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July 2011 Column - Keeping Our Libraries Viable


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Legislator Kevin Hardwick announces that Kenmore Presbyterian Church, 2771 Delaware Ave., Kenmore is one of several sites for the next series of Erie County Senior Services' Powerful Tools for Caregivers classes. This course is designed for...

Most children are taught at early age to share.  Their natural tendency, of course,  is to say “that’s mine” about everything.  But good parents will teach them the virtue of sharing with others.  The result...

It’s known as Dillon’s Rule and is named after John Forrest Dillon, who was appointed a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judge by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.  Prior to this appointment, Dillon served as the Chief Justice...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick reminds residents that the Sheriff’s Office maintains a Drug & Syringe Drop Box at Grand Island Town Hall, located at 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island. The box is located in the front entrance and...

Erie County Legislator Kevin Hardwick sponsored legislation in the County Legislature that supports Senator Chris Jacobs’ proposal to share 10 percent of the revenue from the Grand Island tollbooths with the communities of Grand...

oneilj - Posted on 13 July 2011

Most people in Erie County agree that the manner in which we manage and fund our libraries needs to change.  The problem has been in attaining agreement on the form of that change.  Recently, the county executive and the library system’s board of trustees advanced a proposal for seeking a more stable source of funding for the county’s 37 public libraries.

 

Although their solution has a number of components, the goal is to establish a county-wide library district.  This new district would require the abolition of the existing city and town library boards in Erie County.  In their place would be a single county elected board with responsibility for all of the county’s public libraries.  It would also have separate taxing authority.  Special state legislation would be required to establish such a district and county voters would have to approve its creation in a referendum which would also establish an initial funding level for the district.  This funding level would remain constant unless the library board voted for it to increase.  The increase would then be subject to a public referendum, similar to school budgets.

 

Since obtaining the state legislation and voter approval will take time, the county executive and the library system’s current board have agreed on a plan to fund the libraries in the interim.  This would involve the county contributing $20 million to the library system’s operating budget for the next three years.  In addition, the county would pick up maintenance costs for the central library in downtown Buffalo at a cost of $1.3 million per year.  The cities and towns in which they are located would be expected to pick up the maintenance costs for the branch libraries.  The maintenance costs for these libraries currently totals over $1.75 million, although the county executive believes maintenance tasks can be performed less expensively by city and town employees.

 

The proposal is both bold and controversial.  Many questions must be answered.  Is it fair to ask the cities and towns to pick up the maintenance costs for the libraries, especially when they are subject to the new property tax cap?  Will the state legislature approve the establishment of a library district?  If they do, will the public referendum be held at a November general election or will there be a special election?  Do we even want another level of government with the ability to levy property taxes?  These are all good questions.  About the only thing that is certain is that we cannot continue on the present course.  We must do something to keep the libraries viable at a cost the taxpayers can afford. 

 

If you have thoughts regarding this important issue, I would like to hear from you.  I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.

(Printed July 13, 2011 in the Ken-Ton Bee Newspaper)