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Council overrules mayor's veto, hours extended at seven St. Paul libraries

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A dispute over the funding of extending library hours led to a rare move in St. Paul Wednesday when the city council overruled a mayoral veto.

The council had made amendments to the city' budget last week, the Pioneer Press reports, that included the diversion of $345,000 to cover the cost of keeping seven branch libraries open from 5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. They are already open at theoe times Monday and Wednesday.

The move will bring back the hours cut during the recession, but St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman vetoed the amendment, saying the libraries' hours are likely to be reduced through future cuts anyway.

The council overrode the veto, meaning the libraries in Merriam Park, Dayton's Bluff, Rice Street, Hayden Heights, Riverview, Hamline-Midway and St. Anthony Park will now have extended hours Monday through Thursday.

Tonya Tennessen, the mayor's spokeswoman, told the Star Tribune Coleman still thinks it is a bad idea.

"With a projected budget deficit at around $10 million in 2016, the council’s action means we will most likely be cutting these added hours not long after we are able to implement them," she said. "This does a disservice to the residents of St. Paul who expect and deserve consistency and stability in our library hours."

MinnPost reports that Coleman vetoed the move because he considered the money – which was found from the city's parking budget – to be one-time cash that may not be there in the future to cover ongoing expenses, so it could lead to library staff hired as a result of the extended hours being laid off in the future.

The economic downturn seen in recent years took its toll on government funding, with libraries one of the departments that tend to take a big hit when budgets are slashed.

In 2011, MPR reported that cities had cut library operations and capital funding by 42 percent between 2005 and 2009, despite research indicating that library use was up during those years.

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