Saturday, January 16, 2021     Volume: 21, Issue: 46

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 14th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 24 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 24

County covers library deficit with cannabis revenue

By Zac Ezzone

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors filled a roughly $68,000 gap in funding for three of the county’s libraries at a recent meeting, but questions over the long-term sustainability of the libraries remain unanswered.

During discussions about the county’s 2019-20 budget in April, county staff outlined anticipated deficits for all nine county-run libraries totaling $415,000. The county’s ad-hoc library committee created a plan to cover this deficit by asking cities and friends of libraries groups to match additional revenue allocated to the libraries by the county. 

This generated enough revenue to fully fund six of the nine libraries, with the exception of the libraries in Orcutt, Vandenberg Village, and Montecito. At the Aug. 13 Board of Supervisors meeting, Ryder Bailey, chief financial officer of the county’s Community Services Department, said if the deficits aren’t covered by additional revenue, library service reductions would be necessary.

“If remaining deficits are not addressed, staff is working on plans with libraries who administer each of those branches; however, it will result in fewer open hours and programming,” Bailey said.

Supervisors chose to allocate $68,500 from revenue generated by the county’s cannabis enforcement and compliance operations to fully fund the libraries for the 2019-20 fiscal year. However, supervisors acknowledged this is a short-term fix and that a long-term solution is needed. 

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said the ad-hoc committee is working on that problem. The committee plans to come back to the Board of Supervisors early next year with suggestions to make the county’s library system financially sustainable and to avoid future deficits.

“The federal government, the state, used to fund libraries, and we’ve learned from our study that every county has a different system,” Hartmann said. “Ours is quite unique. I’m committed to it, but we need to do more work so that it’s fair and equitable, and we’re still wrestling with that.”

In addition to reviewing how the county funds its libraries, the ad-hoc committee is examining what role the county’s libraries now serve. Hartmann said the committee is finding that libraries are mostly used as community centers and as a way to provide computer access to residents who may not own one.  

While he ultimately voted in favor of the measure, 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam questioned the role of libraries, given that most people have smartphones and computers that make information easily accessible. 

“I don’t think it’s any secret that I think the whole library model needs to be reviewed and revamped,” Adam said. “I question the necessity, frankly.” 

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