The city of Manhattan Beach could pitch in to support the town's new county library in the event of a budget shortfall under a deal officials approved this week.

The new two-story, 21,500- square-foot library is set to take the place of the existing county facility next to City Hall, which is just one story and 12,188 square feet.

While a new or improved library had been on the city's wish list for years, the $26 million project took a major step forward in March 2011 when city and county officials agreed to work together on the planning effort. An architectural firm was selected to design the building shortly afterward.

According to the terms of a deal the City Council approved Tuesday night, Manhattan Beach would advance no more than $225,000 to the county annually if local library property tax revenues were insufficient to cover the new building's operating costs and debt service payments. The county has pledged to repay the money to Manhattan Beach with interest, assuming the tax revenues don't decline.

Both county and city officials said they don't expect revenues to dip and trigger ongoing shortfalls, but that the deal provides an insurance policy of sorts.

"I don't view this in any event as an ongoing loan," said Jan Takata, a senior manager in the county Chief Executive's Office.

In reviewing budget numbers, he said, the county could see a "stress point" during the first year of operating the new library and covering debt service payments.

Once the new building is complete, it's anticipated the library's annual operating budget could rise from $1.7 million (in 2011-12) to $2million.

"There could be a potential of one year there could be a slight deficit," said Jim Arndt, the city's public works director. "This is like the county's way of ensuring they are protected."

Anticipating the arrangement might draw questions, council members Tuesday night sought explanations from city and county officials before calling for a vote. They approved the deal unanimously.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the agreement at its Feb. 18 meeting, at which point members could also award a design-build contract for the new library.

Construction could start this summer, and a grand opening is expected in spring of 2015, officials said.

kristin.agostoni@dailybreeze.com

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