On June 16, the Monterey City Council is expected to vote on proposed budget reductions in response to revenue losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff recommendation includes a cut of up to 60.2% to the 2020-21 Library budget. You can read the budget agenda report here and the full meeting packet here. The budget discussion begins at 7:00 PM. You can participate in the meeting by watching the live stream on the City’s YouTube channel and following the instructions on the screen to call in during public comments.
On June, 15 the Monterey Public Library Friends & Foundation Board of Directors approved the following communication to the City Council:
Thank you for your comments at the June 2 meeting affirming the importance of library services to the Monterey community. We know that you have heard from many residents with the same concern. We are especially grateful for your direction to make $1.3 million available from one-time deferred VRF and OPEB payments to offset reductions to the Library and Recreation budgets. We are disappointed to learn that more than $365,000 of this total has been applied to retain positions in other areas, leaving $900,000 for the proposed Reopen and Hiring Fund.
We listened to your deliberations on May 27 and June 2, and we know that setting priorities for our community under these circumstances is an enormous challenge. We recognize the value of all City services and City staff.
However, we remain concerned that the reductions proposed in the plan before you are not the best reflection of the community’s needs and values. The plan cuts the Library, Recreation, and Museums an average of 60%. If the City Manager allocates the entire $900,000 Reopen and Hiring Fund to library and recreation services, the average reduction will be about 53%. All other departments are cut an average of 10.4%.
To point out this disparity is not to argue that cuts should be applied equally across all departments. It is to recognize that the proposal mandates painful belt-tightening for most of the City and devastation for three prized community programs.
Do these priorities really reflect the value of library services to the City, at a time when these services are needed most? During hard economic times, the library provides access to vital resources on topics like job hunting, small business, health, and social services, free alternatives for education and recreation, and a unique source of inspiration, solace, and community resilience.
By encouraging literacy, supporting formal education, and fostering community, the library makes a genuine contribution to public safety, now and for decades to come.
Programs and services for children, online and in the library, are a lifeline for Monterey families facing extraordinary demands as a result of the pandemic.
The library plays an essential role in our democracy, informing voters and active citizens. This is particularly urgent in an election year filled with misinformation and disinformation.
Laying off close to 80% of the library staff represents an irreparable loss of expertise and institutional knowledge. The cuts will dismantle systems and programs that have been developed over many years to serve the community. It will be difficult or impossible to restore the kind of library service Monterey expects after the fiscal emergency ends.
We appreciate your hard work to rise to the demands of the pandemic and recession. We are grateful for your decision to offset a portion of the library budget reductions. We are initiating a crisis fundraising campaign in hopes of restoring some additional library programs and services. We are ready to help in any way we can.
Monterey Public Library Friends & Foundation
Approved by the Board of Directors June 15, 2020