A Primer on State Aid

The Jacksonville Public Library depends greatly on funding through State Aid to Libraries, as well as associated federal funds, to serve the people of Duval County. We need your help to ensure these funds are appropriated in the upcoming legislative session.

What is State Aid?
The State Aid law was enacted in 1961. State Aid to Libraries is a state-funded program comprised of three interrelated grants: Operating, Equalization, and Multicounty. In FY 2010-11, $21.2 million was appropriated by the Legislature to fund State Aid to Libraries. The proposed appropriation for FY 2011-2012 is $21.3 million and Jacksonville Public Library is eligible for a $1 million operating grant.

The purpose of State Aid is to assist local governments in maintaining and improving a vital program of free, professional library service for all residents. It is also designed to provide an incentive for local governments to invest more in their libraries. As grant amounts are based largely on local funds invested in library service, the more money spent on library services means more potential state aid.

State Aid is a continuing state grant authorized by Chapter 257, Florida Statutes, for eligible library entities. Operating grants are awarded by the Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services through an annual application process.

Funding history
In the spring of 2010 and 2011, appropriations committees in the Florida House and Senate adopted positions eliminating all funding for Florida’s State Aid to Public Libraries program. If that effort had been successful this year, Duval County would have lost $834,493. Fortunately, library funding was saved in both years after Florida residents expressed their outrage over proposed elimination of funding for the vital services they receive at their public library. Some local systems are funded entirely through the State Aid program, and would have been completely eliminated.

There is no reason to assume that cuts to the State Aid program will not be contemplated in the next legislative cycle. State Aid has already been cut by over a third, from $33.4 million in 2001 to $21.2 million today. Locally, the Jacksonville City Council has cut the Jacksonville Public Library General Fund materials budget 41.4% since 2005 and more cuts are expected in the next several years. Meanwhile, Duval County’s State Aid funding during that period has decreased 32.6%, from $1,238,343 to $834,493.

Why does it matter to our community?
Free, professional library services are critical to Duval County’s economic development, educational opportunities and quality of life. Public demand for library services is at an all-time high, yet funding is threatened. Last year alone, people visited the library 5 million times, they visited the library via our Web site 4.8 million times, and they borrowed over 9 million items.

If State Aid funding is cut, many services our communities rely on will be reduced or even eliminated during one of the most challenging times our state and county have faced in recent memory. Residents are turning to the library in record numbers:

– Job seekers are using library services to find and apply for jobs. Many unemployed individuals do not have access to the Internet, which is mandatory for most job applications.

– Residents who need to apply for critical e-Government services and benefits are getting help from library staff, computers and Internet service.

– Families rely on free books, DVDs and CDs available from their public library to stretch their limited household budgets.

What’s the risk of losing State Aid funding? Fewer operating funds that impact…

1) Programs and services
Based on current estimates, Duval County would lose $1,158,624 in both state and federal aid: $1,035,657 in State Aid and $122,967 in Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds, which are contingent upon the State Aid appropriation. This money supported vital literacy programs at the Jacksonville Public Library. If state funding is not eliminated but is reduced below the current level, critically needed federal funds that come with the State Aid allocation will be lost.

2) Materials and resources
Funds to purchase books, reference databases and audio/visual materials would be greatly reduced. Jacksonville Public Library supplements its General Fund allocation for these materials with State Aid funds. While it would be devastating to lose $1,158,624, Duval County would also lose access to $6.5 million in online resources and research materials due to a match of state to federal dollars.

3) Facility improvements and maintenance
Without State Aid, there is no funding for equipment such as self-check machines, security cameras, furniture, fixtures, signage and other items the library depends on to serve its customers. The current Capacity Plan facilities assessment estimates that it will take nearly $1 million in improvements over the next 10 years as part of the recommendations to bring the Jacksonville Public Library system up to modern library standards. The City of Jacksonville does not provide an adequate annual budget for general facilities maintenance; without State Aid, these improvements would go unfunded.

4) Technology investments
Plans for a truly modern library for Jacksonville would be put on hold. Investments in customer service and staff productivity technologies are critical to achieving the world-class library system Duval County customers desire and deserve. Projects such as an automated return system would be jeopardized without State Aid funding support.

Why support State Aid? It’s a vital funding resource to meet customer needs…
The people of Jacksonville voted on the value of Jacksonville Public Library services more than 10 million times last year when they came into the library or accessed the Jacksonville Public Library Web site for government services, education and reading resources, economic development services and public computers. Jacksonville Public Library is essential in these tough times. A knowledge-based economy relies on people with access to information and technology to thrive. Jacksonville Public Library provides vital services to small businesses and helps individuals with job searches and career information. State Aid provides planning and development funds to ensure that Jacksonville Public Library has the capacity to meet customer needs now and in the future.

Duval County residents depend on the services of the Jacksonville Public Library and the Jacksonville Public Library depends on State Aid.

State Aid for Public Libraries is needed now more than ever if the Jacksonville Public Library is to provide the essential information and services that our customers need.

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