WEATHERFORD — Effective Oct. 25, non-city households will be required to pay a $50 annual fee for use of services at the Weatherford Public Library.
Council members Tuesday approved the adoption of the fee, which includes the checking out of books and other materials as well as internet usage. Patrons may still visit the library without a card.
Though situated in Weatherford, more than half (roughly 54 percent) of the library’s visitors come from residents outside of the city, Director of Library Services Chris Accardo said.
Linda Kline, who lives in Hudson Oaks but serves on the Friends of the Weatherford Public Library, which fundraises for events including the summer reading program, told council she doesn’t feel the library is something people need to pay to use.
“I want everybody to be able to use it as a public service — it’s not a privilege — and I’m concerned that if this fee is mandated for county residents, it’s going to be detrimental to the library,” she said, suspecting that usage would plummet. “There are many people that can’t afford this, that rely on the library for the internet for their children’s schoolwork.”
Her husband, David, who also addressed the council, compared the library’s offerings to those similar of parks, and said the administrative burden of taking and keeping up with payments would go up as well.
“This is going to price a lot of people out of the library,” he said. “And for some, it’s the only internet that they’ve got.”
Additional funding has been an ongoing topic among the council for many years. The library has received funding from the county — $40,000 annually for several years before an increase to $51,000 in FY 2021, and maintains an annual budget of a little more than $1 million.
County Judge Pat Deen, speaking with the Weatherford Democrat Friday, commended the city for attempting to recoup it’s loss, but said it’s not in the county budget to fully fund what the city is asking for.
Last month, Weatherford council members voted on a proposal for the county to fund $250,000, roughly half of what it costs the library to maintain services to the community.
“We have continued to ask the county, since I’ve been on the council [in 2011], to pay their fair share,” Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Wilder said Tuesday. “They don’t even pay a fourth of what the cost is for the library and since they turned down the (reasonable) contract or refused to negotiate or any such thing, I don’t think there’s a choice at this point.
“The county has not stepped up for the people they serve... those citizens deserve that from their commissioners and their judge.”
Deen said there needs to be more discussion, for instance what services those in the county are using the library for.
“We passed a very conservative budget with a no-new-revenue tax rate, and to get from where we are now to where [the city] wants to go, there has to be further discussion. We’re not there right now,” he said. “One of the questions I plan to ask is how is the [$50,000] factored in to what they’re charging non-city residents?
“We do provide support, there’s just a disparity to what they’re looking at and what we’re able to provide right now.”
To the point made by David Kline regarding the parks, Weatherford council members noted the parks are the asset, whereas the library has assets, such as books, that are continually given out.
“I understand where [the Klines] are coming from, but I would love to see you and others concerned go to [county commissioner] meetings and let them know that you’d like them to increase what they would spend so we could go back to the way we were,” Councilman Jeff Robinson said.
The approval of the annual fee passed unanimously.