Libraries all over Mecklenburg County will be closed and padlocked in two weeks due to budget woes.
The list announced Thursday includes 12 locations:
"There was no desire to close any library. And if there had been any other alternative, we would have seized upon it," library Director Charles Brown said Thursday.
But the simple truth is there just isn't enough money in Mecklenburg County's budget to keep all libraries open.
"This is a heart-sickening turn of events," Brown said.
In deciding which libraries to close, the board of trustees considered cost, usage, size and proximity to other library branches.
"We tried to come up with objective criteria," Brown said
The 12 libraries slated to close had a total of more than 2 million visitors last year
Locking those doors means eliminating 140 jobs and reducing utility costs and maintenance fees.
The books, magazines and computers will stay in those branches a couple of months with the hope of reopening under next year's budget, but that's no guarantee either.
"I'm asking people to brace for a two- to three-year dig out from this hole that we're in," said County Manager Harry Jones.
Library supporters are already organizing fundraisers to try to make up the $2 million shortfall.
"The time to step up is now," said library supporter Dr. Susan Harden
A Web site has been set up for donations: www.cmlibrary.org/donatenow.
A quote outside the main library in Uptown says, "Without libraries what do we have? We have no past and no future."
The library closures are just the beginning of massive cuts expected in departments countywide.
The Mecklenburg Park and Recreation Department must cope with a 50 percent budget cut.
"We'll have well over 100 people laid off," said James Garges, director of the department. "You'll have closure of facilities, reduction of hours. You'll have lower maintenance standards at all parks and facilities and you'll see fewer programs provided."
The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office faces a $9 million budget cut. That means cuts to courthouse security, eliminating work release, which lets inmates train for jobs, and cuts to the crime prevention program for juveniles.
"If they are not in high school then they're going to drop out of school and become criminals more so than they are now," said Sheriff Chipp Bailey.
Central Piedmont Community College is also looking at a 6.1 percent budget cut. Starting this summer, the college will switch to a four-day, 40-hour work week to save money on utilities.
The cuts are the result of an estimated $85 million budget shortfall in Mecklenburg County.
Current estimates for the budget year that starts in July show declines in four of five revenue areas, including a 13 percent drop in sales taxes. The only area forecast to see an increase: money collected through property taxes. But even that is estimated to grow by only 0.1 percent, compared with a jump of 12 percent six years ago.
Finance Director Dena Diorio said staff thought the decline in sales taxes had bottomed out last year. But lower-than-projected figures from December, one of the busiest shopping months, now have them projecting less money.
Officials estimate they'll bring in $114.8 million in sales taxes next year, compared with more than $200 million in 2007-08.
"People need jobs, I think that's the real driver here," Diorio said. "People are not working or are in fear of losing their job, and they're not spending money. That's driving not just sales tax, but all of our revenues."
(The Charlotte Observer contributed.)
COMMENTS BY THE PATRONS:
grandma7 said on March 18, 2010 at 12:45 PM
Schools cuts, library closings - all the things vital to our children and their future. Are we cutting the high salaries of officials too or just hitting the things that are needed for the children of the area?.
charlottenative said on March 18, 2010 at 1:03 PM
THIS IS JUST CRAZY THERE IS NO MIDDLE CLASS ANYMORE ITS THE RICH ROBBING FROM THE POOR ONCE AGAIN >>> BAIL OUT BANKS WITH ALL OUR TAXES ANGRY & UPSET HAVING TO WORK HARDER JUST TO TELL MY FAMILY NO I CAN"T GET THOSE FOR YOU WE DON"T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY >>>>.
kaystar said on March 18, 2010 at 1:20 PM
Before I even looked, I knew that Beatties Ford Road would be at the top of the list. Now, does this make any sense at all? You are always complaining about the lack of education that the westside has, and you choose to close their library. You could have kept one of the closed libraries open if you hadn't just opened the new Hickory Grove branch. Just look at that area, with that giant church over there. Why would they need a brand new library? I won't say what I'm thinking, but you should be ashamed..
7walker said on March 18, 2010 at 1:21 PM
While I understand and also personally demand fiscal responsibility, the distribution needs to be equitable you've cut every library in the Southpark/MyersPark /Carmel/Cotswold area but you leave open Downtown(fine) and the central ave location In my opinion they are close together. Morrison Regional sh/be kept open to feed Scaleybark, Carmel, Myers Park , Sedgefieldarea schools. You cant keep open both Freedom drive and West Boulevard, or Davidson and Cornelius- they should have to share also. Plus what are they going to then do with empty buildings still paying lease on, charge nominal fees for groups to meet there and keep Morrison open, the problem has beenthe city giving away too much in freeloaders stuff, like buses both CMS and public with routes for only 9 riders, let a real budget stretching specialist- a MOM- clean this up and see if we can't stretch those tax dollars further- teach all of you like Harry Jones how to feed/live a family of 6 on a littlleover $50,000 a year.
highlydisgusted said on March 18, 2010 at 1:31 PM
Maybe you should look at all the money wasted with the criminals at NOVA..
highlydisgusted said on March 18, 2010 at 1:39 PM
Would be simple to put the criminals who attend NOVA each week who are one step from prison to work on the roads or somewhere (hard and I mean hard work) so they don't have strength to get into trouble after a day's work that they have never done. They are obnoxious, loud, and no respect for anyone else. Would this not make more sense than closing libraries??? Of course this would not be ok!!! They are criminals and deserve respect in this society. Has anyone ever proven that this system works???? Not only do the taxpayers pay for them to stay out of prison but you also pay for police to be on duty while they are there. GET REAL for a change..
basswife said on March 18, 2010 at 1:42 PM
This is very sad! Why dont Harry Jones take a pay cut?.
brickellprincess said on March 18, 2010 at 1:53 PM
This just proves, beyond doubt, that our local government is incompetent. It is their job to avoid these scenarios. It is their job to forecast and prepare for the future. It is obvious that they are not doing their job and that is the reason why all these cuts are taking place. Need you be reminded that the county has a larger tax pool now than ever before!?! There are thousands more houses, new expensive houses, that pay so much more in property taxes than ever before. Yet somehow, the County and the City just don't appear to have the money to fund much. Well, where's all the money going? Who's building their mansion in the Cayman Islands? The time has come to abolish the County and the City. We need to combine resources under one centralized state government. Otherwise, you and I will for ever keep paying higher taxes and things will never improve. It's time to fire these incompetent clowns..
ivymw2002 said on March 18, 2010 at 1:54 PM
Hickory Grove just opened! Now they're closing it? And to make it worst the next two closest libraries (mint hill and independence) are closing too..
inadu98 said on March 18, 2010 at 2:00 PM
I am so angry and ready to leave this county!! I live in Mint Hill...tell me where I am supposed to borrow a book? The nearest library would be Plaza Midwood..This county and the powers that be(you know,the spendthrifts) are hacking away at this city..taking parks,schools, teachers and libraries away because NASCAR museums,sports arenas and keeping busing going is WAY more important! This family has had enough, ASAP goodbye Mecklenburg Co!!.
pwfsef said on March 18, 2010 at 2:23 PM
What is Charlotte going to do with all the empty buildings now? I would rather see the library's kept open if the taxes the taxes STILL have to be paid. At least they would be bringing in SOME money. You can still keep the buildings open but cut some of the other programs inside the buildings. Once the library is closed, the taxes on the building and property is still going to have to be paid. Just closing the buildings does not care of the problem. At the most it seems eilminate the utility bills. If you have to pay taxes on the property then use the building or sell it. Now that would bring the city money. Need more understanding on this situation..
marcharlotte said on March 18, 2010 at 2:30 PM
This is crazy!!! Closing the Morrison and the recently renovated Myers Park doesn't make sense. They both are very busy. The board that chose to do this needs to have people who can make better decisions that will not effect the people who utilize the libraries. This decison needs to be considered further before taking affect. There are plenty of other ways to manage the financial impact of the economy and it's effect on the public library system that was once voted top in the country. Please do not make a knee jerk decision like this!.
confused9 said on March 18, 2010 at 2:38 PM
What did he do with all that money? As an insider I can tell you that he spent it on initiatives, committee formations, and all other kinds of irrelevant projects which were meant to fix things not broken. Innovation for the sake of innovation and spending money. He should be the first person laid off because as a library director he failed miserably - he disregarded financial conservatism and common sense in order to fuel a grandiose dream of making PLCMC the nation's # 1 library system by 2010. Well 2010 is indeed here and we are now facing the closure of half of the libraries. Did Brown confuse 2010 with 2012? If there is any integrity left in the managing of our library system then the evidence of that will be in Brown's resignation in addition to other incompetents like Harry Jones..
pwfsef said on March 18, 2010 at 2:39 PM
The work release programs DO NOT need to be cut. They are essential to the benefit of the inmates. What hassens when it is a court order for the imates to be put on work release" To get rid of the work release would be in violatrion of the court order. Who is to take responsibility for that ? For Charlotte to say that they want to better the community of they want to be on the side of the people, this is not the way to put their "words" into practice..
iloveny said on March 18, 2010 at 2:53 PM
CUTS...CUTS...CUTS THAT ALL YOU HERE IN CHARLOTTE... WHAT ABOUT THE BIG WIGS ? WHERE'S THEIR CUT ? NOW CLOSING LIBRARIES & PLANNING TO CLOSE SCHOOLS AND CUT MIDDLE SCHOOL SPORTS - WHAT' ABOUT OUR KIDS ? I WAS GLAD TO HAVE THE HICKORY GROVE LIBRARY BUT NOW IT'S GOING TO CLOSE......WHO'S IDEA OF POOR PLANNING WAS THAT ? OR WAS IT NOT GOOD ENOUGH SINCE IT'S NOT LOCATED IN THE "RICH" COMMUNITY ???? FOR THE YEARS THAT I HAVE BEEN IN CHARLOTTE, CHARLOTTE HAS NO IDEA ON HOW TO RUN A CITY AND FOR ALL THE BIG WIGS JUST REMEMBER "KARMA".
vespara99 said on March 18, 2010 at 3:43 PM
Instead of closing our libraries and laying off employees cut the salary of the man in charge to keep them open! It was his responsibility to keep the libraries open for the public, and as I am the public and I pay his salary I say that we cut his pay to keep the libraries open and keep those folks employed!!! Or find someone else to do the job right within the budget. Why take away something that we all need?! People are looking for work, our kids need them for their education. If they want to take away something, take their bonuses away and give them back into our communities and help us!.
happycampers said on March 18, 2010 at 3:51 PM
how long did you think CHARLOTTE was going to keep open the EASTSIDE hickory grove branch anyway. just opened up this nice new branch only to close the doors on it in a part of the city that really needs something for the people. but its not about what we need is it. it what the city has or has not done!!!!!!!!! again the EASTSIDE loses out. where is NANCY CARTER when you need her?.
kittygreene said on March 18, 2010 at 4:18 PM
Why close Hickory Grove branch? It just opened early in February. There is not enough data to justify this since there was a time lapse between the old branch closing and the new branch opening. Also, what is the deal with closing the regional branches? If you close the neighborhood branches, then the regional ones should still be open to serve that area of the county. The East side of Charlotte is left without a branch to go to. My closest branch is University Regional which is difficult to get into and out of on Harris Blvd. at University Hospital. I think the Library system should slim down their administrative costs first and consider leaving branches open with reduced hours. Raising county taxes will only make the problems of our citizens worse..
80veronica said on March 18, 2010 at 4:19 PM
So glad I live in Gaston Co. Years ago they had the forethought to cut library hours and close on Sunday before it became a crisis. Say what you want about the country people that live across the river but sometimes we get it right!!!.
droper said on March 18, 2010 at 5:34 PM
Ok this is crazy schools closing and libaries closing but these people are worried about an ABC store in south park well there u go drunks.
librarycountybs said on March 18, 2010 at 5:41 PM
Name Change- Charles Brown's Multi Million dollar taxpayer funded idea during a down economy. By the way he also personally designed the logo and got paid for it. Harry Jone gladly accepted a $38,000 bonus last year..
librarycountybs said on March 18, 2010 at 5:59 PM
By the way I hear that no one on the Board of Trustees that made these decisions even has a library card. Wow! talk about incompetance!.
droper said on March 18, 2010 at 6:02 PM
schools and libaries goin under and u people are paying to open an ABC store lets set our priorties right.
mushroom said on March 18, 2010 at 6:02 PM
The first thing anyone thinks of is raise taxes on the property owners. I think we should collect the taxes on properties that owe back taxes now. Names will be in the Charlotte Observer soon . Bingo, make them pay with the rest of us or sell their property. I'm not talking about people that was has recently laid off from their Jobs, I mean people that have owed for years. Also cut the big peoples salary, and get rid of people we have never needed before. Listening Mayor Foxe. You'll soon hear abour Gorman, Jones, and all the others getting a big bonus. wake up..
saffron13 said on March 18, 2010 at 6:28 PM
closing the libraries but opening another liquor store - where are the priorities of this county?.
pwfsef said on March 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM
Mecklenburg County would rather shell out $500,000.00 to fix up a building for a new liquor store than to keep libraries open. At least the libraries are safe. Then again with keeping the liquor stores in operation then can continue to arrest people for drunk driving and throw them in jail, for the Sheriff to allow the employees to rack up more overtime hours. It makes me wonder who is really overseeing the cuts in the county..
dshropshire said on March 18, 2010 at 6:54 PM
I live on the East side of Charlotte. Years ago the last bookstore on this side of town closed. Now we don't even have a library to go to?? No library in between University and Matthews? And no bookstore between Arboretum and Concord Mills? I suggest some of the huge sums of money being spent on the high-end greenway on Kings Drive be diverted to a more worthy cause such as LEARNING!!!! This is shameful. How can this town allow this to happen? I pay every tax under the sun in this county - where is my money going exactly? Well, I guess the folks off Kings Dr will have a nice place to walk and think about books!.
shelly282 said on March 18, 2010 at 7:08 PM
I worry about all of the unemployed that use the library computers in their job searches. The library computers are the only computers to which many have access..
heartteach said on March 18, 2010 at 7:08 PM
How were these closings decided. Where are all the students on the EastSide going to go? As an educator, this is a slap in the face. I can get "pay for performance" and riduculed in public if scores at my schools are low. We can even get "layed off" without a clear reason..except for test scores. Yet, the very thing that is criticical to our future and current students...reading...is the very thing that is up for a budget cut. Oh, yeh, and about 700 more educators; the parks and rec system. Forget swimming in the aquatic center. The HEART of Charlotte is being gutted!!! For what? A Nascar Hall of Fame, a basketball stadium that you can't see the players without binoculars (I can only afford 30.00 per person seats!). What was wrong with the old stadium? Why can't we keep libraries in every area open? We need a civil service and merit system established in this area. Politics runs everything. Charlotte politics is very one sided--rich vs poor and middle class. Future gone.
heartteach said on March 18, 2010 at 7:16 PM
Brown states, we "Tried to be objective." Was there a community forum? A vote?? How was the community valued? Independence Regional is right accross from East Meck High School (who now has more IB students). That library could also serve Independence High School and all the middle/elementary in that area. Why was so much spent on ImaginOn and other "pet projects" that get to stay open? POLITICS!! Whose back did I scratch and who do I owe? That is what we are currently dealing with here! The community (all of us) need to come together for our children...all races, all nationalities, all religions (FOR ONCE CHARLOTTE, LOOK BEYOND THESE ISSUES) for the children. Teen Suicide is on the rise. Last time I checked, our teens in this community have noowhere to go. Barely any sidewalks...few student have access (within walking) to a local park. (Well, they could get shot along the way)Do we have community dances for our children? We need to get kids off the internet in real life!.
flo4044 said on March 18, 2010 at 9:09 PM
Instead of closing 12 branches, why not cut the hours at EVERY branch? Cut the hours, cut the number of staff, but KEEP our libraries OPEN. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
flo4044 said on March 18, 2010 at 9:15 PM
I am so angry I cannot see straight! Why is the East side of the county being short-changed again? Why do the rich areas of Mecklenburg get perks like Greenways, and now our libraries, while the rest of us, who REALLY need that no longer will have access to something we really need? Do these so-called government people have any idea how many kids from East Meck, Greenway Park, and McClintock use the Independence branch library? What about Hickory Grove and Mint Hill? The only libraries in the eastern part of our county are closing. That is not right. What are we supposed to do? If they really have to close libraries, the distribution should at least be fair..
proudhgresident said on March 18, 2010 at 9:23 PM
While I appreciate the need to do some belt-tightening during these ecomonic times, my hope is that the decisions made regarding library closings will be reconsidered. My fear is that the county is 'cutting off its nose to spite its face' with the proposed closings. A society loses and fails if not built upon a foundation of education. There are reasons to keep all of these branches open even if it is only during identified peak use hours. The limitations of individuals to make it to other branches that are great distances away will further reduce the use of our library system. Finance Director Dena Diorio is quoted as saying, "People need jobs, I think that's the real driver here," Diorio said. "People are not working or are in fear of losing their job, and they're not spending money. That's driving not just sales tax, but all of our revenues." Yet, here we are cutting individuals out of the workforce while also reducing the opportunity for learning. Please reconsider this..
heartteach said on March 18, 2010 at 9:32 PM
Well, now that I have calmed down I wanted to repost. I couldn't even spell right earlier! 1) Our children need libraries, parks, and places to go to stay out of trouble 2) The community and schools should be a safe haven for children to learn and grow. 3) All of these areas are being cut drastically in Charlotte. 4) Who is going to stand up for the Chilren/Teens and the Educators/Adults that want them to do their very best? 5) How can we get a community forum to weigh in on these issues to make a difference? We have teens being shot and raped whilewalking home from school. We have parents working part time jobs and who have to decide to spend time with their children or feed them....which leads to.. 6) How are we, as a community, going to take care of our homeless and needy population? We are closing the very doors that they need-libraries provide *Hope* not to meantion a bathroom and warmth. 7) What messege are we sending to the children?.
nc_me said on March 18, 2010 at 10:15 PM
You are leaving Myers Park open? Seriously? I would think Independence would have more traffic than that location. Hey Myers Park snooties guess which location is closer to tha hood? That's right you are guess who's coming to visit the neighborhood? Lock your doors. They wanted to close Independence and build a library at Eastland area per Indpendence Blvd. expansion. LOL no one wants to go to Eastland.
demarcocrump0325 said on March 18, 2010 at 11:11 PM
I hate that they are closing all the things we depend on and pay for with our taxes. With each closing they hurt all of us from each class from Beatties Ford, Morrison and Independence. I grew up here and it hurts but I know that you can't call this biased in any way..
prismaddict said on March 18, 2010 at 11:15 PM
This is a classic case of missmanagement...good thing they gave county manager Harry Jones a big raise.....at least they have priorities!.
sunnyb75 said on March 18, 2010 at 11:23 PM
No one has said what is going to happen to the buildings that are being closed. Does the county own all of them? Will the contents be stored in place or moved to another location for storage? Why hours were not cut across the board and well as the days the libraries were open is beyond me..
d21clt said on March 19, 2010 at 4:36 AM
Read my comment on the other article about the Scaleybark library closing. That branch, at least, happens to sit on the land that a real estate developer (Crosland) has been planning on taking over for several years and building more retail/apartments/condos that we don't need. It's not being closed for financial reasons! I wonder how many other libraries planned for closing have already had their land planned for "other uses" by private developers? It might be an interesting thing to investigate. Anybody up for it? WCNC? How about you? You're the media right? Here's something to investigate. Ill hold my breath.....