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Approved Commerce Budget Leaves Library in Trouble

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COMMERCE - An amendment could be coming to the City of Commerce budget, just approved Tuesday, to address funding cuts to the city’s public library.

President of Friends of the Commerce Public Library Carolyn Trezevant says the board was made aware of the cut, albeit in late August, ahead of the city’s formal adoption upon second reading Tuesday.

Last fiscal year the city provided $57,519 to the library. The approved budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year allows for $43,500 in funding, representing a roughly 25 percent decrease.

According to Trezevant, that steep a decrease could lose the library its accreditation with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

“[If accreditation is lost] we lose our tech share databases. We lose some other support that we get from the state. It makes you ineligible for certain grants. It basically emasculates you. You’re just this little library that doesn’t offer a whole lot,” she said.

After informing the city council of the potential ramifications, the library board has since met with city officials to consider other options.

City Manager Marc Clayton says, “What the council agreed to do this week was – and they’ve been in communication with the library board – they approved the budget [Tuesday] night that included a 25 percent reduction in the cash contribution. But also they’ve agreed to continue to negotiate with the library board and to get all the facts straight about what some of the repercussions could be.”

Trezevant says a cut that the board could live with is around 12 percent, or $7,500, but it’s still unclear what amount would result in possible accreditations issues. She hopes to clarify that with the Library and Archives Commission soon.

She added, “I think the city is acting in good faith. And I know that we are. We have been very transparent with the city.”

A budget amendment for library funding could come as soon as the Oct. 16 regular council meeting.

Due to the current fiscal issues concerning operations, library volunteers have postponed efforts for restoration of the current building along Park Street. Citizens have met several times over the summer to develop a funding campaign to generate roughly $400,000 to renovate the nearly 100 year old structure in which the library is housed.

Library funding isn't the only cut approved in the Commerce budget, as council has looked at ways to decrease expenditures across the board amidst the future closing of Covidien, according to City Manger Clayton.

Nonetheless, Tuesday’s total budget of $4,608,863 does include a surplus of $190,000. You can view the full budget here.

The council also Tuesday approved the certified tax roll for 2012, which at $279,677,628 is nearly $5 million more than last year. That’s mainly due to the annexation of Alliance Carpet. But city officials note that five years ago the tax roll was roughly $314 million. Clayton says the loss of Zurn Pex and sale of Prairie Crossing Apartments to Texas A&M University-Commerce, making the building tax exempt, were big reasons for the tax roll hit.

While the city may not be able to fully make up for the eventual loss of Covidien, who announced last fall they were closing their plant and its 300 jobs, Clayton says Hydro Aluminum – which is operating at only 60 percent - is coming on at 100 percent next year. Covidien had initially said they would shut down operations by September 2012, but there’s been no movement on that front. Officials say the likely timetable now puts the closing closer to early 2014.

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