Miami Library Advocates Say CIty Needs to Raise Taxes to Prevent Cuts

April 24, 2014

Library advocates urged Miami-Dade commissioners Wednesday to raise the tax money needed to avoid steep cuts at the county’s library system, and to ignore Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s call for a summer referendum on library funding. “Don’t let dismantling the library system be your legacy,” Miami resident Maggie Fernandez told commissioners during a finance hearing largely devoted to the library system’s looming $20 million budget gap.

Commissioners stayed silent on whether Miami-Dade should undo at least part of a 2011 cut in the library property tax. By tapping dwindling cash reserves, the department was able to maintain a $50 million budget this year, but the tax itself only generates roughly $30 million for libraries. Without more revenue, library administrators have a plan to cut about half of their full-time staff next year in order to keep all 49 branches open.

Library advocates fighting the budget cuts urged commissioners to raise enough revenue to boost the budget to $64 million and ease the current spending strains on the system. About two dozen speakers touted libraries as a crucial government service, even as e-books and online research upend the traditional role of the printed materials at the heart of libraries’ collections.

“We are the Children’s Trust for the elderly and the middle aged,’’ said library clerk Mercedes Munias, referring to the tax-funded group that distributes about $100 million a year for services benefiting Miami-Dade children. “They’re living on paychecks and fixed incomes. Imagine if they had to pay extra for Internet services or for large-print materials.”

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