title_header

ERIE.GOV | Your information resource from the government of Erie County, New York


County Executive Elected Officials County Departments Living In Erie County Visiting Erie County Growing your business in Erie County State and regional municipalities

July 2011 Column - Keeping Our Libraries Viable


OFFICE HIGHLIGHTS

Six months ago we were contending with one of the most brutal Februarys in recent memory.  It seemed like it would never end.  But it did.  Now it is July.  The temperature is well above the freezing mark we failed to achieve...

Excelsior. It is a Latin word meaning “ever upward,” and it is the motto of New York State. I have been thinking about it a great deal recently as I read article after article about the problem of income inequality and the thousands...

A free guided walk through Isleview Park will be held Saturday, June 6. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at the gazebo.

Erie County Legislators John Mills, Lynne Dixon and Kevin Hardwick, whose districts border waterfronts, along with Legislator Ted Morton, whose district includes the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, announce that the Legislature has taken...

Erie County’s 2005 Red and Green Budget fiasco claimed a number of victims.  Many county employees lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Citizens throughout the county were shut out of their county parks and had to...

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)