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Low revenues, Detroit may close libraries

April 15, 2011 at 7:20 PM

DETROIT, April 15 (UPI) -- Detroit may close its main public library and most neighborhood branches due to empty city coffers from plunging tax collections, a library official says.

The city has experienced an $11 million shortfall in revenue. One month after pink-slipping 80 library employees, administrators say they have to cut deeper and have three odious options in mind -- shut 18 of 23 branches and lay off 191 of the remaining 333 workers; lose 15 branches and 163 workers; or lose 12 branches and 135 workers, The Detroit News reported Friday.

"We are really running out of options to maintain the viability of the system," said Anthony Adams, a library commissioner. "I don't see too many ways to avoid not doing something draconian. Every day we don't act is a day we are digging a deeper hole for ourselves."

Todd Kelly, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1259, criticized the plan, saying administrators should have done better in their revenue forecasting.

"Essentially you are killing a library system," said Kelly, who represents 125 workers, including clerks, janitors and security staffers. "With the illiteracy rate we already have in Detroit, all it is going to do is heighten that."

Administrators estimate the city library system, which is mostly funded through property tax revenue, faces a 20 percent shortfall per year until at least 2015. If the cuts go through, the entire northeast side of Detroit will be left without a city library and residents may be forced to drive several miles to reach an open branch.

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