May 4 2011

Oakland Mayor Proposes Closure of 15 Oakland Libraries One Week after Receiving Piedmont $$

Oakland Public LibraryJust one week after Piedmont sent a check for $350,471 to Oakland for library services (2009-10 billed in arrears), Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan has announced a proposal to close 15 of its 19 libraries.

On Friday, April 29, Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan, called for either the closure of all City libraries except the Main Library and 3 branches or a library budget cut of $400,000, an amount almost identical to Piedmont’s payment.  

The closure proposal would affect Montclair, Piedmont Avenue, Temescal (including its tool library), as well as the Asian, Brookfield, Cezar Chavez, Dimond, Eastmont, Elmhurst, Golden Gate, Lakeview, Martin Luther King, Melrose,  and West Oakland branch libraries and the African American Museum and Library.  The funding for new books and DVDs would be severely limited.  Electronic services such as downloadable books and databases would be discontinued.  The hours for the Oakland History Room in the Main library would be reduced.

The City of Piedmont included no restrictions on Oakland’s use of its recent $350,471 contribution, e.g. requiring that the dollars result in an increase in the Oakland Library budget or that services be maintained.

No Piedmont payments for library services go into the Oakland Library budget according to the Oakland Associate Library Director Gerry Garzon.  Residents of Piedmont often identify the desire to support the Oakland Libraries as a rationale for making a library service payment to Oakland.  However, Piedmont’s “library service” payments are used as general funds, not for Oakland Libraries.  (See Background Materials below.)

If the Oakland City Council continues to block a parcel tax increase, the Oakland Mayor is asking the Oakland City Council to select one of 2 budget options.

  • Proposal A would shut down all libraries except 81st Avenue, Diamond, Rockridge and the Main Library.
  • Proposal B would only cut $400,000 from the library budget, but requires employees to agree to contribute to their benefits and re-negotiate their union contracts.

(A third proposal presented by the Mayor would leave libraries and library funding intact, but requires the passage of a parcel tax blocked 2 weeks ago by the Oakland City Council.)

The closure option cuts $5.8 million from the Oakland Library general fund monies, creating a conflict with the legal restrictions contained in Oakland’s library parcel tax, and resulting in the additional loss of $15 million in  Measure Q assessments. As a result, this option would represent a total reduction of $21 million from the library’s current $24 million budget.

Measure Q is a special parcel tax which increases annually, raising approximately $15 million for the Oakland Library as of 2011-12.  However, it provides that if a $9,059,989 general fund contribution is not made to the library budget by the City of Oakland in any fiscal year, a Measure Q assessment cannot legally be imposed for that year.  (The $9 million amount was the general fund contribution to the library budget in 2000-01. The requirement is intended to ensure a minimum level of Oakland General Fund support for the libraries, as well as ensure Measure Q increases overall library funding, rather than merely substituting assessments for general funds.)

Oakland’s Measure Q specifically states:

“For any year during which this tax is in effect, the City Council may collect this tax only if the General Fund appropriation for Library services is maintained at a level that is no lower than the General Fund appropriation for fiscal year 2000-01.  The General Fund appropriation for Library services for fiscal year 2000-01 was $9,059.989.”

Since 2007, Oakland has reduced its general fund contribution to the library budget to the minimum required ($9,059,989) by Measure Q.  The library budget has consisted only of the minimum general fund contribution, plus Measure Q funds which cannot be redirected.  While the $400,000 cut in option B is noted in the proposal as not violating the Measure Q minimum, the $5.8 million of cuts in option A will violate Measure Q requirements – and result in the loss of an additional $15 million in Measure Q parcel tax assessments, leaving the library with a budget of only $3 million, compared to its current $24 million.  (See page C-29, item 2240.)

Under all proposals presented by the Mayor of Oakland a reorganization of the Oakland Public Library would occur in 2012-13.  The library’s budget would be combined with two other departments’ (Parks & Recreation and Human Services) to form a new Life Enrichment Agency “in order to better collaborate on funding streams.”  It is not stated whether this reorganization would involve redirecting Measure Q funding to the newly formed department.  However, a 2008 legal opinion from the Oakland City Attorney has asserted “While the terms of Measure Q dictate and limit how the proceeds of the tax may be used, the prescribed usages are expressed as objectives, not as requirements.”  See 2008 Legal Opinon on Measure Q. )

Last fall the Piedmont City Council requested that staff’s mid-year budget report “include a comprehensive analysis of issues related to library service, including the contract with the City of Oakland, service access and alternative options. (At p.7.)  The mid-year budget report presented in March  did not contain this analysis.  Data provided by the Oakland Library on Piedmont use has been sporadic and incomplete.

Despite the lack of available data and comprehensive analysis, the City Administrator is expected to initiate further negotiations re with the City of Oakland within the next 2 weeks.

Oakland’s Mayor will present her budget options to the Oakland City Council on Thursday, May 5.   A final vote is expected in June.

Background Materials:

FY 11-13 Proposed Budget: Scenario A (233 pages) = closure of 15 out of 19 libraries. Measure Q assessments are not collected.  Oakland property owners would see a reduction in their property taxes as a result (unless already exempt from Measure Q assessments).

FY 11-13 Proposed Budget: Scenario B (246 pages) = $400,000 cut in library funds. This brings the city’s general fund contribution to the library budget down to the minimum Measure Q level, but allows Measure Q assessments to be collected.




The above excerpt shows enhancements to the library’s general funds under proposal B:   $15 million in Measure Q funds plus an additional $348,500.  The extra $348,500 goes to various city administrative departments, rather than into the library’s budget with Measure Q funds.  The $348,500 figure is approximately $2,000 less than the $350,471 contribution paid by the City of Piedmont to Oakland last week. At p. C-29.)

FY 11-13 Proposed Budget: Scenario C (232 pages) = no reduction in the library budget from 2010-11.  However, this option depends on passage of a parcel tax which has already been blocked by the Oakland City Council.



2 Responses to “Oakland Mayor Proposes Closure of 15 Oakland Libraries One Week after Receiving Piedmont $$”

  1. Thank you! This clears up a lot of confusion. I hope your report will be picked up by all Piedmont and other local news services. Piedmont citizens need to know this. Again thank you.

  2. You have got to be kidding! Unbelievable……can we request a refund and start our own library?

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