Monday, April 12, 2010

Breaking My Silence: IMCPL Funding

Long time no talk, right? Well, that's about to change. As I've mentioned in the past, I have several stories I have yet to right but are in the line-up, so they will be published. But right now, I need to talk about the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library.

I was listening to Greg Browning on WIBC this past Saturday, and this topic came up. I unfortunately only heard the last half hour or so of the topic before his show ended. But in that short time, many callers expressed concern about out of control government spending.

Let's be clear. The Library has plenty of room for criticism, especially the fiasco that occured during the expansion of Central Library downtown. But of all the municipal corporation budgets passed by the City-County Council, only the Library Board budget was passed unanimously.

After that happened, a backdoor deal was made to sell the city's water and sewage utilities (not lease, sell). This will, if approved by the proper government bodies, result in over $400 million dollars for the city to use for almost anything it wants. The concern some have raised is that the money will be used for economic development. Of particular concern is the $15 million bailout for the Indianapolis Pacers by the Capital Improvement Board, which is still massively in debt, borrowed $7 million from the state (with $14 million still possible) while in debt, and has not yet come to the conclusion that those in debt can't spare $15 million.

We, as citizens, are paying 2% additional in sales tax on food and beverage to finance the debt on the RCA Dome (now demolished) and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Maybe the concern that professional sports will get a huge chunk of change is completely unfounded. I hope it is. But those on the 25th floor, regardless of party, have demonstrated how sports-crazy they are. We need to build a city here. We should take care of the citizens first, and professional sports last.

The library system we have here is one in the best in the nation. When I talk to family and friends about their library system, even those in major cities, they don't have the services we get. Library usage has risen, so these aren't services that just aren't being used.

Besides the money from the water deal, we have a $15 million "rainy day fund" built into the city budget. And from attending those budget meetings, I didn't hear about any restrictions on what the city can or can't spend that money on.

The library should look into reducing hours, pay for employees, and a variety of other options. But closing branches isn't something easy to reverse once the library's funding becomes more stable and predictable. Let's do all we can to work out a sensible future for the library financially, and in the mean time, shore up some of the surplus money the city has to keep the library stable until a solution is in place.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please see the Indy Student Blog Policies page for the full policy on blog comments. Verification of comments by typing in a random word is required to prevent spam. Due to recent blog inactivity, comments are now pre-screened to prevent spam advertisement.