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Council not in favor of axing Sunday library hours

The Manteca City Council has a question for Supervisors Bob Elliott and Tom Patti: Why are Tracy and Mountain House getting more hours of library service from the Stockton-San Joaquin Library System than Manteca?

The council on Tuesday after municipal staff a week earlier floated a proposal to cut $52,000 annually in funding that the city has been sending to the library system to pay for up to eight additional hours of staff costs after library hours were slashed during the Great Recession made it clear they had no stomach for eliminating Sunday library hours.

Before they would entertain even considering cutting the $52,000 funding the council wants assurances that the library will stay open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. And while the city hasn’t been officially told Sunday hours would be cut if the additional funding was yanked, key library personnel have indicated that is exactly what would happen with the loss of funding.

They also want to know why — with or without the five hours on Sunday the $52,000 secures — Manteca has less library hours than Tracy and Mountain House.

Elliott represents Manteca south of Yosemite Avenue as well as Lathrop and Mountain House, Patti represents Manteca north of Yosemite Avenue plus Tracy and parts of Stockton.

Friends of the Manteca Library member Wendy Benevides addressed the council Tuesday reminding them of not just the educational, recreational and social aspects of a library but also the fact it provides Internet and compute access to a number of residents — including students — that have no such access or may just have it from a smartphone.  She added some people use the library computers to search for jobs.

There are even Manteca residents — most who tend to be elderly and are struggling to pay PG&E bills — who will use the library as a cooling center in conjunction with reading.

City Manager Tim Ogden in proposing the funding cut noted Manteca taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick given just like every other resident in the county they pay into county property taxes that support the library system with the exception of Lodi that has its own library. 

The county gets a bigger cut of every $1 in property tax a City of Manteca homeowner pays than the city does. The city’s cut averages around 15 cents.  

The $52,000 originally paid for restoring weekday hours that were initially cut back. As county funding improved the money was shifted to bring back Sunday hours.

It should be noted the only three of the library system’s branches are open on Sundays — Manteca, Tracy, and Mountain House. All three are open from noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The three share a common thread of having commuter heavy populations.

But here’s the kicker: The Tracy branch is open five more hours a week overall than Manteca and the Mountain House branch three more hours a week. Yet Manteca has to pay $52,000 more a year or else it will have 10 less hours a week of library hours than Tracy and eight hours less than Mountain House.

The council said they would revisit the extra payment for library services after staff provides additional information.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email