Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cuts to Clearwater libraries decried

CLEARWATER — City residents voiced concerns Thursday night about proposed cuts in the city's budget that will affect everything from library hours and the number of days recreation centers will open to how often the grass will get cut in city parks.

Thursday was the first of two public hearings on the city's $375-million total budget for fiscal year 2008-09. The second hearing will be Sept. 18. The budget takes effect Oct. 1.

Much of the focus Thursday night was on the reduction in library hours.

"I'm really shocked that the city has made the decision to close the library on Friday and Saturdays," resident June Connell said of the city's proposal to close the Countryside Library on Fridays and Saturdays to save money.

Mayor Frank Hibbard said the city has been balanced in its approach to the cuts. He said it's not just dollars but it's affecting people's lives.

"I will say, this has not been an easy year," he said. "We made cuts in parks and recreation, police and fire services, public works and throughout the city."

And, now, the library system.

The library is losing about $500,000 from its budget, said director Barbara Pickell. That reduction includes the loss of 10 staff positions on top of five jobs lost last year.

"When you lose staff, you have to lose library service hours," Pickell said.

At the proposed millage rate, 4.7254 mills, the city will bring in $22-million less than it did the previous fiscal year.

The city would bring in $46.2-million from property taxes at that rate, down from $53.3-million two years ago. Property taxes are 12 percent of the city's budget.

Pickell said to meet the budget request she will combine the Beach and North Greenwood staffs. The Beach Library will open in the mornings and North Greenwood in the afternoons in order to catch the school-age crowd. North Greenwood also would open on Saturdays.

The Countryside and the East Library will alternate evening and morning hours and the downtown library will remain open all the time because it's the city's resource library, housing more than half of all the system's resources.

"We are looking at a significant reduction in library use and library service hours," Pickell said. "We are looking at truly cutting back."

At least one council member spoke out about the turf issues that arise when such cuts have to be made.

"There are people who want their library to stay open and say to cut someone else's library," council member George Cretekos said. "It's our library. They belong to all of us. They were built because one time or another, someone said build this library, this recreation center, and we did.

"Next year, if we are going to have to close one of these libraries, one of these recreation centers, that neighborhood is going to be up here saying don't close this and close that."

Cretekos said residents were told in January that if Amendment 1 passed there was going to be a serious strain on city government to continue to provide services.

"You told us that we were making that up," Cretekos said. "(Residents thought) your taxes are going to drop like a rock. Nobody's taxes dropped like a rock. Sixty-seven percent (Pinellas County residents) said reduce our millage rate and cut our taxes. That's what we are trying to do without decimating the city of Clearwater. This is where we are."

>>Fast facts

Proposed library hours

Countryside : 1-5 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; closed Friday and Saturday.

East: Closed Monday. Noon-8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Beach: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday; Closed Saturday and Sunday.

North Greenwood: Closed Monday; 2-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 1-5 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Main: 1-5 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.

Cuts to Clearwater libraries decried 09/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 8, 2008 11:37am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. As Trump's fraud commission sought data, some Florida voters cancelled registrations

    Blogs

    After news spread last month that President Donald Trump’s fraud commission was requesting voter data from all 50 states, 1,715 voters in Florida took themselves off the …

    Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence, attend the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on July 19, in Washington, DC.
  2. We're big fans of keeping it cool with fun inside this summer

    Events

    It's safe to say we take the complex, mysterious unicorn of air conditioning for granted.

    How cold is too cold? Researchers have tried for years to determine an ideal thermostat setting for offices, and it’s a hard question to answer.
  3. Former SEAL Kristin Beck blasts Trump decision banning transgenders from military

    Military

    Kristin Beck, a former member of SEAL Team 6 who is now a transgender woman, says the decision by President Donald Trump to ban transgender people from serving in the military would cost more in lawsuits than the savings Trump touted in medical and other costs.

    Kristin Beck, who has transitioned from former Navy SEAL Chris Beck, says President Trump's ban on transgender people in the military disrupts ongoing efforts to integrate them into the services. [Times file]
  4. 5 things to do under $5 July: Bucs training camp, Dive-In Movie, free Glazer Museum admission

    Events

    1 Bucs Training Camp: The public is invited to a series of free Bucs practices through Aug. 26. And don't forget this season HBO's Hard Knocks will focus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including quarterback Jameis Winston, right. There will be discounted concessions, merchandise tents, appearances by …

    LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times (2016) Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.