WASTE WATCH: Funding local libraries
Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 02:33 PM CDT
The new and improved downtown Pensacola Library opened just a few days ago.
But, funding our libraries is still a hot button issue and was a major source of controversy during the recent budget process for Escambia County and the City of Pensacola.
A viewer contacted Channel Three News, asking:
"Just a few short months ago, the public was in an uproar about the shortage of funds available to operate the public library system.
And if funds were not available to operate the library system. Then, where did the funds come from for the $7.7 million upgrade?"
A viewer asked us how in light of the recent issues when it comes to funding libraries in Escambia County and the City of Pensacola they could afford to do a 7.7 million dollar revamp of this downtown library? The answer, is that comes from a variety of funding.
But the issues still remains, how do we fund our libraries day to day?
Money to remodel the Pensacola Main Branch came from several sources.
Six million dollars from the city's local option sales tax dollars that must be used for capital improvements not for regular operations.
The library also received more than 600,000 dollars in a federal grant along with donations.
That money has nothing to do with the annual cost of funding the city and county libraries.
That budgeting process is an annual battle over dollars from the general fund...
And in these tight budgeting times that leaves the library vulnerable.
Gene Valentino/Escambia County Commissioner
"What do you want the future of the library to be? There's a lot of questions. And what structure do we need to put in place so that as the concept of a library changes, we are most flexible in being able to accommodate those future change requests?"
Escambia County libraries have been managed by the city and funded by both governments.
A new plan for functional consolidation will turn over library administration to the county streamlining to make libraries more efficient.
The county will also redirect dedicated tax dollars for the library rather than just taking the money from the general fund.
It's a revenue neutral solution, meaning no increase for tax payers but more stability for the library system.
Frances Yeo/Library Trustee
"We won't have to wear red shirts, and do down to the the county commission or city council meeting and fight every budget cycle on making sure that we prioritize libraries."
The Escambia County Board of Commissioners will have a special meeting next week Tuesday, January 22nd. to discuss the library situation.