The reopening of Los Angeles libraries could be mistakenly taken as a sign that the city’s pervasive budget problems are abating. But according to the editorial writers at the L.A. Daily News, that would be a misconception. Instead, the city is restoring library services at the cost of other city services that the editorial staff has deemed “more vital.”

When the city council approved a 2011 ballot initiative, Measure L, they paved the way for a greater percentage of city revenues to be dedicated to libraries. That decision provided the additional funding necessary to reopen the libraries that had been shuttered one day per week and rehire some of the 300 librarians that had been laid off.

However, that money had to come from somewhere, and now other programs throughout the city are absorbing the $50 million that the editorial writers say has been taken from Peter to pay for Paul’s libraries.

From the Daily News:

Los Angeles city libraries have reopened on Mondays, librarians are being hired back, and soon Sunday hours will be restored. All must be well with the treasury of the City of Angels, after several years of financial chaos, to enable this icon of the municipality to be fully funded once again.

That’s a nice narrative, but it’s not true. For one thing, not all of the 300 librarians cut from the cities libraries in the last two years have or will come back.

But, more importantly, the city’s perilous budget condition isn’t miraculously cured; the Monday hours simply reflect a rejiggering of funding priorities authorized by the majority of city voters who endorsed Measure L in March. It didn’t create any new funding source or savings; it asked voters to simply change the City Charter to guarantee the libraries a higher percentage of the city’s revenues each year than it had been receiving — from .0175 percent of the assessed value of all property in the city to .03 percent.

Read the full article here.