14 October 2009

Sunday Library Hours Saved!

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced today that at the urging of City Council members, he will revise his proposed budget for next year by reversing about $910,000 in cuts for the library system. The additional library funding will allow the Byers branch to remain open for another year. . . . He also plans to restore four hours on Sunday to the Central Library downtown and add eight hour a week back at the Schlessman, Bear Valley, Montbello, Woodbury and University Hills branches. The mayor's original budget proposal for next year had targeted the library system for cuts in hours that stirred concern among the council members.

From here.

I made a case for saving Sunday library hours five days ago at this blog, and I'm gratified to see that they have been spared. This does not, however, mean that the library system has been held harmless. The Denver Public Library system is still facing $2.3 million of budget cuts in the revised budget, so it will be a lean year for them.

Funds were also put into the budget to "transition the La Alma Recreation Center to a nonprofit in such a way that it includes the surrounding neighborhood in the process over the next year." Presumably, that means no new funds are in the budget to transition or close three more recreation centers.

Of course, the budget still needs to be balanced, so programs saved were accompanied by programs lost. General fund homeless program funding originally proposed at $2.25 million will now drop to $1.25 million. Unobligated business-incentive funds, designed to bring new businesses into the city, will be reduced from about $700,000 to $250,000. Collective bargain costs have been reduced by $40,000 due to extended public safety union contracts.

Denver's Mayor has extraordinary budget powers compared to the Governor or President, so the Mayor's decision is likely to stick:

The mayor will deliver his final draft of the budget to the City Council on Monday. The public can speak out during an Oct. 26 hearing.

The council can amend the mayor's budget if seven of its 13 members agree to do so. The mayor can veto any changes, but the council can override a veto if nine members agree to do so.

The power of the City Council to amend the budget is also limited by the fact that the City's budget, unlike the federal budget, must balance and the City news voter approval for tax increases. In practice, this means that proposals by the City council to increase spending in one place must be accompanied by cuts somewhere else.

An important practical benefit of the system used in Denver is that it dramatically reduces the risk of a government shutdown in the face of legislative gridlock, something that happens on a regular basis at the federal level.

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