City’s 2007 budget includes temporary funding for libraries

After several rounds of political volleys between the Minneapolis City Council and the Library Board, the fate of three libraries scheduled for closure remains unclear.

While the Minneapolis City Council approved the additional $1.2 million the Library Board had said was the minimum amount of funding it needed to keep all 15 of the city's libraries open in 2007, the move came with a catch. The money is all one-time funding, which differs from the decision taken by the City Council's Ways and Means Committee in late November to provide the Library Board with $850,000 in one-time funding and $250,000 in ongoing funding.

The $1.1 million the Ways and Means Committee voted to approve in November would have been enough to keep at least one and possibly two of the three libraries scheduled for closure - Roosevelt, Southeast and Webber Park - open in 2007. The Library Board voted at its Dec. 6 meeting to postpone making any decisions on the fate of the three libraries and instead request at least $105,000 in additional funding from the City Council to keep all three libraries that were scheduled for closure open part-time. The additional funding will not alter plans to reduce the number of days per week the new Central Library is open from six to five.

At its Dec. 11 budget meeting, the City Council voted to give the Library Board the additional money - but none of the $1.2 million will be ongoing funding. The budget approved by the Council also eliminates $925,000 in ongoing funds that would have come from the library foregoing certain capital improvement funding in the next five years and paying down debt.

While the funding boost the Library Board did receive is enough to keep all 15 libraries open in 2007, the lack of any ongoing funding means Library Board members will have to decide whether they want to hire staff that they can't guarantee they will be able to afford past next year. The Library Board will vote on its 2007 budget Dec. 20.

Councilmember Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) said giving the Library Board one-time additional funding is the most responsible move for the City Council. Several committees are currently looking at solutions for the long-term future of the library system - including things such as a full or partial merger with the Hennepin County library system - and Hodges said she isn't comfortable funding a system that doesn't have a clear long-term plan in front of it.

But Councilmember Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) said providing the Library Board with $250,000 is one way the Library Board and City Council can begin to end the cycle of &#8220working on the basis of year-to-year emergencies.”

&#8220We must build and rebuild trust with the libraries,” Glidden said.