ESCONDIDO — The City Council approved a resolution to remove the director of library and community services and add a director of communications and community services.
According to the staff report, the removal of the library position is part of the cost savings analysis stemming from the council’s decision on Oct. 18 to outsource library operations to Maryland-based Library Systems & Services. Subsequently, the city was sued in November.
Regardless, the City Council approved the Dec. 20 resolution 3-1, Councilman John Masson was absent, to allow City Manager Jeff Epp to move forward.
The staff report said the addition of the new position will be absorbed by other savings from the General Fund.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz railed against the report saying it did not define a salary and more discussion was needed before moving forward. She was the lone council member to vote against the outsourcing.
“It seemed like not the most effective way to market our city,” Diaz said. “I think this is a premature decision. I’m not interested in creating positions without more discussion and without knowing specifically what the salary will be.”
Diaz said the discussion has not been robust enough, noting the library outsourcing will save $400,000. With the new hire, she added, the city will be saving “much less” than what was previously discussed during the process of hiring a private company to operate the library. Escondido must to be portrayed in a positive light in as many ways as possible, she continued.
“The position is created for somebody who was previously with the library and this position creates fewer savings than previously discussed,” Diaz said. “It feels like a blank check.”
However, Epp said next year’s budget will show a savings of $400,000. As for the “blank check,” he said there are salary bands (maximums) and he cannot exceed those requirements.
“I’m creating a new position, but also creating a brand new position in the budget,” Epp added. “Until the end of the year and looking at your General Fund, you won’t be able to really make an argument of any integrity that it is eating into the library savings.”
Mayor Sam Abed said the council does not set the salary, which falls under the authority of the City Manager. He said the council has given direction to market the city in a positive light.
“We’re not allowed to interfere with who the city manager hires and how they pay them,” Abed said. “It is within the budget.”
According to the report, with the outsourcing of library operations some contract oversight will be necessary. However, the work does not justify a department head position.
Additionally, the city is “significantly increasing communications and community outreach functions,” including the Grape Day Park expansion and preparing for a bond issue for a new library. The position is responsible for overseeing the areas of Community Services Administration, recreation, ASES Before and After School Program, Older Adult Services, senior nutrition, communications, tourism and marketing.