As a citizen and volunteer in Redlands for more than 50 years, I am dismayed by the budget cuts that will be imposed on the A.K. Smiley Public Library.
Yes, these are difficult financial times for business, government and individuals alike. This is a time to look at NEEDS versus WANTS.
Does the city NEED improvements, upgrades and expansions of office furniture and equipment? The total amount of the budget spent on vehicles, excluding police and fire, is absurd.
The city runs an airport at a cost of $408,372, an expense that was once covered by grants. Grants are no longer reflected in the proposed budget. Salaries at the airport, with benefits, cost $148,032. All of the above expenses might better fit the category of WANTS which could be shelved for a future time when the economy rebounds.
Now let’s address NEEDS. The city NEEDS citizens living here and supporting the businesses and tax base. One of the things that draws an individual to a community is what it offers that neighboring communities don't — safety, green space, programs, a shopping district, and, yes, a library. The Smileys built the library because they felt that any community worth existing should have a library. The Smiley library doesn't just distribute books, it helps with job searches, educational programs, computers skills, adult literacy and multiple children’s programs. It is a major contributor to Redlands’ identity.
The library has only three broad categories in its budget: salaries, services and supplies. Cutting a budget is difficult if you are already at bare bones. Where is the budget for acquisitions, computers, programs and literacy? Over years they have been dropped from the city’s responsibility.
The Friends of the A.K. Smiley Library have stepped up to provide these much-needed items. These expenses had a cost of more than $85,800 last year. The city’s version of the library’s budget does not reflect these costs, which are integral to the library functioning and staying current.
In 2008, the library staffing took a major hit and has only begun to recover. In many ways this external funding has become the lifeline for the library. It was never intended for the Friends to be the sole financial support for the library’s services.
The proposed budget indicates that there will be over 38 full-time and 42 part-time employees losing their jobs — some, however, were never reestablished due to previous cuts. Fifteen of these projected cuts will be in library's staffing — a high burden to share for a relatively small portion of the overall budget. It will result in fewer hours (56 hours of availability down to 35), no evening hours, fewer hours for the Friend’s bookstore and special sales to generate income.
The question becomes: Should the library fade into history as obsolete or stay as a community-focused facility? Would the citizenry see a greater need for a library or an airport? I urge the City Council to reflect on what makes Redlands the community it is. In these difficult times, it become prudent to stay with long-range plans and "sit" on those things that can wait.
Louise Schumann, Redlands