Money from a St. Paul parking ramp sale will help stock library shelves next year.
The $5 million sale of the city-owned Gateway Ramp downtown in August will fill a gap in the libraries’ 2020 collections budget and ease the transition to a permanent funding source, after years of relying on one-time money to pay for library materials.
“This level of funding means the difference between a subpar collection and a collection that is sufficient to meet the needs and demands of a diverse community, an excited community of readers,” said Beth Burns, president of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, which has advocated for permanent collections funding. “It’s really important money.”
St. Paul eliminated library fines at the beginning of 2019, bringing more people into the libraries at a time when operations and materials costs are on the rise. Mayor Melvin Carter’s proposed 2020 budget reduced collections spending from nearly $1.5 million to $1.3 million, a cut that library officials said could result in fewer materials and longer wait times.
For years, city officials have used one-time sales tax dollars to shore up the budget for acquiring library materials. Starting next year, the collections budget will begin a four-year transition into the general fund, cushioned by $500,000 from the city’s parking fund, according to interim Finance Director John McCarthy.
“I appreciate the innovative maneuver that they came up with to both fund it and to move it into permanent funding,” said Council Member Jane Prince, who chairs the city’s Library Board. “That’s where it should be.”
Prince said she expects the council will approve the additional money for collections. Council members are scheduled to vote on the 2020 budgets for the libraries, Housing and Redevelopment Authority and general fund on Wednesday. They are also considering a nearly 6% increase in the property tax levy.