Baseline Funding Legislation FAQ
District Council 37 and Locals 374, 1321, 1482 and 1930 are proposing baseline funding legislation that guarantees steady and adequate funding of libraries year to year and will allow staff to provide all the services, programs and materials our customers expect while ensuring we have a secure profession.
This is the proposed legislation:
Effective [date], a sum representing two and one-half percent (2.5%) of the real property tax levy assessed each fiscal year shall be dedicated to the operation and maintenance of the library systems.
What is baseline funding?
- Baseline funding is when an agency, including libraries, has the same or similar budget year to year.
Why baseline funding legislation?
- The baseline legislation will require our elected officials to properly fund libraries and take the uncertainty and politics out of our budget.
Has baselining been done in other cities?
- Yes. Public library systems in Los Angeles, Sacramento, Detroit, Columbus, and Pittsburgh all receive various forms of baseline funding.
Do any New York City agencies or organizations have baseline funding?
- Public schools and the Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium.
Why do we fight for library budgets every year and every year the library systems restore the cut?
- For the past ten years, the mayor has proposed budgets for libraries that are drastically less than what we received the year before. Every year, from January to June, the mayor forces the City Council, library staff and supporters to fight for restorations during the budget approval process.
Who came up with the idea baseline funding and why?
- The unions that represent library staff -- District Council 37, Quasi-Public Employees Local 374, Queens Library Guild Local 1321, Brooklyn Library Guild Local 1482, and New York Public Library Guild Local 1930. We believe that the budget process for libraries is broken, damaging the vital services libraries provide every New York City resident. Baseline funding legislation would stop this process.
What is the property tax assessment?
- The property tax assessment is collected on taxable real estate in NYC. Each year, the City assesses the value of each taxable property and presents the owner with a bill. In 2012, property tax represented 43% of all tax collected in NYC.
What does our property tax pay for?
- Property tax pays for a wide range of city-funded services. In 2012, 34% of the tax assessment went toward uniformed services (police, fire, sanitation, corrections); 29% toward education; 21% toward health and welfare; and 16% to other agencies (transportation, housing, parks, etc.).
Will baseline funding take away tax funds from other places like schools?
- The public libraries serve a wide array of services that no other agency in the city can match. They are a key part of the educational system; our network of cultural institutions; our job training programs; our social services network, etc. By strengthening the libraries, which have roots in every single neighborhood in the city, we enhance those services and bring them closer to the people of New York.
Will this make my taxes go up?
- No. The baseline funding legislation does not increase property tax rates. It uses existing taxes to pay for library services.
BENEFITS OF BASELINE FUNDING
How will library customers benefit from baseline funding?
- With baseline funding, libraries can hire enough staff to open a minimum six days per week; purchase more books, DVDs, e-books and other material; provide more programs, including after-school programs; offer job services, and develop new services.
Would the 2.5% cover the total operating costs of all three library systems?
- Our estimates indicate that the 2.5% will increase the libraries’ operating budgets. Additionally, the library systems will continue to receive a small percentage of funding from state and federal governments and private sources. And the funding would increase as the city’s tax base grows.
Will baseline funding help save jobs?
- Yes. With consistent funding, year-to-year, the library administrations will have a good idea of future years’ budgets and be better able to plan staffing levels accordingly, preventing layoffs.
Will baseline funding give the libraries enough money to hire more staff?
- Yes. This legislation will give the libraries enough money to provide, on average, six-day service. For the libraries to provide this service, they must hire more staff.
Will library budgets still go up and down, even though it is baselined?
- Yes. This legislation links library budgets to the property tax. If property taxes go up then library budgets go up. If they go down, then library budgets go down. A number of agencies estimate future property tax collection. With these estimates, libraries can plan for library services in advance. Even in the worst days of the economic crisis, library budgets would have been higher with baseline funding than they were without it.
According to New York City Council’s website, these are the steps of the legislative process:
- A Council member files a bill (proposed legislation) with the Council Speaker's Office.
- The bill is then introduced during a “stated” meeting of the entire Council and referred to the appropriate committee. One or more public committee hearings may be noticed and held on the proposed legislation.
- After public testimony and committee debate, the bill may be amended.
- The committee votes on the final version of the bill.
- If passed in committee, the bill is sent to the full Council for more debate and a final vote.
- If passed by an affirmative vote of a majority of all Council members (at least 26 members) the bill is then sent to the mayor, who also holds a public hearing.
- The mayor then chooses to sign or veto the bill.
- If the mayor does sign the bill, it immediately becomes a local law and is entered into the City's Charter or Administrative Code. The time before a new law becomes effective will vary from law to law.
- If the mayor disapproves or vetoes the bill, he or she must return it to the city clerk with his or her objections to the Council by the next scheduled stated meeting.
- The Council then has 30 days to override the mayoral veto.
- If the Council approves the bill by a vote of two-thirds of all Council members (at least 34 members), it is then considered adopted and becomes a local law.
- If the mayor does not sign or veto the bill within 30 days after receiving it from the Council, it is approved automatically.
Will the public vote on library funding issues?
- No. The public will not vote this specific piece of legislation on. And the legislation does not allow other library-related measures to come up for a vote.
Do the library administrations support the baseline funding legislation?
- They have suggested that they support it but have not formally and publicly stated it.
Do any of the mayoral candidates support the legislation?
- As of this writing, we do not know.
How long could this legislation take to pass?
- We do not know. However, we will continue fighting for it.
What Can We Do?
- The most important action we can take is to lobby our City Council members. We are setting up ways for all of us to participate, including online activism, rallies, visits to Council members and other campaign actions. We will be introducing strategies throughout the campaign.
- Our activism will allow everyone to participate so all of our voices are heard, from very active participation to minimal participation. However, we will ensure every voice is heard.
- Keep in mind that the most powerful force for change will come when all of us participate. You, your friends, your family, your coworkers, your fellow library supporters need to convince our City Council members to make real budget reform and support baseline funding legislation!