Tuesday, March 30, 2010

RAD Gets Library Audit

An independent audit of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh was delivered to the Regional Asset District Board Tuesday but it held very little new information. The audit was the RAD board’s response to public outcry over the library’s announcement last year that it would close four branches in an effort to keep its budget balanced. PerenteBeard was hired to do the work and asked to look at 10 specific questions including the library’s cost containment efforts, officer compensation, efforts to find options other than library closure and how the list of libraries to close was formed. ParenteBeard Partner David Duffus says the library did a good job in holding the line on costs, set pay comparable to others in the peer group, looked for other budget saving options and had a “robust process” for choosing which branches to close. He says, “There were multiple criteria that they evaluated, those criteria were objective and were applied evenly across the system. Our conclusion was that they were reasonable.” The report also found that accepting state gaming revenues with the caveat that the branches remain open might not be a wise choice. Duffus says the estimated $750,000 a year would cover operating costs but not touch the capital expenditures needed to keep the library open. Library President Barbara Mistick says the audit shows that the library needs a new long-term funding source that addresses not only the Library’s operating costs but also capital needs. She says it will be turned over to the task force addressing those issues. In the meantime, Mistick says, “The power of the citizens should not be underestimated.” She says it was those community voices that prompted the city to pump additional money into the Library’s 2010 budget and the state to turn its attention to the library. She says the audit also shows the board was thoughtful and reasonable but “our backs were against the wall last year” and “we were under the gun.”
Beechview resident and library activists Anna Loney say the audit was a nuts and bolts audit and only look at dollars and cents. She says she hopes further reviews will take into account the human cost of not having libraries and the non-tangible value a library adds to a community. She says she felt it was a forgone the results of the audit was a “foregone conclusion.”
The full report can be found on the RAD website.

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