Renews the Library Preservation Fund for 25 years and requires the library system to increase hours from 1,211 to 1,400 hours per week, an increase of 15%.
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What the Measure Would Do
Proposition F would extend the Library Preservation Fund (currently slated to expire in June 2023) for 25 years, until June 2048. This measure would continue directing funds to library services, maintenance and construction.
Key provisions of the measure mostly carry over from the current Library Preservation Fund. This includes a requirement that the City of San Francisco would continue to fund library services, materials, facilities and equipment at a baseline level. The funding for the library would come from two sources: the City’s General Fund, with the exact amount to be adjusted every year based on increases or decreases in the budget, and a set-aside of 2.5 cents for every $100 of property tax. The San Francisco Controller’s Office estimates that the property tax revenue for the library would be $83.1 million in 2022–2023, while the General Fund would contribute $112.8 million, but these numbers might change in the coming years. The renewal would not trigger any new tax, but there is a new clause that would allow a baseline funding freeze if the city anticipates a deficit of $300 million or more.
In 1994, San Francisco voters passed Proposition E, which created the Library Preservation Fund. In 2007, with Proposition D, the fund was extended by voters for 15 more years. The fund provided 95% of the San Francisco Public Library’s funding in the most recent fiscal year. Oversight of the fund’s budget has been a collaborative effort between the Controller’s Office, the library and others. Prior funding has allowed for renovating library locations, increasing the number of locations and providing a variety of programs that serve local communities.
The San Francisco Public Library system currently includes 28 branches, all of which are open seven days per week, and is the largest provider of free high-speed internet in San Francisco. Previous approvals of the Library Preservation Fund have supported renovations at many of the branches and enabled the city to purchase library buildings that were formerly rental facilities. The library reaches 400,000 children and their families each year; in addition, it is the first urban library system in the United States to hire social workers, who collaborate with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to provide resources to unhoused community members.
Prop. F would be a general fund set-aside, which commits the city to an ongoing expenditure and restricts the city’s ability to reallocate resources to address future needs. The measure has limited provisions to safeguard the general fund in case of a budget deficit.
This measure was put on the ballot with the unanimous support of the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. It requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
In addition to lending books, San Francisco Public Library branches provide resources and programming to all community members free of charge. These services include education and workforce development programs, technology lending, free books for all San Francisco students in the summer and outreach services for unhoused San Franciscans. The physical buildings are often used as cooling or warming centers and have served as emergency community outreach spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the most in-need San Franciscans stand to benefit from continued funding because of the number of free resources that the library provides. For community members who need a comfortable place during the day, either due to inclement weather or lack of housing, the library is a key resource. This includes elderly San Franciscans who may not be able to afford cooling or heating in their homes, as well as unhoused San Franciscans who have limited resources. Continued funding of the library will benefit low-income people, elderly people, unhoused people and people of color, particularly Black San Franciscans, who are disproportionately represented in the homeless population.
- Funding the library supports free community resources, such as job development workshops, educational support, internet access, cooling or warming centers and technology for all San Francisco residents.
- Since its passage in 1994, the Library Preservation Fund has resulted in expanded library services, new technology and increased staff.
- Prop. F would give the city the flexibility to decide whether to increase library funding every year. It would also allow for a temporary freeze in increases to the baseline funding if a budget deficit of over $300 million is expected.
- The measure would allow library facilities to be built or renovated to increase access for more communities.
- This measure includes the best elements of budget set-asides: It is time-limited (25 years), tied to revenues (so it goes up and down with the overall economy and budget) and designed to include outcome measurements.
- The set-aside would last 25 years, which obligates the city to fund the library for longer than any prior measure.
- The measure would require the city to continue expenditures to the library fund even in case of a fiscal emergency, although it would cap the funding amount to a baseline level.
San Francisco’s libraries provide important free resources for all San Franciscans, including many vulnerable communities such as low-income people, unhoused people, elderly people and people of color. In addition, the library has a proven track record of providing critical services like warming and cooling centers. The branch libraries became hubs for resources during the COVID-19 health emergency.
The Library Preservation Fund relies partially on set-asides, and SPUR has been both supportive and critical of the use of set-asides. SPUR advocates for set-asides when they include automatic expiration dates, physical statements from the Controller’s Office, suspension in case of fiscal emergencies and an analysis by the Controller’s Office every five years. These guidelines help to ensure that funds are being used responsibly and that governments are acting in good faith.
The Library Preservation Fund does not follow some of these guidelines, and its 25-year horizon is longer than SPUR's recommended 10 years. Nonetheless, due to the equity impact of the services provided, as well as the library’s proven track record of fiscal responsibility and transparency (as shown in yearly published reports), we think Prop. F is worthy of support.
 Adrian Rezal and Erin Caughey, “SFNext Index: Key Facts About Homelessness in San Francisco,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2022, https://www.sfchronicle.com/projects/2022/fixing-san-francisco-problems/sf-homelessness-data.