As of today, there are 17 days remaining in the 84th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature. That means that it has been 123 days since the session started and about 9 months since we submitted our 2016-2017 Legislative Appropriations Request. So we have been waiting a while to find out how the legislature responds to our request for resources to support library and archives programs in Texas. The wait may soon be over. The budget conference committee is currently working to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill.
As we near the end of the session, here is a summary of our budget status at this stage, what we asked for, and how our request has fared. First, regarding the base budget, we were happy to have recommended for our base funding request of approximately $55.1 million for the 2016-2017 biennium, that is maintaining our current funding level with no cut, and including a renewal of $1M in funding to make repairs and improvements at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty.
But we also asked for six additional funding items totaling $9.6 million for the biennium to enhance and improve the services we offer to libraries archives and Texas citizens. Those items are:
- Texas Digital Archive – We requested $900,000 for the biennium to begin the long-overdue process of archiving state agency records of enduring value in digital format. Texas is one of only eight states that do not have a comprehensive statewide plan for preserving and making available the electronic archives of state agencies. The House budget adopted the entire $900,000. The Senate budget includes about $707,000.
- Shared digital content via TexShare and TexQuest – We sought an additional $6.4 million to purchase additional TexShare and TexQuest database resources. This highly successful and cost-effective program makes vital online information available to virtually every resident of the state. The House adopted $6 million (removing $400,000 for salaries). The Senate did not fund this item, but placed it on the Article XI wish list.
- Targeted market salary adjustments – In an effort to be able to effectively recruit and retain qualified staff to support the key mandates of the agencies to serve libraries, archives and the public, we sought $900,000 to provide targeted adjustments to specific positions in the agency. 89% of the staff at TSLAC work below the median of their state salary range. The funds requested are sufficient to move approximately 65 positions to the mid-point of their ranges. Not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
- Government Information Analysts – We requested $400,000 to hire two additional staff to provide support in records management to state and local agencies. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
- CAPPS – CAPPS is an internal system for accounting and payroll from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. We would like to take advantage of the systems efficiencies to enable better use of staff time. The Senate budget contains approximately $327,000 for this item.
- Libraries supporting workforce – We requested $550,000 to provide training and technical assistance to libraries to support workforce and economic development in their communities. A natural role for libraries and much-needed in communities across the state. This item was not adopted in either the House or Senate budgets.
We appreciate the support of the Texas Library Association, the Texas State Historical Association, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and many other individuals and groups that have expressed to the Legislature the importance of our agency and the services we offer. We look forward to the 2016-2017 biennium and to having the resources we need to help Texans access the information resources they need to succeed in our information-based economy.