As I was reading LSSI’s response to Nevada County’s RFP for outsourcing management of its library system, I felt as Pinocchio must have felt when he glimpsed the glittering temptations of Playland, but — unlike Pinocchio — I had the uneasy feeling that there may be danger within.
LSSI promises much: a 14% increase in hours among the six county libraries, a $130,000 investment of “corporate resources” for capital improvements, the possibility of grants as an extra source of funding, marketing strategies to increase community involvement (in a county where 67,000 people already have library cards), improved children’s programs, upgraded computer systems, etc.
All this and more (including LSSI’s profit) “for a cost that is nearly 7% less than the current budget proposed by the County.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
For starters, despite LSSI’s claim in its cover letter that it can keep the six library locations open for “14% more hours … for a cost that is nearly 7% less than the current budget proposed by the County,” nowhere in the 64-page proposal released to the public does it detail its budget, or otherwise prove its claim that such savings are possible. We are asked to accept the 7% figure on faith, with no clue about how it would be achieved.
Section 6.4 of the RFP stipulates that the prospective contractor should submit a detailed cost proposal in a separate sealed envelope.
Either LSSI failed to provide these cost figures in a separate envelope or else the County has not released the cost calculations to the public.
What figure is LSSI using for the “current budget proposed by the County?”
If LSSI is proposing merely to reduce expenses by 7%, then the following table (derived from data in Mary Ann Trygg’s memo of 9/28/09 to the Board, without factoring in the Library Fund offsets, since the fund dries up rapidly) shows that such a plan would be insufficient to solve the library’s overall budget problem: there would continue to be somewhat smaller shortfalls, but shortfalls nonetheless:
|LSSI (7% Reduced)
Obviously, in order for the general public to participate meaningfully in the discussion of the merits of the LSSI proposal, it will have to see the missing cost portion of that document.
I sent the following email today to the Library Outsourcing FAQ, with cc to the Board of Supervisors:
To: Library Outsourcing FAQ:
(cc to Board of Supervisors)
Please add the following to the list of questions you are answering in the Frequently Asked Questions document (FAQ):
“When will the cost estimates presumably submitted by LSSI as part of its proposal, as specified in section 6.4 of the RFP, be made available to the general public? Releasing the cover letter and proposal without the cost portion makes it impossible for the general public to judge the merits of LSSI’s offer, or indeed to participate meaningfully in the discussion of their proposal.”
Editor, “Sierra Voices” (http://sierravoices.com)