Unexpected Revenue Softens Library, Rec Cuts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    Staff and service cuts at San Diego's libraries and recreation centers won't go nearly as deep as originally projected.

    A rebound in hotel tax revenues and one-time windfalls will ease some of the community's distress.

    The city now has just over $9 million in unexpected revenue that materialized in the two months since the mayor began plotting the municipal budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st.

    City's Libraries, Recs See Lesser Evil

    [DGO] City's Libraries, Recs See Lesser Evil
    Over $9 in unexpected revenue has materialized in the two months since the mayor began plotting the municipal budge for the next fiscal year.

    But the income stream reflected in the revised spending package is not strong enough to avert the perennial trimming of library operations.

    "They have been gutting the libraries every year, year after year; it's just almost official policy," says Valorie Matthews, a staunch supporter of the Benjamin Branch Library in Allied Gardens. "(Council members) say, 'You're going to get 6 percent -- but you're not. We lied'."

    Friends of the libraries refer to a Council policy of earmarking 6 percent of the operating budget to the library system, a policy that's routinely waived.

    This year, the system will get less than half of that.

    The newly anticipated revenue will keep eight of the city's 35 libraries -- one in each council district -- open 36 hours a week, their current operating schedule.

    The rest will be open only two days a week and alternate Saturdays, each paired with its nearest branch that'll be in operation the other weekdays.

    At the Benjamin Branch library Thursday morning, a dozen preschool children and several parents were on hand for "Reading Time," lamenting how the dwindling hours of access will limit the exposure of young minds to vast educational resources.

    "There's a lot of new stuff -- computers, the internet and everything," said Irma Ruiz, director of the Academy of Learning. "But the children still need to know that books are there, that they're available for them any time, any day."

    Added Amy Brandl, a Mission Valley resident who was on hand with her toddler son: "It's a nice opportunity to meet the other stay-at-home parents and their kids. It gives them a chance to get used to reading early on."

    Matthews had this broadside for the decision-makers at City Hall: "When you close the libraries on Sunday and Mondays, which is when they are closed now, that ruins it for people who are looking for a job. They read the want ads on Sunday, and that's when they send out their resumes -- supposedly -- on a library computer, because they don't own their own."

    The city's 62 recreation centers, meantime, will still operate 40 hours a week, instead of the 20 announced when the original budget came out last month.

    To skeptics who might suspect Mayor Sanders 'hid the ball' on the city's improving finances, so as to set up a good-news cycle that cushions the cuts, he says this: "My job's not to give doom and gloom, and it's not to give rays of sunshine. It's to give what we actually do.

    "And we've been very conservative in our projections, because past administrations haven't," the mayor added in a news media briefing Thursday. "And that's how you build up deficits. With two months more of economic information coming out, we were able to -- with some certainty -- upgrade to increased revenues."

    As it is, about 45 library jobs will be eliminated, and 30 in Parks & Recreation -- half the overall number originally planned.

    Sanders is still projecting a $41 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning in July of next year.