Propaganda: Cooking the Books When it Comes to Libraries?

September 7th, 2010

A recent EvanstonNow article “Have aldermen unfairly targeted the library?” reported that the Library budget grew 12% from 2003 to 2011 and that another Evanston City Department specifically the Health and Human Services Department (now called Health Department) was cut 47% over the same period. The reporter suggests that library supporters may not have grounds for claiming that the library is underfunded and that the library is better funded than other departments.

Looking at the actual budget data a totally different picture emerges. By all measures the library fell behind and the Health Department grew at the overall rate of General fund spending.

The Library expenditures actually grew 1.5% …not 12% ….over the 2003-2011 period. Why the difference?

In 2008 the Finance Department made internal accounting changes moving Social Security, Medicare and other charges into the departments instead of managing them centrally. Remove these line items ($409,908) from the 2011 budget and the library grew 1.5%. All the growth in the department was in these reallocated benefits.

2003 to 2011 was a period when the cost of living grew 21% and the actual EPL circulation grew 14%. During this same period library FTE head count declined from 67 to 57 a decline of 15%.

Apparently the reporter missed that key detail.

The Health Department budget grew 37% over the same 2003-2011 period. The increases are the result of increasing costs and increasing Full Time Equivalent (FTE) headcount.
The Parks and Forestry department is mentioned… but again without any critical analysis. For example during the same period that the Library budget grew 1.5% the Forestry budget grew 38%. Meanwhile the Library collection budget dropped 18% in that same time.

Apparently the reporter did not find these details relevant.

Contrary to the suggestion in the article it is not hard to understand why those who value libraries in Evanston are concerned about the future ….when the actual numbers are reported.

For the complete details, see Myths and Truths here.

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