Newly released fundraising totals for the downtown library reveal that city letters to the state contained a potentially misleading statements about how much private money has been committed toward construction of a planned downtown library.

The report from city staffers to members of a City Council committee says library boosters have raised $37.5 million toward the library. But $10 million of that is for operating and maintenance costs, while $27.5 million is available for construction.

In letters to the state earlier this year, the city has cited fundraising totals of both $33 million and $35 million, indicating they referred to private funds available for construction. From a Feb. 2 letter from Mayor Jerry Sanders to the state librarian:

The currently designed Main Library project was last estimated in 2004 to cost $185 million to complete, $150 million of which would be needed to initiate construction. The sources of funds available at this time for the project include: $80 million in downtown San Diego redevelopment funds, $20 million from a 2000 Library Bond Act grant, and $35 million in private funds raised by the Library Foundation… (emphasis added)

Attached to the mayor’s letter was a Jan. 29 letter from Chief Operating Officer Jay Goldstone to the school district that said:

So far the Library Foundation has received $33 Million in private donation pledges towards their commitment of $85 Million total private donations.

That $85 million number refers to the amount of donations that would have to be received for library construction, not operations. The city has had to send the letters to the state to prove that the project is viable and convince the state to keep its $20 million extended.

Mayoral spokeswoman Rachel Laing said when the letters were written, city officials had not yet seen the list of commitments but simply received an overall number from library boosters.

“We were not aware that $10 million was earmarked for operations,” Laing said.

The staff report says there should be enough money to construct the shell of the building with the donations now pledged, along with the state grant for library construction, downtown redevelopment money and $20 million in school bond money that the school district could provide in exchange for a 40-year lease on two floors. But the city’s report says $35.8 million will be required after the first 18 months of construction to finish off the library.

The staff report estimates construction costs have increased 3.4 percent since that outdated $185 million cost estimate but recommends the city bid out the project to determine its true cost.

The school board is slated to vote on a nonbinding letter of intent with the city on Tuesday, to be followed by the City Council committee vote Wednesday.

The matter is expected to go to the full council in early July, a few days after the $20 million state grant is set to expire. Laing said the city has apprised state officials of the delay.

RANI GUPTA

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