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Salt Lake City Public Library System asks for budget increase

May 31, 2017 02:50PM ● Published by Kelly Cannon

Salt Lake Public Library System Executive Director Peter Bromberg addresses the Sugar House Community Council to discuss a proposed budget increase for the library system. (Kelly Cannon/City Journals)

By Kelly Cannon | kelly@mycityjournals.com

For the first time since 2004, the Salt Lake City Public Library System is asking for a budget increase for operational funding of $3.9 million in property tax revenue. Library Director Peter Bromberg explained the library’s request to the Sugar House Community Council during their May 3 meeting.
 
“When I say that we’re asking for money, the library is not my library. The library is your library. And if I’m asking for money, I’m not asking for money for myself but as a steward of this institution in this community,” Bromberg said.  “I’m asking for money so that we can be good stewards of that institution.”
                  
There are three main drivers for the budget increase. The first one is to continue the operations of both the Glendale and Marmalade branches.
 
“They’re beautiful buildings and they’re heavily used. If you go to Glendale between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., you might see 200 to 300 kids there. It’s a crazy scene,” Bromberg said. “It’s really been amazing and transformative for that community.”
 
Bromberg explained when those branches were built, the Salt Lake City Council told the library they had to run those buildings on the library’s savings. Once the library knew the true cost of operations, they could come back to the council and request funding. Bromberg said they’ve been able to delay the request for two years but it’s not possible to stretch it out for another year. One and a half million dollars of the requested budget increase will be for Glendale and Marmalade branches.
 
The next part of the budget increase proposal is to begin saving money for long-term plans. Bromberg said when he started as director about seven months ago, he asked to see the budgets and the long-term plans.
 
“I was looking through our budget and I’m not seeing money for the long-term maintenance of our facilities,” Bromberg said. “I got a little queasy.”
 
The library plans on putting away $1.5 million each year for ongoing long-term maintenance of the facilities and the technology infrastructure. Bromberg said the library board will be passing a policy that will restrict the use of those funds.
 
“I don’t want you to take us at our word when we say trust us, we’re not going to spend that money on anything else,” Bromberg said.  “We’re going to pass a policy that says we’re only spending the money on those long-term, high price tag, life-cycle type things.”
 
The third part of the budget increase is an investment in the library’s facilities in all the communities to ensure the buildings are safe, clean and welcoming.
 
“What I’ve seen is that we’re understaffed and underinvested in custodial, underinvested in maintenance and underinvested in security. That’s not good,” Bromberg said. “When you come to any of our buildings, we want you to feel safe. We want you to walk into a building that is clean and welcoming. We need to invest some money in those things. That’s another big piece of the budget.”
 
If the budget increase proposal passes, residents can expect their property taxes to increase. The owner of a median-priced home of $247,000, can expect an increase of about $20 per year. A business valued at $1 million, the increase will be $150.
 
For more information, a “Frequently Asked Questions” web page with a link to the complete budget is available at slcpl.org/FY18Budget. To offer feedback or request a presentation by Bromberg, email execadmin@slcpl.org or call 801-524-8200.
 
Public comments will be taken at the city council’s budget hearings in June. Dates and times will be posted at slccouncil.com/meeting-agendas when they are available.
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