PublicCEO ran two articles last week regarding ballot box budgeting and the potential ballot initiative in San Jose regarding library funding. We received the following statement as a response. In our effort to showcase both sides of an issue, was have run it in its unedited entirety below.

Statement from Save San José Libraries Co‐Chairs in response to Mayor Chuck Reed

We’re disappointed to hear that Mayor Reed is opposed to letting the voters decide on the benefits of the Save San José Libraries initiative. However, we understand and respect his concerns and those raised by the City Manager in her memo of April 23rd. We offer the following points in response:

  • By the City Manager’s math, this initiative would allocate 4.6% of the City’s General Fund to the Library Department. Currently, the Library Department receives about 2.5% of the General Fund — a 25% drop from three years ago. By comparison, Public Safety departments traditionally receive 50% of the General Fund (over $450M in FY 2011‐12).
  • The Mayor notes in his statement that retirement costs have increased by more than $172 million over the past decade. If the Mayor’s recommended retirement modifications are approved by voters at the ballot box and upheld in the courts, the City will have additional funds to spend on all core services.
  • The Save San José Libraries initiative will improve public safety and access to resources for our most vulnerable neighbors by opening promised branch libraries and restoring hours of service demanded by residents. It is not about pitting city departments against each other or taking money from public safety. It is an investment in our future.
  • San José spends less per resident on its libraries ($33 per year) than nearly every city in the Bay Area – and California. By comparison, San Francisco spends $97 per resident annually on its libraries, Santa Clara spends $61, and Oakland spends $49. The Save San José Libraries initiative would get us to $49 per resident — on par with Oakland.
  • The Library Department does not currently pay overhead out of its General Fund dollars – nor do other General Fund programs and departments – and no overhead is paid from the parcel tax fund. The Save San José Libraries initiative would not change this.
  • Nothing in the Save San José Libraries initiative language requires the City to implement a mid-‐year adjustment to the FY 2012‐13 budget. This campaign has always stated that our intent is for the charter amendment to be implemented with the FY 2013‐14 budget.

As former City leaders, we know all too well there are no easy choices when it comes to funding core services. But if the Mayor believes that his retirement reforms should be decided by the voters, we believe the voters also deserve the right to decide how the City prioritizes its spending of the savings from those reforms.