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Library budget crisis could mean closures

Published: Apr. 17, 2015 at 1:19 AM MST|Updated: May. 1, 2015 at 1:19 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - For the first time Pima County may close libraries because of budget issues.

Or at least no one in Pima County can remember ever closing a library because of a lack of money.

One longtime county worker said “I think I'd remember it if it if we did.”

I have been involved in libraries as a librarian for 35 years and as a director for close to 20,” says Malinda Cervantes, the county library director. “I have never closed a library before.”

Pima County's libraries have a dedicated funding source through a secondary property tax.

But because property values plummeted in the recession, the library system has been taking in less money but trying to do more.

It's finally caught up with the system this budget cycle. It's $8 mil in the red.

A $.06 tax increase might cover half of it but not all.

The state has imposed a ceiling on taxes and anything above the six cents is prohibited.

That paints the county into a corner.

The county is proposing to permanently close four libraries and cut the hours at eight others.

They are Geasa-Marana, Santa Rosa, Dusenberry-River and Dewhirst-Catalina.

It's just a proposal right now but closing the libraries will save only $1.5 million and with the tax increase it does not cover the hole.

The library system cut the number of employees by 24 and consolidated services so there's not much left to cut.

This is not a happy decision,” says Cervantes.

Asked whether libraries may have outlived their usefulness because people don't read as many books, Cervantes points to a Pew study which shows young people are reading more books, hardcover books than in the past.

“If you walk into any of libraries, you will see people gathering, there are people coming together, after school homework, after school tutors,” Cervantes says.

Most of the counties 27 libraries are near schools which offers an array of services.

“Our computer use is through the roof,” she says.

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