In The News › BGR thinks the lack of planning for libraries is reason for concern: A letter to the editor

Apr 22, 2015

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Orleans Parish, Taxes

BGR thinks the lack of planning for libraries is reason for concern: A letter to the editor

The Times-Picayune

April 22, 2015

Re: “N.O. libraries’ shelf life seen as threatened,” Page A1, April 17

The Bureau of Governmental Research is said to have criticized the upcoming library millage vote as “ill-timed” in light of other tax propositions and to have “dinged” the library’s director “for not redrafting a forward-looking vision of the library system after Mayor Mitch Landrieu hired him in November 2011.” It did neither. Here are the concerns BGR raised:

The library provided BGR with projected expenditures from the new millage that were inflated by approximately $1 million because it used improper assumptions. This discrepancy suggests that the library has not carefully planned for the new revenue.

Post-Katrina, the library’s branch network was not rebuilt pursuant to a strategic plan. Instead, the library rebuilt pre-Katrina branches and added new ones on an ad hoc basis. The library told BGR it will devise a strategic plan for the future once its funding has improved. In the meantime, it is unclear whether the system is efficiently and effectively serving the population.

The library has made puzzling statements about the impact of the failure of the millage proposition. It has publicly stated that if the millage does not pass the library would eventually have to decrease its hours of operation by 35 percent, close seven of its 14 libraries and decrease funding for collections, programs and technology. This is because the library is currently using reserve funds to cover roughly one-fourth of its budget, and it expects to spend the remainder of those funds in 2016. But BGR could not understand how a potential 25 percent budget reduction would necessitate cuts on the scale claimed. In the library’s interviews and correspondence with BGR, it became clear that these dire predictions were not accurate.

While raising these concerns, BGR stated that it is supportive of a properly funded library system. BGR presented detailed comparisons showing that the library received significantly less revenue per capita than the library systems in East Baton Rouge, Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes in 2013. BGR also stated that library’s structural deficit means that it cannot sustain the expansion that has occurred in recent years, much less expand further, without additional revenue.

However, BGR was alarmed by the various discrepancies in the library’s numbers and the apparent lack of planning. It urged the library to return to voters in the fall with a well-developed strategic plan, based on sound numbers, showing that the new tax revenue will go toward a system that meets the public’s needs. That is not much to ask. That’s the minimum that voters deserve. We invite voters to review our analysis for themselves, at www.bgr.org.

Janet R. Howard
President and CEO
Bureau of Governmental Research
New Orleans

Apr 22, 2015

Source: NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Orleans Parish, Taxes

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