DATE: August 27, 2008
Public Testimony Needed for Budget Process
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) held the first of two hearings on their FY2010 budget yesterday at the Springfield City Library.
Present to hear public testimony on the FY2010 Budget: (left to right) MBLC Vice Chairman Katherine K. Dibble, Chairman George T. Comeau, Director Robert C. Maier, Secretary Francis R. Murphy, and Commissioner Richard D. Dunbar.
MBLC Chair George T. Comeau opened the hearing and urged library users and supporters to provide the Board with testimony that would be used to help Governor Patrick and the state legislators understand the services libraries offer and the funding shortfalls that jeopardize the strength of the Massachusetts library system, “It’s the voices of our children, parents, immigrants, seniors, job seekers…it’s your voices and your stories that put a face to libraries and help our leaders understand that having libraries that provide free, open, and equal access to all is not simply nice, it is an absolute necessity.”
Each year the Office of Administration and Finance seeks to regulate state spending by providing government agencies with a budget cap. The FY09 cap for the MBLC budget was 1.5%. This year the Board was given a -1.5% (negative) budget cap, meaning the MBLC would need to reduce an already trim budget.
Commissioners stayed after the hearing to talk informally with library supporters.
While the budget cap is meant to act as a guide in the budget process, the MBLC will create the FY2010 Legislative Agenda based on funding needs that go beyond the cap. “That’s where the budget testimony comes into play,” stated MBLC Director Robert C. Maier. “It helps us illustrate to the Governor and the Legislature the gap between the need and the current funding practices.” Last year the Board compiled the FY09 budget hearing testimony and presented it to the Governor and the Legislature. Maier called the testimony instrumental in helping the Board receive modest increases in the FY09 budget.
Even with slight increases in the FY09 Board Budget, funding to the MBLC remains below 2001 levels in several areas including Library Technology & Resource Sharing. State Aid to Regional Libraries is below 2002 funding levels. This as library usage increased for the eighth year in row as libraries across the Commonwealth experience a surge in demand for library services driven in part by a slow economy.
The final Budget Hearing will be held on Wednesday, September 3 at 7:00pm at the Watertown Free Public Library located at 123 Main Street in Watertown. The Board encourages anyone wishing to contribute testimony to email it to the MBLC Director at Robert.Maier@state.ma.us. Testimony may also be faxed to 617-725-0140 or sent via regular mail to Robert C. Maier, Director, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, 98 North Washington Street, Suite 401, Boston, MA 02114.