At its special session on September 1st, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (B&ECPL) Board of Trustees approved its 2006 budget request to Erie County, announced Board Chair Rebecca Pordum. The B&ECPL is requesting $21.7 million, the maximum amount Erie County Executive Joel Giambra has indicated he will recommend for the Library's property tax levy and the same amount that was received in 2005. All plans outlined in the budget request are contingent upon receiving this level of funding.
On Tuesday, November 15, 2005, the Erie County Legislature adopted a 2006 spending plan, incorporating an increase in both the sales and property taxes. See http://www.erie.gov . As part of this budget, the B&ECPL is expected to receive a $21.7 million allocation as previously projected. The B&ECPL Board of Trustees will vote on approving its 2006 budget at its next meeting on Thursday, December 15th.
Preparing the 2006 budget has been a heart-wrenching process, said Pordum. No resident will tell you that their local library is not vital to the community. However, as a Library Board, we are being given a bottom line figure to fund operations within the entire System. Combining the County's funding target for a 2006 flat tax levy with the loss of County Capital funding for materials, the B&ECPL will likely receive more than $7 million less than in 2004. Erie County's 2006 support for the B&ECPL's operating and materials budget will most likely be pushed down to levels not seen since 1997. We can not receive this kind of cut without severely impacting the service we provide this community.
Thirty-six libraries will continue to receive support from the B&ECPL in 2006. However, all locations will be dramatically affected by further reductions in hours, staffing and/or services. Remaining facilities will be scaled back to the bare minimum or reorganized to operate at a lower cost by downgrading positions, shifting some jobs from full-time to part-time and introducing a new, para-professional job title that could perform certain tasks at less expense than other titles. A projected 100 full-time employees, nearly one-third of the full-time B&ECPL workforce, are subject to layoff as well as an undetermined amount of part-time employees.
Other cost saving and revenue generating measures will be implemented as well. For example, certain subject departments at the Central Library will be closed one day during the week, and as of October 1, 2005, fees have been instituted for requesting materials.
Every library that survives this unfortunate process must do much more with far less next year, stated B&ECPL Director Michael C. Mahaney. Whether you are a proponent of 52 libraries, 42 libraries or 32 libraries, the public cannot expect the quality or quantity of service it needs or deserves in 2006 due to the loss of funding from Erie County.
Sixteen locations will not be allocated funding in 2006. Locations (and their confirmed closing dates) include: North Cheektowaga (Nov.1st) and South Cheektowaga (Oct. 1st) , Greenhaven (Oct. 1st), Brighton (Nov. 1st) and Sheridan Parkside in Tonawanda, Williamsville, Blasdell (Nov. 30th), West Falls (Oct. 12th), Depew (Dec. 17th) and the Fronczak (Dec. 16th), Cazenovia (Nov. 18th), Fairfield (Oct. 14th), Kensington (Nov. 18th), Martin Luther King (Dec. 16th), Mead (Oct. 14th) and Northwest (Nov. 18th) Branches in the City of Buffalo. Please visit individual library pages for specific closing details as they become available.
The Board's Planning Committee charged staff to conduct an inventory of every public library location in Erie County to determine which have the greatest capacity to deliver the most in services and resources to the largest number of people. Using the results of this comprehensive appraisal, the Planning Committee began the process of identifying which libraries might remain open and which should close. The Committee weighed 19 individual factors. In addition to building size, condition and surrounding population density, the assessment considered geographic isolation, various activity levels, the economic circumstances of each service area and several other reliable measures. Geographic holes left when locations with limited capacity were plotted on a map were then addressed.
Libraries in Boston, Marilla, Alden and Eden were originally considered for closure. However, each of these municipalities expressed a commitment to identify supplemental funding to support its library at reduced open hours.
We are very appreciative of the numerous representatives of County, City, Town and Village governments and trustees of individual libraries that have approached the B&ECPL Board to consider creative and collaborative alternatives for the Library System, stated Pordum. During this difficult transition, it will be imperative that all involved parties work together to develop innovative solutions that address the needs of community members.