Peg Fleet is worried about the future of the Copperas Cove Public Library.
In a prepared speech to the Copperas Cove City Council last week, Fleet, a former city library director, outlined her concerns: "The public library continues to be a facility that is heavily used by citizens. It is also, for many people, the face of the city, that department with which they have the most contact. Further lowering the staffing level will jeopardize both quality and efficiency of service."
As city leaders still discuss next year's budget, the library is in store for one of its biggest budget cuts in recent memory.
The library, a nearly 20,000-foot structure next to City Hall, could lose three positions if cuts to the fiscal year 2013 budget are approved.
Next year's library budget is "confusing and unclear, it is regressive, and it is insufficient," Fleet said.
Confusing, because the library budget also includes Senior Center funding, which Fleet said should be separate.
Unclear, because the "proposed budget also includes without explanation or justification the loss of funding for three full-time library staff positions," Fleet said.
Regressive, because the city would have to go back nearly 20 years to find staff levels as low as what is being proposed. "The budget for FY 1986-1987 shows a library staffing level of six full-time and two part-time positions," according to Fleet's speech.
The fiscal year 2012 budget, approved by the city council last year, allowed for nine full-time positions and one part-time, with an operating cost of $506,788.
The proposed library budget for fiscal year 2013 is $433,730, and allows for 6.5 employees: Three full-time library assistants, one part-time library assistant, one community outreach specialist, one assistant director/reference and one director.
Fleet was one of several people to speak in opposition to budget cuts for the library during the meeting.
Sandy Lundell, a Copperas Cove resident who home-schools her children and uses the library regularly, said she fears the cuts will affect the quality of the services her children receive.
"These story times provide a lot of enrichment for them," Lundell said.
Other residents in attendance, including former librarians, said the budget cuts would be a mistake and go against the city's motto: "The city built for family living."
"What a city council thinks about its library is what a city council thinks about its citizens," Cove resident Marianna McDonnell said.
Fleet said the council's action concerning the library will be a lasting one.
"When all is said and done, it is your decision to make," she said. "Your decision will also be your legacy."
Copperas Cove Mayor John Hull said funds to prevent the library cuts would need to come from increased property taxes or cuts from elsewhere in the budget, and the budget is tight.
"I like the library as good as anybody, but where do we cut?" Hull said.
City Manager Andrea Gardner said no library services or programs are slated to be cut. Gardner said the cuts stem from increased costs, including books, Internet and fuel.
In an email to the Cove Herald, Gardner said one and a half positions were placed on hold earlier in the fiscal year. Currently, there are seven filled positions, and one other position — the director — being recruited.
In last week's meeting, Gardner said city officials would look into if accreditation with the state library system could be affected.
Gardner said Tuesday the library's accreditation is not in jeopardy.
Fleet said the state library system does have standards for population size and a city the size of Copperas Cove needs 6.5 library employees to meet that standard. What may affect that, however, is in the proposed budget, one of the positions – community outreach specialist – actually works out of the Senior Center and not the library, Fleet said.
Factor that in, and the proposed library staff is a mere 5.5 positions, she said.
Later in the meeting, Council Member Jim Schmitz recommended one of the three staff positions slated to be cut to be funded with money left over from the general fund. That left-over money totals about $104,000, and can be used for other items.
If one of the library assistant positions were to be brought back into the budget, that would be a good thing, Fleet said.
"At least it's a start," she said.
The council is expected to formally approve the proposed $45.7 million budget on Sept. 4.