MADEIRA BEACH – An impending withdrawal of support for the Gulf Beaches Public Library by Treasure Island would put the facility’s finances – and possibly its existence – in peril.
Treasure Island is the largest financial contributor to the library among the five beach communities that support it. Currently, the city pays $107,000 annually, or 20 percent of the library’s budget.
Treasure Island commissioners voted 4-1 at a budget workshop session Aug. 20 to withdraw from the cooperative agreement that has supported the library since its founding in 1969. Mayor Mary Maloof cast the sole pro-library vote.
Library Director Jan Horah said a pullout by Treasure Island could put the Gulf Beaches Public Library in a potentially dire situation.
“We would have to either go back to the towns (supporting the library) for more money or dip into the reserves,” she said.
The library has only enough reserves to operate for about a year, she said. Getting the four remaining communities to substantially increase their contribution during a tough economic period appears unlikely too.
“We don’t want to cut services or close our doors,” Horah said. The library, which is located in Madeira Beach, has 20,000 members spread over the communities of Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, Redington Shores and North Redington Beach. Over 5,000 Treasure Island residents have library cards.
Should Treasure Island follow through with its intention to withdraw library support, its residents would have to purchase a card at a cost of $100 per year to use the facility.
Last June, Treasure Island and the other participating communities signed a three-year contract to support the library. A six-month notice is required to pull out of the arrangement, Horah said. Treasure Island is seeking to end its participation after the current fiscal year, which ends next month.
Treasure Island’s action caused the library’s board of directors to call an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. At that session, held Aug. 25, the board decided to request the Treasure Island Commission submit their position in writing.
“We want to get down exactly what they are saying,” board member Sharon Danielsen said.
Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard said the city’s stand on the issue was made clear at the budget meeting.
“Due to budgetary constraints, we cannot fund the city’s portion of the library during the upcoming year,” Silverboard said. He said there is no money for the library included in the proposed city budget for 2008-09.
Silverboard maintains that Treasure Island can pull out of the library agreement based upon a provision in what he said was a second library contract approved last year. A clause in that contract allows participating cities to withdraw if funding is not available, Silverboard said.
Treasure Island’s withdrawal from the library agreement is contingent upon passage of the budget at two public hearings to be held Sept. 3 and Sept. 17 at 6 p.m..
Madeira Beach Vice Mayor Steve Kochick, who is the library liaison for that community, hopes enough citizens will turn out at those sessions to persuade the Treasure Island commission to restore the library funding.
“This is a serious issue, and it is essential for the commissioners to hear how the community feels,” Kochick said.
Library board member Danielsen agrees.
“If the residents want the library, they need to speak up,” she said.
The library’s future hinges on reaching a successful resolution of the funding issue with Treasure Island, board chairman Nick Simon believes.
The citizens could be the key to that decision, he added.