Just Giblets

Time is Money

24th January 2009
by Scot

Time is Money

As y’all know, I am the Web Services Manager for the Boston Public Library. I make a decent salary, which is good cause the city is a pretty expensive place to live. And we have to live in the city if we work for the city. Residency requirement.

Y’all also probably know that the whole world is facing a budget crisis. And what gets hit first in governmental belt-tightening? Not the police or fire departments, of course. “Non-essential” services like those the library provides.

So, we’ve been doing a lot of financial naval-gazing of late at work and I was reminded of this Unshelved comic strip by Bill Barnes and “Gene Ambaum” (not his real name).

Unshelved 01-25-2003

Well, I decided to add up just how much my time is worth. I took the Boston city budget for FY 2008 and figured out what percentage went to the library. (That’s 1.6%.) Then I took the state budget, and since I’m generous, figured out how much went to all libraries in the state. (0.1%. I felt okay about using the figure for all librarys because a. It’s a really small amount and b. I wasn’t going to figure out how much sales tax I paid, so I figure it evens out.)

Next, I figured out how much I made from BPL after taxes. I divided that up by the number of hours I’m meant to work in a year to arrive at an hourly monetary value for my expertise. Next, I figured out how much I paid in city property and excise taxes. I also figured out how much I paid in state taxes from both my sources of income in FY 2008. ( I also teach a course at Simmons College.)

Well, what do you know? According to my figures, if we ran things by the amount of money a person puts into “the pot”, I am entitled to 70 minutes of my time a year. I would be entitled to a much smaller portion of the president’s time a year and a bit more of an entry-level librarians’ time. But I think it all evens out to about 70 minutes of staff time overall.

Now, of course, I am not recommending that we cut service off after any period of time per person. That’s crazy talk. But I do hear a lot of unusual, personal suggestions for changes in service from the same few individuals. Ironically, some of those individuals don’t even live in the city. Guess how much time I’d get if I lived in, say, Cambridge? About nine minutes.

What I guess I’m saying is that I hope people are ready to face the fact that their concerns are part of a larger collective. We pay taxes in order to fuel collective goals, not to make sure our tiny piece of ground is cared for according to our specific terms.

Anyway, food for thought.

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