Wednesday, May 6, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Library Commission discusses proposed FY21 budget

In a virtual meeting convened April 27 to discuss its proposed Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget, the Library Commission recommended a 3.2 percent (or $1.7 million) increase over Fiscal Year 2019-20, including an increase to the materials budget by 3.6 percent (or $168,653).

“We are in a state of flux with our budget, and there are a lot of information requests coming from the budget office as they are looking at the impact on revenues and the impact on expenditures related to closures,” said Wendy Harrison, Austin Public Library’s financial manager.

She continued, “We’re always waiting for changes and expecting that (in) this whole process, that we’ve got edits and things of that nature. Especially this fiscal year.”

The APL budget is currently $54.6 million, and would rise to $56.4 million under the proposed budget.

The proposed budget would increase the materials (books and subscriptions) budget by 3.5 percent due to inflation and population growth. It would also increase by 5 percent the subscription and database budget to fund rising costs.

“I think it’s a good budget; it’s one that we can work with going forward into 2021,” APL Director Roosevelt Weeks said. “Our revenue is impacted quite a bit from (Covid-19), so we’re trying to maintain what we have right now, and any initiatives to cut our revenue is something that we don’t want to do at the moment.”

He said the library is still working to figure out what the financial impacts of the Covid-19 crisis might be. In the meantime, the library is only purchasing items that are essential for dealing with the pandemic. It has been able to fast-track previously scheduled deep cleanings of all its branches.

“Right now there are no plans for any cuts in services or impact on our staff in a negative way,” Weeks said. “So we continue to wait to hear from our budget office to see what the impact is.”

Commissioner Chad Williams said he would like the commission to get creative in thinking of ways that the library branches could be used to help the community during the pandemic, which he suggested might help the commission’s case against any possible cuts to the budget.

“Has the city discussed the role that the library branches can play once we sort of get beyond Covid-19, in terms of a place where medication can be handed out, or a vaccination clinic?” Williams asked.

Weeks replied in the negative, saying that while there has been discussion about using library technology to facilitate telemedicine, there hasn’t been any talk of distributing medical care directly through branches.

“This is a strange new world we live in, and when it comes to budget recommendations, obviously we’re going to be asking that the budget not be changed at all from the previous budget,” Williams said. “And to justify that, we sort of need to – I think – wax philosophic on some creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Don’t cut the library budget, because the library could play a vital role in getting the community beyond Covid-19.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Austin Public Library: This is Austin's public library system, run by the city.

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