September County Board Meeting: Protest of Branch Library closures
This is an invitation to all Arlington Public Library patrons to participate in the September 25th County Board meeting. We’ll also be contacting PTAs, Facebook, and possibly the Kojo Nmandi show. We are NOT attempting to get Civic Association ‘sponsorship’ or even approval. This is strictly to get the word out to individuals that it’s not too late to protest the Branch closures.

This year for the first time the Branches [against the advice of the School Board] closed one midweek day. Glencarlyn and Cherrydale saw the two half-days they’d asked for in FY 2010, compacted into a single day. Obviously this affects school-age children and their parents for homework, entertainment and just a safe place to go; as well as restricting a neighborhood resource for seniors, persons with disabilities, financially disadvantaged families, and the ecology minded. It also completely contradicts the County Board’s January 2010 assertion that it supports communities.

How did this line item in the Manager’s Proposed Budget for FY2011 get approved? Because patrons didn’t know until after the March public comment period had ended, or because they mistakenly thought there wasn’t enough money, or perhaps because they mistakenly thought Alexandria and Fairfax Libraries were also reducing days. We can’t know because the town meetings held last year, which were well attended by the affected Branches [including ours, Aurora Hills], were omitted this year.

Alexandria and Fairfax froze wages and kept all their Libraries open a minimum of six days per week. Arlington increased compensation AND could have kept Branch hours.

If this is all you need to know, show up at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, September 25, Saturday, 8:30am with a homemade sign [just LIBRARY on a piece of paper is enough]. Parking will be limited because of the Farmers’ Market, so come early and visit the Market, take public transportation, or if you can’t make it, email your views to the Board beforehand at countyboard@arlingtonva.us.

The lengthy explanation that follows is intended to answer most questions.

The September Board meeting is ‘timely’ for three reasons: 1] by that time, Arlingtonians, particularly parents, will not only have experienced summer with a midweek Branch closure, but that weekday gap during school as well. Other patrons including seniors, persons with disabilities and ecology supporters have been impacted as well, 2] silence until next March, will undoubtedly result in an FY 2012 Proposed Budget with even more hours cut, and 3] it could avert use of the Library as an election issue for people who have nothing against Mr.Zimmerman except this; but the Library is, of course, a major County issue.

The grounds for this request would be as follows:

Ø Lack of effective public notice. For Fiscal 2010, Branch day cuts were announced with ‘town meetings’. For Fiscal 2011 there was only a line item in the Proposed Budget and no town meeting to invite response. The Board relies on public input to make Budget decisions.

Ø Reliance by the public on a fiscal misrepresentation. Those few citizens who were aware of the proposed Branch cuts were told there was no money: that even after an increase in taxes and fees we had to share the pain. The County Manager’s Proposed Budget, under employee compensation, listed only a one-day furlough of County employees for a savings of $1,000,000. In the Adopted Budget the Board added in $2,800,000 in step increases and $1,300,000 in lump-sum payouts. Even if this is how employee raises are normally handled [since the County Manager is an employee], doing so this way in a time of tax increases and service cuts amounts to de facto misrepresentation. Restoring the Branches would have cost less than 20% of the lump-sum payouts alone.

Ø Existence of a $3,300,000 Stability Fund for ‘unexpected expenses’. There is no precedent for what happened last April: this was a system failure affecting a basic County resource for all citizens, particularly impacting children. The amount needed to restore the Branch day, derived from the Proposed Budget, is about $200,000. This combination of error, impact, and affordability should allow use of the Fund.

The County attorney can always decide either way about this. An error in funding Libraries is no different from an error in appropriations to, say, the water treatment facility. If that department mistakenly failed to ask for sufficient funds, this would be an unexpected expense eligible for the Stability Fund.

Another possible source of the $200,000 required is surplus. The Manager’s projected income for Fiscal 2011 was necessarily conservative. There are rumors that in fact things have been better than that. If so, it would not be necessary for the Board to decide on the appropriateness of using the Stability Fund.

Again, Alexandria and Fairfax froze wages and kept all their Libraries open a minimum of six days per week. Arlington increased compensation AND could have kept Branch hours.

So mark your calendars, and expect more information in the coming weeks.

Thank you

Shelley Wade [and other patrons of AH]
Posts: 285 | Registered: January 09, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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