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Funding for Escondido library expansion uncertain

ESCONDIDO — Although they rejected using reserve funds to advance the design and development of the city library expansion, City Council pledged their commitment to allocating future city funds and working to raise money for the library upgrade at its Oct. 16 meeting. 

“Nobody is suggesting that we kill the project,” said Mayor Sam Abed. “I think we have five council members committed to having a state of the art facility.”

City staff and the selected architect came before council to propose allocating $600,000 from the city’s reserve funds for the completion of the full design of the expansion of the Escondido Public Library.

The public library opened in 1980, and discussion of modernizing the facility has gone on for more than a decade.

In 2010, the city designated funds to develop a concept for the new library and eventually selected Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc. to take on the task.

A concept model of a phased approach for the library expansion has since been developed with the help of public input, but more funds are needed for the architect to complete the design and move forward with the project.

“There is a huge need for an upgraded public space,” said Jerraldeane Quon, one of the board members with the Escondido Library Foundation.

While City Council unanimously agreed that the library improvement needs to be a priority, some were hesitant about using reserve funds, which are kept aside for emergency purposes.

In total, the expansion would cost an estimated $35 million. So far, the city does not have any funds allocated for the library’s enhancement, and may consider a bond in the future to cover the bill.

Abed expressed concern about funding the complete design now only to have to wait years to raise adequate funds.

He said spending $600,000 on the design now might be a waste.

“I am committed to it (developing the design), but I think timing is very critical,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz echoed Abed’s sentiments that the city needs to focus on allocating and raising the money to pay for the library.

“It seems like in the past couple of years we’ve done a lot of wishing but not a lot of fundraising,” she said.

But she argued that the library is a “critical need” and the city should start designating money for the project now, even if it means using reserve funds.

“I see this as a key for moving us forward and keeping this alive.”

City Council questioned staff if there was any other way to pay for the library design besides using reserve funds.

“I can tell you, you do not have $600,000 unless you go into reserves,” said City Manager Clay Phillips.

“Using the reserves should not be the first option,” said Abed, recommending that the city look into next year’s budget for library funding instead.

Ultimately, council aligned with Abed’s argument. They voted against using the reserve funds and directed staff to explore how the city can raise funds to continue the project.

After the meeting, supporters of the library’s expansion remained enthused about council vocalizing their commitment to prioritizing the project in the coming years.

“This is so thrilling,” said Quon.


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