East Lake Library Could See Boost in Funding
Pinellas County Commissioners are exploring ways to provide more money to the local library as it struggles to maintain its level of service.
Pinellas County Commissioners are hoping to give East Lake Library an increase in funding. Commissioners discussed funding options during a special workshop Tuesday.
"They agreed we need more funding. How we're going to get that is still being discussed," East Lake Library Director Patricia Perez told Patch.
One possibility discussed by Commissioners on Tuesday is negotiating a new formula that will give the East Lake Library a larger cut of money generated by Pinellas County Library Cooperative taxes. There are 13 other Pinellas County libraries in the cooperative.
Perez says another option being considered is creating a special funding district for the East Lake Library. The library currently operates under the jurisdiction of the Palm Harbor Community Services Agency (PHCSA), which also oversees the Palm Harbor Library.
The idea of East Lake becoming an independent library is one that many residents like. During a town hall meeting last November, Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala received a standing ovation after announcing that the East Lake Library would become independent and commissioners would be holding workshops to discuss it further.
"You all know that you are a very special exception and you're a unit of the Palm Harbor Library. The county commission has said that you will become an independent district like Palm Harbor," Latvala said.
Some East Lake Library supporters say they like the idea of the library becoming a separate taxing district because it would be a better use of their tax money.
Roger Johnson, who is on the East Lake Library's Advisory Board, had this to say in November, after hearing Commissioner Latvala's announcement at the town hall meeting: "Wow, finally, fairness for East Lake residents to get their library tax money back to East Lake Library and not to the cities' libraries."
However, the Tampa Bay Times reports that creating a separate taxing district for East Lake could drain nearly $1 million from the Pinellas County Library Cooperative.
Perez says Tuesday's meeting was only a workshop and no decisions were made. She says cost analysis of the options will be conducted.
Perez does say that the library will need a significant increase in funding to maintain the same level of service. She says residents in the East Lake Fire District pay nearly $1 million in taxes each year for library services and the library only gets $242,000 from Pinellas County's General Fund and another $160,000 from the library services' MSTU disbursement.
The East Lake Library raises approx $30,000 through fines, fee and donations. Perez says the rest of the operating funds to meet the annual budget of approx $500,000 have been taken from the library reserves. Perez says the library reserves will be depleted at the end of this fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, 2013.
"We are definitely at our tipping point of running out of funds," she said.
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