Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta received consensus from the commission at its regular meeting Tuesday to consider giving the Longboat Library $10,000 to $15,000. Barbetta suggested the county consider the offer but stressed the county hopes the town of Longboat Key will consider matching the amount but won’t make the contribution contingent on the county’s request.
Library representatives met with Barbetta earlier this month as part of a campaign they are kicking off to generate awareness about the organization’s ongoing expenses. Soon, patrons will find fliers in their mailboxes and books detailing the library’s finances as part of an effort to gain support for a line item of $15,000 to $20,000 in the town’s budget for the next fiscal year. Board member Hazel Steskal said that the library is currently dipping into its reserves at a rate of approximately $7,000 a year and has no options to cut costs other than to stop buying books. According to Steskal, library representatives hope to address the Town Commission at a February workshop.
The Sarasota County Commission will further discuss the topic at its first Feb. 23 budget workshop, after Chairwoman Christine Robinson and Commissioner Nora Patterson requested more time to look at the library’s finances and expenses.
Barbetta told the commission he was impressed with the operation of the volunteer-only library.
“We all know Longboat Key contributes heavily to our library system,” Barbetta said. “This library has been self-sustaining for all these years and created an operation that’s alleviated extra traffic to our libraries on the mainland. I came away impressed with it after taking a visit there.”
Although Patterson worried that the contribution would open the floodgates for other volunteer libraries to make similar requests, like the volunteer Siesta Key library, Barbetta suggested that’s a different issue.
“Siesta Key is not a municipality like the town of Longboat Key,” Barbetta said.
Steskal did not attend Tuesday’s County Commission but was pleased with the progress when notified by the Longboat Observer.
“We’re very pleased and very happy and so glad that he thinks we run a tight ship,” she said.
The commission will also consider asking the Manatee County Commission to make a contribution, because the Longboat Key Library is also used by residents who live on the Manatee County portion of the island.
Steskal said that the library has approached only the Sarasota County Commission so far, because the library is located in Sarasota County but could possibly meet with Manatee County commissioners, as well.
The library leases its land and building at 555 Bay Isles Road from the town for $10 per year. It operates on an annual budget of approximately $28,000 a year, including about $12,000 from membership fees.