100 Rally In Support Of Century Library
April 11, 2012
About 100 people from across the North Escambia area gathered Tuesday afternoon to show their support for the Century Branch Library.
“Save Our Library”, “Don’t Close Our Library” — were a few of the signs held by people of all ages and backgrounds as they stood outside the library that could be closed by the start of the next fiscal year. The county may pull its contribution to the library system under a plan proposed by County Administrator Randy Oliver, closing the Century Branch Library and never opening the currently under-construction Molino Library.
Century brothers William and Charles Joyner can often been seen along North Century Boulevard, riding their scooters to the Century Branch Library. “The library is a life saver for us,” William Joyner said. “It allows us to get movies. I don’t know how they can close it.”
“This is the place were I go to study,” 18-year old Northview High School student Matt Watson said. “There are too many distractions at home.”
The county is facing a $9.5 million budget shortfall, most of which is due to a new Medicaid law signed by Gov. Rick Scott. That law will force the county to pay $6.2 million to the state for disputed Medicaid bills that have been adding up for about a decade.
To make up the shortfall, Escambia County is looking to cut 100 percent of its funding for branch libraries — all $3.7 million. Escambia County funds about 75 percent of the current library system, while the City of Pensacola funds about 25 percent. Libraries in the city will not be closed.
“Closing this library will hurt our kids,” said Crystal Criswell of Walnut Hill, mother of three children under 10. “It’s going to hurt FCAT scores. The library provides and promotes literacy for our kids here. A lot of people don’t have the means to go to Pensacola.”
On Thursday, Escambia County Commissioners will consider at least three options to keep the libraries open — an August referendum in which voters could approve a property tax levy; a property tax levy imposed by the county without referendum; a yearly user fee — $50 per person has been suggested — imposed on every Escambia County resident that uses the library.
“We love this library,” said Michelle Driscoll of Byrneville. She frequently uses the library with her children, ages 5 and 6. “The children on this end of the county need this library, deserve this library. To close it would be an injustice.”
Bette Hooton, president of the library’s board of directors agrees. ““It shocking, absolutely shocking, to consider that Escambia might be the only county in the state without a library system.”
“The library provides a lifeline to the internet,” said Liana Lambeth of Century, mother of two. “Some people have no internet or computer at home. The library provides perfect internet plus books for our kids.
“We are here at least one or two times per week,” said Theresa Lambeth, who has five grandchildren that use the library. “When you are trying to keep food on the table, the library provides books and internet.”
Escambia County owns the building and property of the Century Branch Library and owns the under construction Molino Library property. However, all of the books and other materials are owned by the City of Pensacola, including about 11,000 items in the Century library.
The West Florida Public Library Board voted unanimously last week to request the Escambia County Commission directly levy a property tax increase to keep public libraries open in the county.
With a vote of three of five commissioners, the commission can levy the .35 mils tax increase — about $35 on a $100,000 home. But if commissioners do not approve the tax increase, the issue could go to the voters as a referendum on the August ballot.
The Escambia County Commission will consider the issue at its Committee of the Whole meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday. Wooton and the Friends of the Library are asking residents to attend the meeting, wearing red, to show their support for the county’s libraries.
Pictured: North Escambia residents rally in support of the Century Branch Library Tuesday afternoon. Pictured top inset: Andrew, age 3, expresses sadness at the thought of closing the Century Branch Library. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.