Could more State Aid be saved if the Central Library were closed and more community libraries were kept open?
No. Since roughly 90% ($2.5 million) of State Aid is for System support, such as specific grants for Central Library services, keeping more individual libraries open would not materially alter the amount of State System Aid at risk.
Can you take the $15.5 million planned for the Central Library Renovation and the $2.5 million discussed for the South Buffalo Library project and use that to offset budget cuts?
No. First, much of the $15.5 million has NOT yet been raised. The Central Library Renovation is a multi-year, multi-phase capital project. Donations of $1 million have been applied and County Funding of $4.8 million has been approved, for a total of $5.8 million. Nearly $3 million of that amount was committed after a public bidding process in spring 2004. That construction is underway now with Phase 1 renovations expected to open in mid-April 2005. The remaining $9.7 million has yet to be approved or otherwise secured.
Second, County funding for the renovation project is in the form of long-term tax-exempt bonds that, by federal and state law, may be used ONLY for the intended project.
Third, the potential source of funding for the new South Buffalo library construction project is from the County's Tobacco Settlement proceeds. These are restricted by the provisions of the Tobacco Securitization agreement to use for capital outlay projects. They may not be used to support operating expenses.
Finally, all of these funds are one time revenues with the bonded portion needing to be repaid over the next 20 years or longer. Even if it were legal, diverting them to support operating expenses would make no more sense than it would for a homeowner to get a second mortgage to pay one year's utility and grocery bills.
Why are you renovating the Central Library?
In addition to being more than 40-years-old, much of the Central Library's ceilings and structural beams are treated with materials that contain asbestos. This material must be removed safely before it deteriorates. Erie County has been funding asbestos abatement in the Central Library for more than a dozen years. Asbestos abatement cannot be avoided or delayed indefinitely. Even if a building is to be demolished, asbestos must first be abated/removed.
Each phase of the proposed renovation starts with sealing off an area of the library buliding and carefully removing the asbestos. This process leaves a clean shell space that must have the inner walls, ceilings, ventilation, lighting, etc. rebuilt. Rather than simply rebuilding the space as is (with 1964 fittings and finishes), the Library is taking this opportunity to reconfigure the space to better meet 21st century needs.
Why are we putting a café in the Central Library as part of the renovation?
The café will generate commission and rental income for the Library in addition to providing a place for visitors to enjoy a beverage or a bite to eat while using the library. Minimum rental income will be $6,000 per year and will grow as a percentage of sales based upon the business generated by the café. The café operator was selected in a competitive RFP (Request for Proposals) process and is responsible for providing the staffing as well as the specialty equipment (ovens, sinks, coffee makers, refrigerators, etc.) needed to operate the café.