No closings, no layoffs in proposed BPL budget, Sunday closure for Copley

Boston Public Library trustees have signed off on a $39.3 million budget that does not include branch closures or layoffs, but that does call for shuttering the Copley branch on Sundays.

The Wednesday morning vote comes nearly a year after the trustees voted to close four branches, including the one in Lower Mills, before backing off in the face of outcries from the community and local legislators. Under the budget trustees approved, all 26 branch libraries will remain open and staffed.

The proposed library budget for fiscal 2012 budget will be included in Mayor Thomas Menino’s overall city budget, due to be announced next month and needing the approval of the City Council. If the budget stays the same, funding levels fall to levels that were in place in fiscal year 2000.

Finances remain tight for the cash-strapped library system, which handled a $48 million budget in fiscal year 2009. The budget draws upon city, state and federal funds, along with trust funds and donations.

In his state budget, Gov. Deval Patrick has slotted $2.4 million for the library system, while Menino and trustees are lobbying for $3.9 million, which they say will allow them to keep the Copley branch open on Sundays. The budget must still go through the state Senate and House, with the House budget getting released in April and the Senate budget expected to be released in May.

Because of the timeline, which will likely stretch into June as lawmakers hash out a final version of the budget to send to the governor for his signature, library officials are unlikely to know how much they’ll be receiving in fiscal year 2012 until July. If less than $2.4 million is set aside for the system, trustees may be forced to look again at layoffs and branch closures, according to a presentation BPL officials made to trustees on Wednesday.

Along with the closing of the Copley branch on Sundays, which is expected to save $243,000 in overtime costs, trustees approved a budget plan that reduces the budgets for new books, CDs and DVDs by six percent, saving $265,000. Fifteen vacant positions will stay that way, saving between $400,000 and $750,000, according to library officials.

The budget plan also includes some service improvements, including additional security, reclassifying some staff as a way to improve workforce flexibility, and cleaning of carpets and floors.

Two trustees, Donna DePrisco, and Paul La Camera, voted to oppose the budget.

The closure of the Copley amounts to a loss of four hours. The Copley branch is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., October through May. Library officials say the library is busy that day with families and tourists.
At a meeting last month, La Camera expressed reluctance to close Copley on Sundays, saying that keeping it open is “part of what makes us a world class city.”