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Corinth mulls cutting library funds

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

CORINTH — The city of Corinth is considering a reduction in its funding for the Lake Cities Library during the upcoming fiscal year, which would result in the library cutting staff and services, said Barbara Thompson, library director.

Nothing has been voted on yet, but in a letter to the library and the other Lake Cities communities, Mayor Paul Ruggiere said the City Council is moving toward ending its partnership with the library.

Ruggiere said the council’s reasons vary, but according to his letter, council members question if Corinth pays a fair share or if the library provides a level of service that’s equal to the money the city budgets.

In its 2013-14 proposed budget, the city has allocated $98,000 to the library, even though the library has requested slightly more.

Ruggiere said a decision on the funding will be made Sept. 19 during a council meeting at Corinth City Hall.

For a few weeks now, City Council members have been working with the library to determine how many Corinth residents use the library on average and whether or not it’s worth spending the nearly $100,000 the city has budgeted.

The Lake Cities Library is located in Lake Dallas, but it’s funded by Corinth, Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek and Shady Shores, and each city splits the cost based on their respective populations.

According to library data, Corinth and Lake Dallas residents make up the bulk of the library’s active cardholders.

The cities that support the library may adjust their budgets, depending on what path Corinth decides to take, Lake Dallas officials said.

Thompson said Corinth’s funding makes up about a third of the Lake Cities Library budget and that the city has about 5,100 residents with active library cards.

Thompson said that if Corinth pulls out, the library would probably have to lay off staff members. Some of the services the library offers include reading programs, computer classes and story time and crafts for preschoolers.

“We will definitely have to cut something,” she said.

Library board member Bill Knox said the cuts would be deep, but the library will continue to serve the community.

“We’ll be fine,” he said.

The library’s board members have made a few presentations to the council in recent months, but in most cases the city was left with more questions than answers.

Ruggiere said the perception among several council members, “right or wrong,” is that Corinth pays a disproportionate share of the library costs, based on its usage of the library. He added that the library has not provided any data that proves otherwise.

Nothing has been made official, officials say, but Thompson said she’s worried and that she’s trying to do what she can to ensure the library’s services don’t get cut.

“I’m sending them all the information I can to illustrate what will happen if they pull out,” she said. “I can’t do anything but wait.”

In a July council meeting, Ruggiere said that pulling library funding probably wouldn’t be a popular idea, calling it a bold move. But he and other council members agreed that there are probably better options available. If Corinth cuts its funding, he said, it could end the library.

“As we move forward, we need to consider the big picture,” he said.

Corinth city officials have been tossing around the idea of possibly only funding the library for up to six months. City officials said that the six months would give the library time to prepare and identify potential revenue options.

If Corinth pulls its funding, the library would no longer be free to Corinth residents, which could be an extra source of revenue for the library, but it won’t be enough to replace what Corinth budgets for the library, Thompson said.

She estimates that only about 3 percent to 4 percent of Corinth residents will continue to use the library if Corinth pulls its funding.

“But everything is speculation right now,” she said.

Council member Mike Amason said the city needs some type of library system, whether it’s the Lake Cities Library or something else. And in one meeting, it was suggested that the city could pursue arranging an agreement with the city of Denton to use its library services.

Ruggiere said he’s impressed with the level of services the Lake Cities Library has, considering its limited resources.

However, he added that he sees no sentiment on the council to significantly increase Corinth’s expenditures for any library service.

“Such a path is not a strategic priority for us at this time, although it may be in the future,” he said.

In Ruggiere’s letter, he also said that the council believes that losing the library would probably have little impact on the community.

“For some, it is questionable if the residents of Corinth need a library. If our residents want a book, they can buy it or download it; if they want a computer, they are likely to own one,” he wrote. “If they want the services of a library, they can go to Lewisville, Flower Mound or pay to check out books from the Denton library.”

However, Lake Cities Library officials said they’ve requested more than $100,000 from Corinth because, according to library data, Corinth has the highest number of residents, the highest number of children in the reading program and 35 percent of Corinth households have at least one library card.

The council will have a workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday and discuss the library and other budget items. The meeting will be at Corinth City Hall, 3300 Corinth Parkway.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.