Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

Welcome to the People’s Reporter, City Budget Edition. All day today I’ll be taking your budget queries and trying to answer them. I have a good queue going already so get your questions in now.

Libraries will be a theme of the day. Mayor Jerry Sanders’ proposed budget slashes hours at the city’s 35 branch libraries nearly in half to 18.5 hours a week. If the budget passes, they’ll be open two days a week and alternate Saturdays.

Our first question: How do our library hours compare to other cities?

The quickest answer is outdated, but might be instructive to our current situation. In 2006, the year before Sanders presented his first budget, San Diego ranked second of seven major cities in library funding as a percentage of its day-to-day operating budget, according to page 14 of this 2007 report from the city’s independent budget analyst. That put San Diego ahead of cities such as San Jose, Dallas and Phoenix, but behind Seattle.

(Please note the regular caveat when examining municipal spending. Cities budget things differently and have different services so exact comparisons are difficult.)

But during Sanders’ tenure, library funding has declined compared to other city spending as the chart below shows.

If Sanders’ proposed budget passes, library funding will be 2.73 percent of general city spending in 2012. By comparison, library funding never dipped below 3.28 percent in any year the IBA surveyed going back to 1986 (see page 24 of its report).

To be sure, stories of library woe are common across the country. Look no further than Los Angeles. Deep budget cuts closed down its system for two days a week, something done in no other major city except for Detroit, according to this thorough L.A. Weekly story. Library funding made up 2 percent of L.A.’s spending, L.A. Weekly reported.

But L.A. voters recently passed a ballot measure that requires a boost to library funding.

The budget proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa this week added library hours.

San Diego has its own library spending goal passed by the City Council in 2000. The city was supposed to spend 6 percent of its budget on library services starting in 2005. The city never has met that target. (See page 23 of the IBA report).

Please tell Liam Dillon what to do directly or 619.550.5663. You can also tell him what to do via Twitter:

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.