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Library advocates push to make Jacksonville independent library district

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Updated: 7/15/2013 6:36 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Community activists say a book on a shelf inside a locked library does no good. And that's the way they think Jacksonville is headed with the mayor's current budget.

Mayor Alvin Brown said there's a lot of fat to cut in order to trim next year's budget down to $953 million. Casualties will come from every department.

"Our citizens deserve better than that," said Cheryl Williams with Save Our Public Libraries.

Williams said cuts to the library system would mean six Duval County libraries will close their doors.

"When you minimize libraries, you shift Jacksonville from being a first-tier, wonderful place to a second- or third-tier community," Williams said.

She's now leading a charge to turn Jacksonville's system into an independent library district -- meaning every year, despite the budget, one mill of property value will go to fund the libraries. She's passing out petitions pushing for a straw ballot to vote on it.

"Taxes wouldn't go up but it would be money specifically set aside for libraries," she said.

Action News has done some digging. Orange and Alachua counties both have independent library districts. We checked in with the Budget Office and found such a move would generate, on average, $43 million a year for the library system. That's about $10 million more than the libraries received last year.

That would also mean other agencies would face steeper cuts in years like this one.

Williams says the money would be well-utilized.

"Education, the children first off and foremost. A literate Jacksonville. Illiteracy invites poverty. It's just that simple," she said.

Williams said her group needs 26,000 petitions signed by registered voters to get the straw ballot on the 2014 ballot. If it is passed by taxpayers, the Legislature would have the final say on approving it.


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