Saturday, June 11, 2011

Solano County grand jury has idea for libraries

By Reporter Staff
Posted: 06/11/2011 01:03:41 AM PDT
Updated: 06/11/2011 10:20:24 AM PDT

The Solano County Library System is operating under a budget deficit, but the grand jury has recommendations to alleviate funding strains.

The county library system serves five of seven cities. Benicia and Dixon maintain independent libraries.

To fund the libraries in Vacaville, Fairfield, Suisun City, Rio Vista and Vallejo, the county library system relies on state funds, county property taxes, and county and city sales taxes.

The grand jury noted that until recently, the library system operated within its budget, even with a decline in revenue. However, in 2010, they identified a structural deficit of $5 million, which made continuing operations questionable.

The library system has a contingency fund and an operating policy that it must be at least 3 percent of the projected revenue for that fiscal year.

According to the grand jury, in fiscal year 2008-09, revenues to the library system dropped by $6 million from the previous year and created a $4 million deficit covered by the contingency fund.

In 2009-10, revenue fell another $3 million. For fiscal year 2010-11, expenditures have been projected to exceed revenue by $5 million, but proactive budgetary measures taken by the library system have reduced the structural deficit to approximately $2.5 million.

The contingency balance for fiscal year 2010-11 is $6.27 million and is more than sufficient to cover the current deficit. However, according to the grand jury, the remaining balance will be insufficient for future projected deficits.

Measure B funds, a one-eighth-of-a-cent sales tax, is dedicated to maintaining library services and accounts for 25 percent of the system's revenue, but expires in 2014.

"Unless another similar measure can be passed by voters, the County Library System stands to lose a significant portion of its revenue," the grand jury noted in its report.

The report added that it would most likely necessitate the closure of one or more library branches.

To make up for lost revenue, the grand jury recommends updating the current website to raise revenue through increased online electronic media sales.

It also suggested to inform the public that purchasing such things help fund the library.

The grand jury also recommends working with community partners to identify sources to maintain current funding levels.

Additionally, the grand jury commends the use of volunteers to help control human resource costs.

To volunteer at a local library, information is available on the library system's website,

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