Friday, April 20, 2012

Dedicated Funding: It's No Cakewalk

An extensive and expensive campaign is necessary to pass a referendum that makes the Jacksonville Public Library (JPL) independent of the City of Jacksonville.  Libraries are beloved enough here that garnering strong support in the form of thousands of petition signatures may actually be the easy part.  Just ask the Murray Hill folks.

The hard part is really hard, though.  Politics are stacked against such an effort.  Tallahassee is very reluctant to establish new taxing districts, and the Legislature would have to approve an independent tax district.  Anything that resembles a tax is DOA. 

But wait!  There’s another option. A bid for dedicated millage is a little different.  It doesn’t require a Special Act of the Florida Legislature. If 10 of 19 members of Jacksonville’s City Council and the Mayor support an initiative, it can become a reality.  It takes JPL out of the political fray of the annual budget negotiations. The Library wouldn’t be in the long list of priorities that compete for resources from the General Fund.

Dedicated millage does not ensure the same kind of long-term stability of an independent taxing district. It leaves a possibility for the City of Jacksonville to make a raid on the JPL pantry—taking away all the glory of the cakewalk and the cake-baking supplies.

Our JCCI committee is in the midst of deciding. Is dedicated funding possible?  Libraries support job searches, literacy initiatives (such as the JPL’s 11-year-and-counting adult literacy program), and children’s programming.   It seems like it should be a cakewalk to get dedicated funding, and yet it is not.

So if you’ve seen Extreme Cakes on the Food Network, you know how wobbly the cakewalk to the table can be. Our fearless JCCI committee is about to serve up some great stuff. They have just 1 meeting to go before they make a decision on whether dedicated funding is feasible in Jax.

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