Library funding bill may go on fall ballot

Library officials have asked the city controller to review a $141 million library branch program that ended up behind schedule and over budget, in hopes of reassuring San Franciscans — who may be asked to approve more library funds this November — of the agency’s fiscal responsibility.

Predominantly funded by a $106 million improvement bond approved by voters in 2000, the Branch Library Improvement Program, or BLIP, was originally scheduled to have 19 branch renovations and four construction projects completed by 2009.

The program is now short by between $44 million and $52 million, according to City Librarian Luis Herrera, and five branch renovation projects — at Bayview, Golden Gate, Merced, North Beach and Ortega — have been postponed until additional funding can be secured.

To get that additional monies, library officials are eyeing a library fund approved by voters in 1994 that earmarks a percentage of city revenues for operation of the library system. The Proposition E fund expires in 2009, but The City’s Library Commission voted unanimously Thursday to place a City Charter amendment on the November 2007 ballot to renew the fund a year early.

The new preservation fund measure would be different in that it would authorize The City to issue debt secured by or repaid from the library preservation fund — which could be used for the remaining facilities improvements. Supervisor Aaron Peskin has agreed to sponsor the charter amendment.

Calls for an independent audit came from Library Commission members, the Library Citizens Advisory Committee and the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, a philanthropic organization that funneled $16 million into the improvement program.

“I thought an audit would be important for voters,” said Library Commissioner Larry Kane, a partner in the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. “To make sure they know we’re not wasting taxpayer money.”

The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library also conducted its own review of the program’s forecasting methodology, according to Executive Director Donna Bero, but the study didn’t audit the accounting of the current improvement program.

Library activist Peter Warfield said he was skeptical of any review that didn’t verify the specific financial shortfalls of the current improvement program. He said the revised charter amendment amounted to handing library officials a blank check for future construction projects — and problems.


The San Francisco Public Library lists locations, hours, and phone numbers online.


beslinger@examiner.com

Staff Writer Joshua Sabatini contributed to this report.

Bay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Visitors read a notice hanging on the Polk Street entrance to City Hall on Thursday, March 26, 2020, shortly after the building was closed. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City Hall reopening to the public on June 7 after long closure due to COVID-19

San Francisco will reopen City Hall to the public on June 7… Continue reading

Many famillies have supported keeping John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park free of car traffic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over future of JFK Drive heats up

Shamann Walton compares accessibilty issues to segregation, likens street closure to ‘1950s South’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in March, is unveiling a series of budget proposals this week. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom’s school plan has billions for college savings accounts, after school programs and more

Hannah Wiley The Sacramento Bee California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to send… Continue reading

Tara Hobson, center, principal at SF International High School, welcomes a student back on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD seniors get a chance to say goodbye to school in person

Deal to briefly return older students to school leaves many parents and teens dissatisfied

Filmmaker Will J. Zang’s four-minute hybrid documentary “The Leaf” is part of CAAMFest’s Out/Here Shorts program focusing on LGBTQ+ stories. (Courtesy Will J. Zang)
Gay Chinese filmmaker Will Zang has a dilemma in ‘The Leaf’

CAAMFest screenings reflect diverse Asian and Asian-American experiences

Most Read