Call it Farenheit 305. Ever since he released a proposed budget plan that would have shuttered 22 libraries across Miami-Dade earlier this summer, County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been trying to put out a fire of his own making. The backlash prompted him to find a way to keep those libraries open, but at drastically reduced hours and possibly laying off 169 library workers. That plan was also met with fierce opposition from residents and county employees from Florida City to Carol City.
Earlier this morning, after a marathon budget hearing packed with library supporters that began yesterday evening, Gimenez and county commissioners found a way to maintain the library system as is.
Commissioners accepted Gimenez's proposal to dip into the county's reserves to avoid laying off the library employees and slashing library hours in the coming budget years. They voted 8-4 to use $7.8 million in library reserves. But Gimenez warned the maneuver is a temporary fix and that next year Miami-Dade officials will again have to tackle the library budget, which faces a $20 million hole next year.
Gimenez warned commissioners that next year they will either have to raise the property tax or cut library services. He noted that will be a tough task for six of the commissioners facing reelection in 2014, who will most likely oppose any tax hikes to make voters happy.
"Eventually, this government is going to have to face reality. I'd rather face it now than later," he said. "It's pretty tough to raise taxes when you're going to election."
During the contentious budget hearing, seven of the 13 commissioners were poised to raise the property-tax rate that funds libraries. But Gimenez wasn't on board, signaling he would have vetoed that decision.
But fearing a likely Gimenez veto they would have been unable to override without a nine-member majority, they opted for using the reserves instead.
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.