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 rosemary.star@gmail.com.

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

 

28 Responses to Letter to the editor: another look at library cuts

  1. You go girl July 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    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 making these decisions are not more up front and talk to the people that actually work there and have to function daily within the restraits of a shrinking budget before they decide on these cuts. I bet if they did they may revisit some of them.

    Thanks again Rosemary.

     
  2. Charles James July 2, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    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 problem are the variables that can suddenly dropped like a load of bricks on the budget projections. Astoundingly expensive mandates are being placed on the County and hence the taxpayer.

    The Senior Program is astoundingly expensive. Costs for HHS, Sheriff, and Probation under the state’s mandate to send prisoners to county jails to serve out their sentences are likely to skyrocket if not kept under control…control with has largely been taken away from county governments.

    There is no easy answer to this year’s budget shortfall of $6 million and more in the next few years without some increase in revenue from some source such as an increase in the TOT or TUT, the latter which, in my opinion, the Board foolishly rejected out of hand. In the end, the County might seriously have to implement across-the-board cuts for all departments.

    As someone who often has “a reading emergency,” i.e. the need to read a good book, I hope the public takes a strong stand in support of our libraries, as well as the museum.

     
  3. Bryan Kostors July 2, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    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 supervisors and the CAO should take note of Masters’ leniency, and the public should take note of how county officials attempted to keep her from taking part. The cuts to the library (and their disproportionate size compared to other services) are very concerning; the way our county is being mismanaged may be even more so.

     
  4. Philip Anaya July 2, 2014 at 7:05 pm #

    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 facts.
    Now might be the best time, Mr. Carunchio to submit your numbers and comments right here on the Wave. Other local Heads of Departments have ventured and commented into this domain. A letter to the Editor might even be a good response either here or to the Inyo Register . Even a press release is not ignored by the local news outlets and the people of Inyo County should be shown some respect and should have the opportunity to see your numbers and have understanding of these CAO numbers for the Library Budget that was characterized at the Supe Meeting as only a 7% cutback. Show me the money somewhere. Let me see it on the web . Let me see it on the Inyo County CAO web page.
    If the office of the Inyo County CAO cannot provide accurate and honest information to the Public and to the Supes then you have a failed responsibility to the Office. You don’t want that and neither do we. The fact that someone needs to offer to say this is a failing of the Office and the lack of public relations within your Office is alarming .
    So make all of us who disparage what seems to be a derailment of public trust and partnership between an “Inyo County Responsive Government” and it’s people about this so called “Service Redesign”, share your ideas, solutions and Budget Numbers on these public forums. It is time to open the doors of democracy in Independence and July 3 is just in time for our National Holiday of what our Nation is all about. It would also be helpful and enlightening to see corresponding Budget Numbers for other Inyo Departments especially for the office of the CAO. Just remember , Mr. Carunchio, that silence speaks volumes and is the mouse that roars. Safe and sane fire works applied as intended are a delight as is the privilege to live in America. This debate and this discussion is America. Lets find some millions for the Inyo , Kevin . Lets find some dollars to keep those Library Doors open and lets get the facts out front on the table where they need to be.

     
  5. Angela R. July 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

    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 the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.” – Walter Cronkite had it right.

     
    • Daris July 3, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      “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.

       
  6. The Rug July 2, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    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 for quite a while.

     
  7. Sunoma July 3, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    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 about the 50% reduction in staff. What does the CAO tell them behind closed doors that convinces them that they are on the right course with any of this? It is puzzling. To quote a bit of Shakespeare this morning. “Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.”

     
  8. Chris G July 3, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    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 our cultural institution that is as American as apple pie – the free public library. Like a healthy environment, they’ll miss what they’ve destroyed but only after it is too late. And our young people and those yet to be born (who will be running the country before long) will never know what they missed. Stand up to the administrator and the BoS: the board often doesn’t really know how libraries are funded or what it takes to keep them healthy or what the impacts on the community are. Educate them!

     
  9. Tourbillon July 3, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

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

     
    • Ken Warner July 4, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      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 eBooks — they will eventually. That’s media format is still evolving. And while it is true that the general population is getting dumber and dumber — not everybody is getting dumber. Just those that use “smart” phones all day long because they think it makes them look cool.

       
    • Mongo July 5, 2014 at 7:21 am #

      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 history which repeats itself. Those who study history know ” that which is old and obsolete will be new again”.

      Let’s not in our progress destroy something of great value that was lovingly created by those who came before us. Let’s not allow those who wil profit to destroy the evidence of their past misdoings. Let’s keep Independence and the library in tact. These things belong to the people, not the water company or their steward.
      For those who care as I do, go to the library and breathe the smell of books, before it is gone.
      Mongo

       
      • Mongo the idiot July 5, 2014 at 7:31 am #

        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 library to get another opinion, and perhaps see a flesh and bones librarian?
        That’s it,
        Mongo

         
      • Bob July 7, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

        Can we afford to destroy our history?

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

         
  10. Mongo the idiot July 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    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, ” we are tracking you so we can provide better service” and “why are you interested in mein kampf? Please come directly to interview room five.”
    You can trust us, we are here for public safety and the greater good, whatever that is???
    How about that soccer?
    Yea baby, no problem here…

     
    • Ken Warner July 5, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      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 July 7, 2014 at 11:32 am #

        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 used to market stuff to you. NSA has nothing on private industry for data collection, and worse yet private holders of this data are free to sell that data for whatever the market will bear. What you stood and looked at in a store is valuable information to marketing weenies. You need to understand the world as it is today. People get in a dither over NSA while ignoring the orders of magnitude larger scale data collection going on every single day by private enterprise.

         
        • Ken Warner July 7, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

          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 July 8, 2014 at 1:25 am #

            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 irony being that those in our society who lack these virtues also lack the ability to see their value. I believe we need all the resources available to us such as, smart phones, books, brains, courage, and heart. To remove the library and librarian from these communities is to remove one of the last bits of heart in place at the government level.
            Mongo

             
          • Ken Warner July 8, 2014 at 11:18 am #

            Pay no attention to the little man behind the curtain.

             
    • Russ Monroe July 5, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

      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 it.
      Now, instead of dealing with the needs in the county, these five “have to” redesign services.
      From my perspective, having used the Lone Pine Library for more than forty years, I can testify that it is a busier place now than it has been any time in those forty years. Much busier!
      Not that I have ever seen the fifth district supervisor there, but every time I go in, the computers are all in use and people are reading books too!
      The fact that it had to be pointed out to the supervisors that the library has already had severe cuts, repeatedly, in the last few years, shows their lack of knowledge, or concern.
      The senior program issues are in the same boat. When the county took over the senior meals program it had been costing half as much, but as soon as the county took over deficits doubled. Why? One very large contributor is the fact that the county takes six months to hire a dish washer. Of course the dishes have to be done every shift, but what does that matter to a cubical rat in Independence? Apparently it doesn’t. So, magically, overtime hours have doubled the shortfall. In the years since the county takeover of the program, full staffing has only occurred for a few days here and there, and of course, the number of meals provided has gone up dramatically. In simple terms, the program keeps getting more and more efficient, but the counties bookkeeping ignores fact in favor of ‘re-elect ME’ politics…. just like the rest of the country.
      The solution the CAO and the board came up with is to give personnel management a raise for failing to hire the dish washer. Brilliant!
      Another telling point came from that same fifth district supervisor – “I feel we can pay for it. We spend more out of the General Fund on senior citizens than other counties.”
      Matt makes it sound like the county is on a senior spending spree, this leaves out the fact that the average age in Lone Pine is well over double the average age in most of the rest of the counties in the state, so the fact is, we should be spending double to triple what the rest of the state does, but hey, facts just get in the way of politics all the time don’t they?
      The CAO and the board created these problems, I say they should be forced to pay for short fall out of their own pockets. It’s only fair. They have failed the public trust!

       
      • mongo the idiot July 5, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

        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 back side off tendin’ cattle or some such thing. I’ll tell ya, for a retarded city boy like me who don’t know a Hereford from a gelding, that’s a big deal. I only dream of that stuff because I seen it on TV. Not the new TV but them old shows that was filmed in the Al’bamas. I wanna get punched in the face by John Wayne and taught how to be a real person. Not this spineless media worshiping jelly-puss that I am. I wanna have the guts to stand up for whats right and whats wrong, whether or not I believe in it. I wanna be free to give the stranger on the street the courtesy to completely ignore me. I wanna go to a guitar lesson where the try to teach me “Cool Clear Water” instead of some Britney Spears crap. But no, I’ve got bureaucracy, opinion-ism, media driven political correctness, lifeline-needyness and urban sprawl blown so far up my hoo-haa that I can do all my shopping, mating and working naked from my desk. Hell, all I got to remember is don’t talk to strangers because I don’t know them, and don’t talk to people I know because I don’t know them either. All I want to do is trade an honest days work for an honest days pay, how many cubicle jockeys does it take to arrange that? Anyone??? Why don’t we all go outside and just pretend that everything is Ok, you know, our freedom is in tact, the water aint gone, and people like each other. Why don’t we pretend that we care about each other, that we have plenty, and we are comfortable in our surroundings? I’ll tell ya why, its because we aint.

         
        • Philip Anaya July 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

          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 of versions of many things these days in our vast every shrinking world and that includes the truth . Just saying things once, just having the position, a ” Ann Rand Attitude” of “Fountainhead” , CAO, doesn’t insure truth be told. The slippery slope always contains a degree of slime, half hearted blame laid, avoidance of basic responsibilityetc while still exercising dysfunctional management decisions because of slick oily, Teflon and WD40 skills that those of us city dwellers, ex facto, see and encounter daily.
          Unfortunately , Mr. Carunchio is losing the respect and admiration that I have had for him and his office with each and every day that passes without his answers, without his numbers. Maybe others also feel offended by his and his Department’s lack of public acknowledgement /public relations in these issues of the so called “Service Redesign”. The investment of reliance and trust that the Supes have with him are seemingly high, yet they must be diminishing. No one sustains or appreciates forever, being left out to dry in the scorching temps and the light of day. It is difficult to be forever patient, forever dedicated to individuals who have lost their way, yet, who insist that this CAO path forward is the answer to resolve these issues that as Russ says and I would agree, have been “created” and inflicted difficulties on the Community.
          So Ignacio, my friend and teacher , please remember the truths of the truth that you have told and shared . There is nothing like the smell of the truth and there will only be justice when the truth is told .
          Tolerance and respect for each other is both given and received . It begins with the self truth and respect of each and every individual . The character if each of us is measured in the mirror of ourselves in other peoples eyes . It is up to all of us to participate into each other’s characters and ” reflect mightily” with the CAO and others at times like these who are making decisions that effect each of us and the Inyo .
          Sure would like to be able to take a punch from anyone like the Duke, turn the other cheek and let him have a second shot and let him think hard about what he is all about.

           
  11. Russ Monroe July 6, 2014 at 10:50 am #

    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 heading of “the grass is always greener”, my day job is not one that anyone should covet.
    Those images you fantasize about from movies and TV are just that: fantasies. The land is real. So is the fact that; when humans walk it, they bring the realities of “civilization” with them.
    Sorry for the reality slap, but here is an observation from paradise:
    The population of Lone Pine is about the same as when we got the privilege of moving here.
    Through those decades, I have long since lost count of the number of people who have moved here, with abundant enthusiasm. Many folks come here to live those dreams and fantasies. The average that I have noted is; about 18 months, before most run screaming away from here, usually back to civilization. Life here is a compromise, as it is everywhere, but the trade off for the privilege of living here is far more than most people are willing, or able to, make.
    In reading the posts here, it may help your understanding to know that I didn’t just publicly dump on some anonymous politician. Our fifth district supervisor is someone that I have known most of my life. I have worked with him, for years at a time. I hope to get to live out my life with him in our community. I do not hate, or harbor animosity toward him. Actions that he has taken are another story. I will continue to argue against many of those actions and do what I can to reverse what I perceive as his administrative failures.
    I hope that you get closer to the balance that you need in your life. Frustration overtakes us all now and then, please; don’t let it rule your life.

     
    • mongo the idiot July 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      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 go a-runnin’ back to elbow to elbow housing, but not me. I don’t have much longer to live and I want to go out where the insects, birds, snakes, and fuzzy things reign supreme. Russ, I’ve lived at Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Dungeness, Port Angelus, Sequim, Catalina Island, Victoria B.C., San Francisco, San Anselmo, Pasadena, Altadena, 30 miles out of Pagosa, Demerest New Jersey, and Apple Valley. I’ve sailed into every port from Ensenada to Esquimalt. I’ve been to Africa, Majorca, Pompeii, France, Canada, Mexico, etc. Hell fire, I been more than 18 months in Hawaii. I’ll tell you, the hardest adjustment I ever made was selling out and moving to Los Angeles city so I could make money, no joke, I cried. I still cry inside, a sort of recurrent repetitive soul death. I swear if I have to kiss one more movie industry toad I’ll start pooping out film. My current neighbors (who change frequently) look like a hybrid mix between the Adams Family and The Munsters; I said hi to them the other day and felt like a criminal (you know, the how dare I glare). So the next time I saw them I hid behind a tree, now they want to meet me? I’ll tell you what, people here in Los Angeles have run away fear and anxiety. Nope, I plan to die in the OV. Whether that takes, 18 minutes, 18 months or 18 years, so be it.
      I got a real sense of your comfort and contentment Mr. Mon-roe. That is why I painted that pretty picture of how I imagined your life. What you really do for work is of no consequence iffin’ yer soul is at comfort.
      Best to you all…
      I’m off to the HIGH COUNTRY this week; Bacon, eggs, pork chops, and gee-tar noodling around the fire.
      Stay Well,
      Mongo

       
  12. DESCO July 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

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

     
  13. Desert Tortoise July 7, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    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 first proposed. And yes it is very much legitimate to count savings when stating whether a budget was cut or increased. You always use prior years actual expenditures in comparisons with future year budgets. That is the accepted practice. Sorry that will offend but that is how it is done.

     
  14. Mongo the idiot July 8, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    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 of satisfaction from seeing my thought expressed. Likewise negative as well as positive replies to my thoughts generate instinctual feelings that preclude natural responses. In other words, this seemingly logical activity becomes conflicted by the illogical responses brought on by human instinct. This conflict although seemingly irrational is completely natural as evidenced by other instincts that illustrate conflict such as the instinct for play.

     

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