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REGION : County Restores Funds to Branch Libraries

October 20, 1994|MARY GUTHRIE

South Bay branches of the Los Angeles County Library will be open longer and have more books, after the Board of Supervisors voted last week to restore $22.5 million to the county library system's budget.

In addition, hundreds of library workers countywide were expected to be rehired, returning library service to the level of two years ago before cuts were made.

Struggling to find new sources of support, the supervisors had established a special tax district to fund libraries. Cities then were to decide whether to join the district and support the tax. In the South Bay, only the Lomita and Carson city councils supported the tax, which would have cost homeowners about $28.50 per year. Avalon, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale and Manhattan Beach opposed the tax. Hawthorne's council decided not to vote on the matter.

But as county officials moved forward with the tax district plan, reports of a surplus in the county's general fund caused taxpayers to balk. Carson changed its position and withdrew from the district. The City Council said the county was not acting in good faith when it proposed the tax without knowing whether the system could be supported without it, said Carson Councilwoman Mary Anne O'Neal.

On Friday, the supervisors allocated $22.5 million from the general fund, but retained the ability to levy the tax in the future.

The money will allow the libraries to resume buying books and other materials, and rehire staff to keep the 87 libraries in the system open five days a week. Some of the larger branches could be open six or seven days, County Librarian Sandra Reuben said this week. Because hiring has to be done by exam, the service hours probably won't be expanded until early November, she said.

Although she said she was pleased to be in a position to restore library staff and materials, Reuben warned that the problem of long-term funding for the system has not been resolved.

"I hope the public understands that we need a permanent solution to our funding problems," she said.

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