Ray Walter Proposes New Funding For Culturals and Libraries

22 Nov

Last week, Erie County Legislator Ray Walter clocked into the Legislature record a letter he sent to Erie County Executive Chris Collins regarding a long term solution to the issue of funding for county libraries and cultural organizations.

Walter claims this is a means to implement a revenue sharing plan that would restore funding to the Buffalo and Erie Public Library System without raising taxes or increasing County spending in 2011.

In the letter, Legislator Walter outlines a plan to appropriate sales tax revenue toward funding for the libraries. According to the Agreement of Sales Tax Revenue Distribution, Erie County must share 64% of 3% of the sales tax revenue collected with municipalities and school districts.

Erie County Legislator Ray Walter (R, Clarence)

In a quote from his press release, Walter states that “For 2011, the amount shared with these groups for the 3% is projected to be $267,637,838. Utilizing 1.5% of the funds shared with the municipalities and school districts, and returning it to the libraries would result in $4,014,567 for the libraries, which more than covers the County’s spending reduction on the libraries.”

In addition, Legislator Walter proposes using 0.5%, which totals $1,338,189, for cultural funding. That figure would allow funding for cultural groups not included in the 2011 proposed budget.

That $5,352,756 total which would be carved out of the total sharing amount would be passed on to the municipalities and school districts across Erie County.

This move by Walter might be seen as a means to re-open the negotiation on how sales tax revenue is shared in order to get more revenue to the towns from the cities.  However, Walter says that isn’t his intent, “I am intentionally trying to avoid the prospect of renogotiating the sales tax agreement. I would like to see this proposal added on as an addendum or rider to the existing agreement.” The revenue sharing agreement is not a local law or a part of the County Charter, so it can be passed this year.

In order to solve the long-term funding problems for the libraries and cultural organizations of WNY, we need some creative thinking. Each year, funding cuts are proposed while activists clamor to maintain funding. Budget deficits in New York grow each year and new lines of funding will not appear out of thin air. Understanding that these quality of life institutions are crucial to a pleasant standard of living in this region requires we take a fresh look at the mechanisms for funding. Having us all bear a burden is probably the most creative approach taken to date.

It might not be the right solution, but it at least turns the conversation away from partisan politics towards different ideas.

7 Responses to “Ray Walter Proposes New Funding For Culturals and Libraries”

  1. Brian Castner November 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    This solution is so obvious one wonders why the rest of us didn’t think of it. Alan often notes what a tiny percentage of the budget the county has control over. The county portion of property taxes is small. The Buffalo News is full of stoires about the money wasted, stolen, or inappropriated in towns all over. I have to imagine there is 2% to be saved county wide at the town level. And as a Republican that loves local control, I’d love to see our towns tighten the belt. That is where the bulk of our proerty tax troubles lay.

  2. Brian November 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm #

    It’s not a serious proposal. He wants to take sales tax revenue from municipal governments to dedicate to libraries and cultural organizations. Why? Because he lacks the backbone to either vote to raise the revenue to fund those community assets and/or make the necessary cuts to other discretionary funding (e.g., Sheriff’s Road Patrols to affluent suburban communities). He doesn’t honestly think these municipalities will willingly take less revenue so that $42,000/year part-time Legislators don’t have to take a hard vote. 

    He simply wants to put a “proposal” forward so he can act like he did something to try to save the libraries. 

    Clarence sucks and so does Ray Walters. What a fat loser. 

    • Christopher Smith November 22, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

      Well, I think there is a middle ground between his proposal and you claiming it’s not serious. Also, it’s not cool to call someone a “fat loser”.

      I’m a proponent of increasing the amount of support individual towns give to their libraries while using a shared services program administered by the counties to achieve scale. In that manner, each municipality can decide how much they value libraries. I think the way the libraries are currently funded and administered is horribly flawed.

      I would tell you that Ray absolutely has the backbone to cut those services, he’s already stated that he supports the cuts and he has the votes to do it, thanks to the “reform coalition”. What he is offering is a compromise solution.

  3. Jim From Accounting November 22, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    While Brian has a point, the effort to de-couple library and cultural funding from the County Government is probably a good idea and would make their continued existence less of a political football.  That $5 Million spread across all 70 or so municipalities/districts should be much easier to swallow than a big $5 Million bite from the small part of the county budget which is discretionary.  Kudos to Ray for coming up with a realistic, adult solution.

  4. Jack McGee November 22, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?  Was it just too obvious or am I missing the point that this somehow screws the cities?  Either way,cool idea, does he have enough votes to get something like this passed?

  5. Ray Walter November 23, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    I’m not a loser. Definitely fat but not a loser. Given no other alternative I will certainly make necessary cuts. As Chris said, this is a compromise and maybe it’s not the right one but we need to have the converstaion otherwise we just move from one budget crisis to the next with no long term solution.

  6. peteherr November 24, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I think it is a great start for an adult conversation if your colleagues are willing to have that. I must admit that I am somewhat jaded about Mr. Collins politics and practices. While I agree that tough decisions need to be made, I think that Mr. Collins should not be making them in a vaccuum and ignoring the will of the Legislature when he doesn’t like what you all say. I am often astounded that the tough decisions we make are also silly decisions, like cutting funding to organizations that actually bring outside dollars to our region….like culturals, the Visitors Bureau and the Film Commission…but what do I know.

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