The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library board should never have proposed closing half its branches last month, County Manager Harry Jones said today at a community meeting.
Instead, Jones said, the board should have been able to foresee from the start that a better solution would be the one it eventually passed, which keeps all libraries open for reduced hours with some layoffs to cope with a $2 million county budget cut.
"It was a decision they could have made initially without having to subject the community to the angst that they did," Jones told the Ballantyne Breakfast Club this morning.
Jones went on to criticize the library board over how it responded to public outcry after announcing its first plan to close 12 of the system's 24 branches and lay off 148 employees.
Jones said the board should not have told citizens to direct their complaints to the county board of commissioners when it was the library board that drew up the plan.
"They did not own the decision," Jones said.
Other highlights from the meeting, which was attended by city, county and CMS officials:
- Jones said the county is in danger of losing its top triple-A credit rating over its debt level and he is not recommending selling bonds for new construction projects in the next fiscal year beginning in July.
- Charlotte city councilman Michael Barnes said the city is not facing a budget crisis like the county, and said the city wants to ask voters this fall to approve bonds for transportation, roads and affordable housing.
- CMS Chief Operating Officer Hugh Hattabaugh defended the decision to adopt an earlier bell schedule for Hawk Ridge Elementary this coming fall, saying it will save the system $70,000 to $100,000.
- Doug Miller