Proposed 2021 budget

Mayor Jenny Durkan shared her proposed 2021 City Budget on Sept. 29, 2020. The budget includes $77.7 million for Library operations and $9.2 million in capital funds for major building maintenance. This proposed budget reflects a $5.8 million cut to Library General Fund support and a $360,000 cut to Real Estate Excise Tax resources for capital maintenance.

What the budget funds

The Library budget funds the operation of the Central Library and 26 branches, a robust “virtual library” available 24/7 through the Library’s website: www.spl.org, systemwide collections and resources, outreach to underserved and vulnerable populations, humanities programs, as well as educational workshops and literacy classes. 

The Library’s capital improvement program funds major maintenance and improvements to the Central Library and 26 branches.

City deficit due to COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has drastically reduced city revenue collections and all city departments are facing major cuts in city General Fund support next year.

Impacts on Library budget

The largest savings in the proposed Library budget would come from reduced Library hours. Although there is much uncertainty as to what impact COVID-19 will have in 2021, the budget follows the directive of the city and assumes that Library facilities will not fully reopen to the public for in-person services until at least July 2021.

The proposed 2021 Library operating budget includes reductions in the following areas: 

  • Library operations (Library hours): $3,082,000
  • Books and materials collection and staffing support: $1,396,000
  • Building and facility maintenance and staffing support: $348,000
  • Technology purchases and staffing support: $293,000
  • Staff training: $117,000
  • Other administrative and staffing support: $601,500

With the anticipated continued closure of Library buildings through the middle of 2021, the proposed operations budget includes a one-time emergency use of $1.3 million in 2019 voter-approved Library levy funds to help support core Library operations next year. These levy funds were originally planned for expanding hours and programming for youth in 2021.

Next steps in the budget process

The mayor’s proposed 2021 Library budget can be viewed at www.seattle.gov/budget. The mayor’s budget is currently being reviewed by the City Council. The council will hold public hearings on the budget at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Oct. 27. The City Council is scheduled to adopt a final 2021 budget at its 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23 meeting.

The Library Board will review options to address 2021 budget cuts over the next several months and will take action on the Library’s 2021 operations plan in December. 

Library rebalances 2020 budget due to impacts of COVID-19

Drastically reduced tax collections and increased costs related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a $210 - $300 million gap in the city’s current general fund, which helps fund our libraries. In June, all city department were asked to rebalance their 2020 budgets for 2020. As part of that effort, the Library’s general fund allocation was reduced by $2.8 million. The Library will address the $2.8 million general fund reduction by:

  • Deferring planned increases in levy-funded Library hours and programs until 2021
  • reducing printing, staff training, building maintenance, consultant contracts and technology replacements
  • keeping open positions vacant
  • utilizing an annual grant award from The Seattle Public Library Foundation.
     

In addition to the general fund reduction, the Library’s major maintenance budget has been reduced by $100,000 due to the significant drop in real estate excise tax collections.

Current and Past Budgets

2020 Budget

The Library's 2020 operating budget is $81 million, which includes $21.2 million in funding from the Library levy. The $5.3 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, includes $4.7 million from the Library levy.

2019 Budget

The Library's 2019 operating budget is $80.9 million, which includes $17.6 million in funding from the Library levy. The $3.2 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, includes $2.7 million from the Library levy.

2018 Budget

The Library's 2018 operating budget was $74.9 million, which included $16.6 million in funding from the Library levy. The $7.5 million capital improvement budget included $4.1 million from the Library levy.

2017 Budget

The Library's 2017 operating budget was $70.8 million, which included $15.4 million in funding from the Library levy. The $5.6 million capital improvement budget included $3.7 million from the Library levy.

2016 Budget

On Nov. 23, 2015, the City Council approved Mayor Ed Murray's proposed 2016 budget. The Library's 2016 operating budget was $67.2 million, which included $13.7 million in funding from the Library levy, and was $1.8 million higher than the Library's 2015 operating budget. The $4.5 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, included $2.24 million from the Library levy, and was $900,000 more than in 2015.

2015 Budget

On Nov. 24, 2014, the City Council approved Mayor Ed Murray's proposed 2015 budget. The Library's 2015 operating budget was $65.3 million, which included $13.1 million in funding from the Library levy and was approximately $1.6 million above the Library's 2014 operations budget. The $3.65 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, was $750,000 less than in 2014.

The increase in the capital improvement budget was largely due to higher than expected Real Estate Excise Tax revenue and enhanced funding from the $123 million, seven-year Library levy that Seattle voters approved in August 2012 to restore and improve core services.

2014 Budget

On Nov. 25, 2013, the City Council approved Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed 2014 budget. The Library's total 2014 operating plan was $63.7 million, approximately $100,000 above the Library's 2013 operation plan. The $4.4 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, was $1 million more than in 2013.

The increase in the capital improvement budget was largely due to higher than expected Real Estate Excise Tax revenue and enhanced funding from the $123 million, seven-year Library levy that Seattle voters approved in August 2012 to restore and improve core services.

2013 Budget

On Nov. 19, 2012, the City Council approved Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed 2013 budget. The Library's total 2013 operating budget was $63 million, $11.2 million more than the 2012 budget. The $3.4 million capital improvement budget, which is used for major maintenance and asset preservation, was $2.4 million more than in 2012.

These increases were largely due to enhanced funding from the $123 million, seven-year Library levy that Seattle voters approved in August 2012 to restore and improve core services.

2012 Budget

On Nov. 21, 2011, the City Council approved Mayor McGinn's proposed 2012 budget for the Library without substantive changes. The $51.8 million operating budget was approximately $500,000 above the Library's 2012 Endorsed Budget due mostly to inflation and technical adjustments. The Library's 2012 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget provides $820,000 for major maintenance/asset preservation and $207,000 for accessibility improvements related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The 2012 budget continued service cuts that were implemented in recent years:

  • A one-week system-wide closure from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, 2012
  • Branch libraries open 190 fewer hours a week compared to 2009
  • 15 branches open five days per week, seven hours per day
  • The $5 million budget for books and other items is 13 percent less than 2009 after inflation
  • The $820,000 capital budget is less than half of what it was in 2009

2011 Budget

On March 30, 2011, Mayor Mike McGinn directed all city departments to identify additional reductions to their current budgets to address an estimated $17 million in reduced state and federal funds.

$150,000 reduction: On June 20, 2011, the mayor announced his mid-year cut decisions, which included a $150,000 reduction to the Library budget. The mayor noted that the actual revenue shortfall to the city was $10 million - $7 million less than originally projected.

Cut made to book budget: The Library took a $150,000 cut from its budget for books and materials. With the mid-year cut, the Library's total budget for books and materials was $5.05 million. The book budget sustained severe cuts over several years due to the down economy. The budget for books and materials was nearly $2 million less than it was four years ago.

Approved budget for 2011: The Library's approved 2011 operating budget was $50.2 million and the capital improvement program budget was $1.05 million.

City deficit: The Library's budget reflected reductions in expenditures and new revenues from fines and fees to help address the city's $67 million general fund shortfall for 2011. Those changes resulted in an 8.5 percent reduction in the Library's general fund support.

Impact of deficit on Library budget: The Library's budget included a total of $3.7 million in reductions from its 2011 baseline budget. The savings came from the following areas:

  • Sustain 2010 mid-year staffing reductions: $691,000
  • Internal Library restructuring: $992,000
  • Collections reduction: $882,000
  • One week Library closure: $650,000
  • COLA adjustment: $440,000
  • Training fund reduction: $35,000

2010 Budget

2010 Approved Budget: On Sept. 25, 2009, Mayor Greg Nickels announced his proposed 2010 budget, which included cuts to many city departments due to the continued economic downturn. The Library was asked to identify approximately $2.6 million in cuts.

On Nov. 23, 2009, the City Council added $860,000 back to the Library budget when it passed the city budget. While the restoration of some funds was good news, the Library's 2010 budget still was cut by $1.77 million.

The Library's capital budget for major maintenance also was cut by 37 percent.

Capital Budget Reductions: The 2010 capital budget for the Library was $1,031,000, down 37 percent from the 2009 adopted budget of $1,646,000. Endorsed capital budgets across all departments were reduced due to a 45 percent drop in real estate excise tax revenue.

The Library's capital budget pays for major maintenance - projects with scopes of work that go beyond what the Library's building maintenance workers are able to undertake. With the budget reduction, the Library focused on high priority projects that preserved building integrity and improved functionality.

Effect on Library hours: Library hours were overall reduced and closed the entire system from August 30 to September 6.

Effect on Library staff: Earnings of each Library employee was cut approximately 1.9 percent due to the one-week closure.

2010 Mid-Year Reductions: Due to the persistence of the economic downturn, the budgets of most city departments were further reduced to address a projected $11.7 million revenue shortfall in 2010.

The Library's 2010 budget was cut by $1.17 million (2.4 percent), $304,000 less than originally proposed. The savings were achieved by:

  • Reducing the budget to buy books and materials
  • Eliminating paper notices
  • Deferring some information technology maintenance
  • Reducing staff in collection services, facilities, human resources, information technology and public services