Added Thursday Feb 11: You can see the official County "Board Action" which was the result of the meeting HERE.
You can READ a blog HERE started by supporters of the Marion Baysinger Library in Groveland, who are worried it might be closed.
And you can follow a twitter account run by supporters of the Groveland library here:
Below these comments is the article from the Daily Commercial on the library issue, which gives the best description of the background leading up to the proposal.
This last Tuesday, the Lake County Commissioners held a workshop and one of the topics was a proposal from the Interim County Manager, Sandy Minkoff, to close the East Lake (Sorrento area) Library to offset some budget shortages. It is important to note that the closing would be for the NEXT fiscal year, that starts in October 1 for fiscal year 2010-2011, thus it is not to take place for a long time. After 20-30 minutes of discussion, the Board agreed to
postpone a decision for two weeks to get more information.
One kudo, however, should go to the Interim County Manager, Minkoff, in bringing this issue up early, rather than not analyzing data and being surprised at the end of a prior fiscal year like the prior County Manager was when the Fire Dept. went overbudget by $1-million in overtime expenses.
I am still doing research on the Library budget issue, and trying to find if there was any actual DATA to support the proposal.
Below is the Daily Commercial article, and a short comment below it that I submitted to their website.
More will be posted as I get the info. I personally support Libraries, and there are lots of other funds that are not being discussed as sources to offset budget shortages. Unfortunately, the East Lake Library is in Commissioner Linda Stewart's district (I am running against her for election in August), and she could only make some emotional arguments. It appears to me that Stewart is the weak link in the Commission, thus the Library in her district was selected to be closed.
At the same time, as we have posted before, Board Chair Welton Cadwell forbid public input, so no public ideas or statements were provided for the Board except for one statement they allowed from former Commissioner Catherine Hanson, who supported the Library (she is from Sorrento). This is in contrast to the Lake County School Board, where they accept public input on any agenda item, and also during workshops. Thus, in my opinion, the School Board is more informed and supportive of transparency than the County Commission.
Anyone with ideas or facts related to this issue can post them as a comment.
Lake County Commission discusses closing library to bridge funding gap
LARRY ELL - Staff Writer - from the Daily Commercial HERE
TAVARES -- Lake County officials grappled with a difficult choice Tuesday morning. At a County Commission workshop, board and staff members discussed closing East Lake Library.
A memo from Interim County Manager Sandy Minkoff outlined the reasons for a projected shortfall in the Library Services Budget as well as possible solutions. One of those would involve the closing of one of the county's six branches.
Minkoff explained that past budgets have been balanced through the use of accumulated reserves in the library fund. However, that extra money wouldn't be adequate to continue the current level of funding for the 2011 budget and, if nothing changed, would lead to a shortfall of between $430,000 and $600,000.
That deficit left the board considering cuts in service and shutting down East Lake Library because it's the only branch located in a facility not owned by the county. Lease payments are estimated at $41,000 a year and according to the county, it cost $289,117 dollars to operate for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Commissioner Linda Stewart told her colleagues that closing the library would be a serious blow to residents in the Mount Plymouth/Sorrento area.
"This library is the heart of the community," Stewart said. "It's more than taking the library away from them, it's taking the very heart away from them."
Stewart said East Lake Library serves very low to moderate income rural neighborhoods and, if it closed, there would be no way for most residents to get to the W.T. Bland Library in Mount Dora, even though it's less than six miles away.
"I think this would be way too much pain for one community," Commissioner Elaine Renick said. "We need to share the pain."
But looking at the numbers, it appeared that even if staff vacancies weren't filled, hours of operation were cut across the board and the East Lake Library building was offered rent-free, the only way to make up the funding shortfall would be to dip into county reserves.
"I do not want to be known as the person who closed the library, but I'll tell you, I refuse to be known as the person who depleted our reserves because we acted like congress instead of like local officials who balanced the budget," Commissioner Jimmy Conner said. "We are going to have to stop the practice of taking money from the reserves to go ahead and balance individual areas. We cannot financially survive that over a long period of time."
In order to let all interested parties explore alternatives to closing the library, the board agreed to postpone a final decision and will revisit the issue at the March 2 meeting.
I posted this in response to the above article:
Every year the swallows come home to Capistrano in California, and every year, in every government agency, they try to close a library to get the public upset so they will accept tax increases. Why hasn't the Board looked at the $5-million that Commissioner Renick has asked to be set aside for a "special project"?, Why don't any of the Board address the large issue, which is that the Sheriff's department gets about 50% of total County revenues, but has never been asked to undergo an operational audit for efficiency, effectiveness and economy. Nor has the Sheriff been asked to halt salary increases, and the Board recently gave him $300,000 for an armored vehicle in THIS economy. I am doing research on this and will post updates at www.FiscalRangers.com.