With County Mayor Carlos Gimenez changing his mind on a tax increase, it's looking more and more likely that 22 of Miami-Dade county's 49 libraries will shutter next year. After a week of opposition to his proposed property tax increases, Gimenez will recommend to county commissioners today that no increase be made, a move that could lead to 251 librarian layoffs plus 149 firefighters getting the axe.
So much for Miami being ranked the 10th smartest city in the country due to "number of libraries per person."
Update: Commissioners have voted 8-4 to keep the property-tax rate flat. That means they'll have to finalize heavy cuts to fire and library services by the start of the fiscal year in October.
The proposed rate change -- which went from 5.37 percent to 4.34 percent before returning to zero -- was meant to keep fire stations and libraries afloat. The library system already had its operating budget cut by 30 percent in 2011, which led to the firing of all part-time employees and a 25 percent reduction of full-time staff.
"People are not in favor of any increased taxes, in any way, shape or form," Gimenez tells the Miami Herald. "I'm not deaf. I can hear the sentiment."
Gimenez outlined deep proposed cuts to libraries and fire services last night. Commissioners still have to approve the cuts and are likely to fight to protect libraries and firefighters in their districts.
An emergency meeting was held yesterday between library branch managers and department heads to talk about the proposed cuts as rumors swirled through local libraries about pending cutbacks. "Things have been changing very rapidly from one minute to the next," said Miami-Dade spokeswoman Vanessa Puig.
The Miami Herald ran a short article on Saturday reporting that 42 libraries might close with 260 employees being laid off -- numbers that were attributed to an internal county memo. For reasons that aren't clear, the entire article was yanked on Monday without explanation.
Librarians and firefighters alike responded to the proposed cuts with fury.
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Steve Marshall, a second-generation librarian who was laid off from the West Dade Regional Library in 2011, said the cuts will be an affront to the people who use libraries to better themselves.
"They're some of the last vestiges of the American Dream," he tells Riptide. "The fact that they're constantly targeted shows a callous disregard for providing opportunity for poor and working class people to educate themselves and enjoy services more affluent people take for granted."
Update: After voting to keep taxes flat, these libraries are on the chopping block: California Club, Opa-locka, Golden Glades, Civic Center Kiosk, Lemon City, Little River, Model City, Culmer, North Shore, Shenandoah, South Shore, Fairlawn, Virrick Park, Country Walk, Concord, Sunset, Lakes of the Meadows, Tamiami, West Kendall Regional, Doral, Hialeah Gardens and Palm Springs North, according to the Miami Herald.