Miami-Dade County

A look back at better days for Miami-Dade’s library budget

The whopping increase in Miami-Dade’s library tax that’s on track for next year won’t yield much of a bump for the county’s library budget. In fact, Miami-Dade is set to spend about 40 percent less on library operations than it did five years ago.

Cuts in the special property tax that funds Miami-Dade’s 49 library in branches in 2010 and 2011 left the system without enough revenue to make payroll, buy books and cover the other expenses in this year’s $49 million operating budget. In fact, the current library tax of $17 per $100,000 of assessed value only generated about $30 million this year. Library administrators this year are spending about $50,000 a day in cash reserves to cover the gap.

To avoid massive cuts in the face of dwindling reserves, Mayor Carlos Gimenez this summer proposed a nearly 40-percent increase in the library tax for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. That still would have yielded an operating budget of only about $44 million.

In July, commissioners rejected the mayor’s plan and gave initial approval for a 65 percent increase in the library tax to fund a $52 million operating budget. That’s about a 6 percent increase over this year’s total. (Due to capital expenses, the actual library budget next year would hit about $54 million, according to the county budget office.)

The final vote on the commission’s proposed library tax rate of about $28 per $100,000 of assessed value is set for later this month.

Our Dade Data chart plots the library operating budgets over 10 years, and also adjusts the figures for inflation. We used the operating budget because it excludes one-time capital expenses and unspent reserves that tended to make the overall budgets appear higher during flush years.

The trend shows spending peaked in 2010 with a budget of $86 million in today’s dollars. The following year, then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez won a 25-percent cut in the library tax, and Gimenez followed up shortly after being elected in 2011 with a 36-percent cut.

[Don’t see a chart? Click here.]

Budget reductions followed, with the 2014 total of $49 million marking the lowest operating allocation for libraries in at least nine years. The proposed 2015 operating budget of $52 million would be the highest since Gimenez took office but still well below prior budgets on the chart.

This post is part of Dade Data, an online series from the Miami Herald’s County Hall team. Dade Data explores the numbers driving Miami-Dade County’s government.