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County Raids Rainy-Day Fund To Keep Libraries Open

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Budget cuts that once threatened many local libraries lifted. (Source: CBS4)

Budget cuts that once threatened many local libraries lifted. (Source: CBS4)

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Politics

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami-Dade County Commission decided in the early hours of Wednesday morning to use rainy-day reserves to prevent layoffs of library workers and cutting library hours in the coming fiscal year, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.

“I am ecstatic about what they did for our jobs and for the community,” said Gregory Williams, a library worker.

The raiding of the rainy-day fund will help this year, but next year will blow a $20 million budget hole in library funding next year. According to the Herald, that means unless Miami-Dade changes the way it funds libraries in the next year, commissioners will either have to cut services next year or raise property taxes.

“I don’t care what it is, Dunkin Doughnuts, Starbucks, maybe selling e-readers whatever it takes to market our libraries because they really are so valuable to our community,” said Commissioner Lynda Bell.

“Eventually, this government is going to have to face reality. I’d rather face it now than later,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said, according to the Herald. “It’s pretty tough to raise taxes when you’re going to election.”

The final 8-4 vote came after more than eight hours of debate and a possible alternative that would have raised property taxes this year to help pay for the library. However, according to the Herald, Gimenez would have vetoed the tax increase, so commissioners turned to the rainy-day fund.

“I was very proud last night especially of the people in the community that came out and said how important the library services are,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman.

“I think it’s a good thing because a lot of don’t have computers at home or they can’t afford it,” said Jessica Nunez, a parent in South Miami-Dade

During the debate, the problem that has caused gridlock in Washington appeared in the county. While most of the people who spoke opposed the cuts, many said they also couldn’t handle a higher tax bill either.

When Gimenez first proposed his 2014 fiscal year budget, he was going to ask for a property tax hike to pay for the libraries, fire-rescue services, and to fully fund the Pets Trust. However, within days of the budget being released, Gimenez backtracked and refused any tax increase.

That led to dire forecasts for libraries and fire-rescue workers in the county. Those forecasts were slowly whittled down to the roughly $7.8 million in rainy-day funds the commission approved for the library on Tuesday.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Miami Herald contributed to this report.)

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