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"Don't cut our budget as planned, because we have enough money in savings to cover our costs, and if you do cut, we'll close South Salt Lake Library."

That, essentially, was the message Salt Lake County Library Board members voted to send county commissioners after a special board meeting Monday night at which they discussed where they could absorb $445,000 in commission-proposed cuts from the library system's 1990 budget.Library Director Eileen Longsworth encouraged board members to contact commissioners at or before Friday's county budget public hearing to plead for restoration of all or part of the $445,000. The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Salt Lake County Commission Chambers, 2001 S. State.

But she recommended that, if the cuts go through, the board not take the money from the library's book budget. That budget, she said, has been trimmed repeatedly in past years.

Instead, she recommended reducing personnel costs by closing South Salt Lake Library and by not hiring two laborers and a painter, two clerks, two librarians and an electronics technician. She also recommended postponing several improvements to various branches for things such as sprinkler and lighting systems, carpet replacement, fencing and initial work on a new telephone system.

South Salt Lake Mayor James W. Davis sent the board a letter asking that it suspend consideration of closing the branch until other alternatives can be addressed.

"We feel that it is indeed unfortunate that the County Commission has given less than 15 days for your board to react to their budget priorities," he wrote. "Therefore, no time has been provided our City Council and Library Advisory Committee in which to evaluate the closure issue."

Longsworth said Davis sent the letter after she advised him of what she planned to recommend at Monday night's meeting.

Terry Hogan, budget and planning coordinator for the county's Human Services Department, encouraged board members to stress to the County Commission the fact that the library fund is separate from the county's general fund and is not suffering from the problems that are forcing cuts in other budget areas.

Even with the county's latest property tax revenue projections, which show revenues as flat or declining, the library fund will remain in the black for the next five years, Longsworth said.

And, unlike countywide funds, the library fund isn't affected by Salt Lake City's Redevelopment Agency, which Hogan said the county auditor has shown is "sucking money primarily out of the countywide fund" by funneling property tax revenues from RDA projects back to the projects themselves instead of to taxing entities. The hope is that this stimulation of business growth through tax diversion will someday pay off, "but what the facts show is that that hasn't happened," Hogan said.

Longsworth said she could probably keep South Salt Lake Library open on reduced hours if the commission restores $100,000 to the library's budget. She also said she would recommend reducing that branch's evening hours because of declining usage, even without any budget cuts.