Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater considers closing some libraries

CLEARWATER — Last fall, the city upset some residents when it trimmed back its library hours.

That's nothing. Now, facing a $7 million to $13 million budget deficit in the coming year, the City Council began talking Thursday about more drastic steps: Closing libraries entirely.

"We're going to have to make some radical changes," said Mayor Frank Hibbard, who suggested shuttering the East Branch and North Greenwood libraries.

To ease the pain slightly, he said the city could increase the hours that the Countryside Library is open; could let east Clearwater residents know they can use St. Petersburg College's library; and could move North Greenwood's computer terminals into a nearby recreation center.

Hibbard noted that the North Greenwood Library was originally built during the era of segregation, and it's only a mile away from the city's Main Library, which is closer than many Clearwater residents have to drive to get to a library.

Council members know that shutting down libraries would be an unpopular move, but they feel they may have little choice. The combination of the global economic crisis and Florida's voter-mandated property tax cuts are putting Clearwater's budget deep in the hole.

"If we've got real pressure on the budget and we just don't have the revenues, we've got to look seriously at closing libraries, as unpopular as it will be," said City Manager Bill Horne. "It doesn't mean it has to be closed forever, but we've got to get to that number. We may not have the option of keep it open."

The main problem: Revenue from property taxes will be down because Clearwater's property values will likely drop by 10 to 15 percent this year, said budget director Tina Wilson. Sales taxes and other revenue are dropping, too.

Most of the city's spending goes to pay its nearly 1,200 employees — down from 1,300 employees a couple of years ago. And city leaders don't want to lay off police officers and firefighters.

That leaves "quality of life" spending like libraries, parks and rec centers.

Council members spent three hours Thursday discussing various programs and city jobs that they could trim. But after two hours, they hadn't agreed on many cuts. About the only one they agreed on was closing the Harborview Center, which the city subsidizes to the tune of roughly $350,000 a year.

"We haven't cut anything, hardly," Hibbard said.

That's when the libraries came up. During the discussion, council member John Doran combed through the city's budget figures and calculated that closing the Beach, Countryside, East, and North Greenwood libraries would save roughly $1.25 million a year — not that he was suggesting that. Library director Barbara Pickell said that, if the libraries are facing major cuts, she'd rather have fewer locations that are open more hours, instead of more locations that are open fewer hours.

But she noted that the Beach, Countryside and East Branch libraries get about the same amount of use. "It would be difficult to deal with the loss of the East Branch facility," she said. "It would have a tremendous effect."

The council will make the decision later this year.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

More cuts

Clearwater's City Council discussed other potential budget cuts Thursday.

Harborview Center: It costs $350,000 a year to keep it open, so it will most likely be closed.

Recreation centers: Their hours will probably be cut back.

Wage freezes: City workers might not get raises next year, like many in the private sector.

Jolly Trolley: Costs $150,000 a year. The city will try to have the Pinellas bus service take it over.

Neighborhood services: This department might be trimmed.

Clearwater considers closing some libraries 02/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 12, 2009 9:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Chasing 125: Bucs hope to hit rushing goal more often

    Bucs

    Ever so often, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter pulls back the curtain a bit and shares some of the stats that matter to him most as a coach.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
  2. Two Boca Ciega students arrested on charges they brought gun to high school football game

    Crime

    PINELLAS PARK — Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for having a loaded semi-automatic handgun with them at a Friday night football game at Pinellas Park High School.

    Two Boca Ciega High School students were arrested for bringing a weapon on school property on Friday night at a high school football game at Pinellas Park High School.
  3. Bucs-Jaguars was NFL's lowest-rated ESPN game since 2005

    Bucs

    It is just the preseason, and it is the Jaguars, but Thursday night's Bucs-Jags preseason game earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN, which is the lowest-rated preseason game (excluding NFL Network) in 12 years, according to Sports Media Watch.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, left, talks with coach Dirk Koetter during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
  4. Crash at U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park kills one, shuts down traffic

    Accidents

    PINELLAS PARK — A man is dead after a crash between two cars at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and 70th Avenue N just after 7 a.m. Saturday.

    Pinellas Park police are investigating the death of a man during a crash on U.S. 19 early Saturday. (Pinellas Park police)
  5. Tropics watch: The latest on Harvey and what systems could hit Florida

    Weather

    While Eastern and Central America monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Harvey, two tropical disturbances are moving through the Atlantic.