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Asked to cut its budget, Gulf Beaches library says 'how?'

TREASURE ISLAND — A proposed compromise to allow city residents to continue using the Gulf Beaches Public Library without having to shell out $100 for a membership card appeared doomed to failure Friday.

The City Commission voted to cut $107,000 in funding for the library Wednesday when it approved its property tax rate and budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

Commissioners indicated, however, that they might revisit the library funding issue if the library was willing to radically reduce its budget and change the way the five member towns are assessed.

Treasure Island pays about one-third of the portion of the library's budget that comes from local contributions. The balance of the library's $503,313 annual budget is made up of money contributed by the Pinellas County Library Cooperative, which includes 15 libraries throughout the county, including municipal libraries in St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Seminole and Pinellas Park.

"A big city has many areas where it can cut spending, but a library can't," Nick Simons, chairman of the library's board of trustees, said Friday.

Simons said he would "welcome" anyone looking at the library's budget, but there is "nowhere" to cut.

"A library is a service institution. The biggest portion of our budget is personnel, the next largest are the materials — books, CDs, — that make a library work. I just don't know where the cuts would come from," he said.

Simons also said it would be unfair to the other member towns (Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, North Redington Beach and Redington Shores) to allow Treasure Island to pay any less than its current share of the library's budget.

Each community pays a portion of the library's budget, based on its population. But, for the past several years, the other towns covered 10 percent of Treasure Island's share.

"There is a risk if we were to take anything less than what Treasure Island's obligation was. How would you justify it to the other towns," Simons asked.

The library does have a contingency fund that could be tapped for a while to keep its doors open.

Out of about 7,000 residents, more than 5,000 have library cards. More than 3,600 Treasure Island residents are believed to actively use the Gulf Beaches library. If all purchased library cards, the revenue would more than make up the shortfall caused by Treasure Island eliminating the library from its budget.

The library board is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss its budget, how to cover the loss of income from Treasure Island, and a marketing plan to persuade residents of that city to purchase their library cards at the Madeira Beach library so that it can keep that revenue.

A warning on the library Web site tells Treasure Island residents they must pay the $100 annual fee as of Oct. 1 if they want to use any library in the Pinellas County system.

Simons said the library board might grant a limited "grace period" to Treasure Island residents, but eventually they will have to pay the fee.

Unless, that is, the Treasure Island Commission decides, as Commissioner Phil Collins and other members suggested Wednesday, to subsidize part of that fee, as do many other Pinellas County cities.

Asked to cut its budget, Gulf Beaches library says 'how?' 09/20/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 20, 2008 10:51pm]
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