"The library budget has been cut significantly. We've lost a lot of staff, and [the department] has taken an unfair portion of the cuts," said Gary Knight, president of Escondido's library board of trustees during the February 16 city council meeting.
Knight's comments are in response to a city proposal to close the East Valley branch library and recreation center as a way to fill next year's $2.9 million budget deficit.
In addition, the city also proposes slashing $1.1 million from employee pension benefits, $770,000 from the city's recreation department, $250,000 from the police department's budget, and $244,000 from the California Center for Performing Arts.
"None of these cuts are desirable, but the bottom line is we don't have the money. This is the edge," said Mayor Sam Abed. "If we don't balance the budget then we will never be able to restore any services in the future."
Councilmember Olga Diaz expressed concern about the cuts to library and recreation programs. She directed city staff to look into finding additional savings in the police department's $32 million-a-year budget.
"I don't want to sound stingy but $250,000 out of the police budget isn't going to make much of a dent in that department compared to the East Valley branch library and recreation giving up almost $400,000," said Diaz.
According to city staff, the proposed $250,000 cuts to the police department are less than one percent of their overall budget.
Added Diaz, "Library and recreation is the frontline for public safety.... [Library and recreation] should be considered part of public safety."
The Escondido city council is expected to decide on the proposed cuts during budget hearings in June.