On Thursday February 17, 2010, Mayor Bloomberg delivered his budget address for Fiscal Year 2012. The presentation cited $20 million dollars worth of cuts to our library systems in NYC, or an 8% decrease. If only that was the extent of the actual cut.
The figures cited for public libraries in FY’12 were based on Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2011, not the adopted budget that included City Council’s historic restoration of library funding, nor the actual budget that includes mid-year cuts.
The FY’12 budget presentation obscures the severity of the proposed cuts, which according to the Agency Projections given by the OMB here, here, here, and here, result in a $64.5 million difference from the actual budget for Fiscal Year 2011, even taking into account the 5.4% PEG reduction from November 2010.
Last year, NYC City Council’s Hearing Report on the FY’11 November Financial Plan raised the alarm of the immediate consequences of cuts of this magnitude, calling the 2012 Executive Plan,
“[E]ven more troubling, with a projected 22.5% cut in funding from the current level (including the November Plan PEGs). All 3 systems would face layoffs much larger than those projected by OMB in the November Plan, reductions in hours to as low as 2 to 3 days a week on average at branch libraries, and branch closures.”
If Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed FY’12 cuts are enacted, funding for New York City’s public libraries will have been reduced by 38% since FY’09.
At a certain point the question becomes: do we want to live in a city without libraries? What would that mean for New Yorkers? What would that say about New York as a city? What kind of city do we want to be?
As New Yorkers and Americans, we value freedom of expression, education, and access to information as inherent components of our core identity and values. Free public libraries allow us to better ourselves and improve our lives. When massive cuts are proposed that would radically underfund our public libraries, what is ultimately attacked is the ability of hardworking New Yorkers to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and improve their own lives and the lives of their children. Let’s not let that happen.