was approved in the city’s 2013-14 budget. The submitted figure included the Fund the Future proposal.

Based on a draft budget from Brown’s office, the library will be funded at the level of $30,837,989 – the 2013-14 budget of $33,607,650, minus $2,769,661 in indirect and internal service charge savings.

Gubbin said that means the administration budgeted to “only maintain library services at last year’s level.”

Wood said having the same budget as last year doesn’t necessarily mean the library will be able to maintain the same level of service.

“What we have is a budget that’s status quo for this year, but it’s actually a reduction,” he said. “The population grew but the (library hours) didn’t change. The materials budget hasn’t changed, but books cost more. We’ll have to buy fewer books and that’s a reduction in service.”

“The mayor knows the importance of the library. So does the city council,” said Paul Martinez, city director of intragovernmental services and mayor’s office liaison to the board of trustees.

Council President Clay Yarborough, by virtue of his office an ex-officio board member, said after Brown presents his budget to council Monday morning, it’s up to council to adopt a balanced budget by Sept. 30.

“The Finance Committee members need to hear from the Library Board of Trustees,” he said.

The library budget is scheduled on the council Finance Committee agenda for Aug. 8, the second day of this year’s budget hearings.

Mark Merritt, the library’s deputy director of administration and finance, said that could indicate the library’s status with the committee and its chairman, Richard Clark.

“They’re hearing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Fire and Rescue Department on the 7th. Chairman Clark wants to get some of the hard ones out of the way,” said Merritt.

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