Tag Archives: Libraries

Poloncarz on the Libraries

3 Nov

Operating a competent and cost-efficient county government shouldn’t be based on one’s personal lifestyle. Although Chris Collins may have no use for libraries, what with their “public service” and their “spreading of knowledge”, an overwhelming majority of people in this community not only use, but treasure our libraries. Libraries help people conduct research, they entertain young kids, they help people who might not have $30 to buy a hardcover blockbuster novel read it, they help people stay connected, and to find jobs. But above all, they help inform and educate the populace.

Given Chris Collins’ needless library funding shenanigans during his reign, one could reasonably conclude that public information and education are not among his priorities. Unlike Collins, Mark Poloncarz wants Erie County to operate and fund a 21st century library system Erie County can be proud of, and guarantee that our libraries continue to inform, educate, and entertain people, and act as community gathering places that make up the very foundation of a civilized society.

In Erie County, during our current recession, County Executive Chris Collins –admitting that he does not use libraries – has proposed a major alteration to our current county library system.

Chris Collins has decided that, like many county services, he wants to force the library system to live on its own or simply die. Collins created a funding crisis by specifically targeting the county’s library system for drastic cuts at the same time he refused to spend tens of millions of dollars of federal stimulus assistance and increased the salaries of some the county’s highest paid employees. For the 2011 budget, Collins cut $4 Million from the Buffalo and Erie County Library System.

After public outcry and hard work by our legislators, $3 Million was restored to the 2011 budget.

Now, Chris Collins, citing that he believes the library system is not fiscally stable, has proposed a plan that would create a new special taxing district for the library system, thereby creating a new level of government and bureaucracy, without also examining the potential ramifications of such action.

Those ramifications include several hidden evils that will result in more government, more administration, high salaries, more taxes and further burden placed on the backs of Erie County’s residents. All of this as a result of Collins created crisis.

In an era where good government advocates, local activists, innovative politicians, and even Governor Andrew Cuomo are advocating for the streamlining and consolidation of taxing entities, Chris Collins would create a new taxing district and bureaucracy to rid the county of responsibility for what Collins clearly sees as just another poor-coddling socialist holdover called “libraries”. To Chris Collins, libraries are another frivolity, like Medicaid and health clinics; a frivolity only because he’d never use it.

Collins concocted his ridiculous creation of a new taxing bureaucracy for the libraries with zero input from the libraries, library users, partners in government, the state (which would have to OK
his scheme), or the taxpayers for whom he purports to work.

But people affected by a recession – who can’t afford to go book shopping or internet access – they use libraries quite often. In the 2011 budget, Collins cut $4 million from the libraries’ budget – money that the legislature restored. Collins then vetoed that and restored only part of the money. Inexplicably so.

After all, for every $1 spent on the Erie County libraries, the community gets a return of $6.07.

The solution to a problem that Chris Collins manufactured for political ends is not to create new taxes and a new taxing entity. County funding for our highly valued and valuable library system has decreased by 27% since 2004. Although Collins’ cuts have forced libraries to reduce their hours, visits are up, underscoring their importance and impact.

Poloncarz wants the community to begin a discussion on what a 21st century library system should look like in Erie County.

Mark Poloncarz will defend Erie County’s library system and he will defend Erie County’s residents from more tax burdens and more layers of government. As county executive, unlike the incumbent, Poloncarz will continue to fund the library system but he will demand that annual economic reviews of each library branch and the system are provided to the executive and legislature before any budget appropriations are approved. Additionally, every four (4) years Poloncarz will require an analysis be completed of the economic impact of each library branch and the system in total: a review that will examine cost savings to taxpayers and value added indicia to the community as a whole.

Poloncarz will commence such a review during his first year in office as executive. Poloncarz will also work to expand tourism opportunities for our community by highlighting the unique and valuable community assets of the Library system, like its ownership of Mark Twain’s the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn manuscript and a complete collection of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, as well as the valuable resources contained in the Mark Twain Room and the Grosvenor Rare Book Room. The contents of the Mark Twain and Rare Book rooms are priceless community assets that should never be put at risk because of a budgetary crisis caused by one person. Under a Poloncarz administration these contents will not only continue to be community assets, as Poloncarz will never put them at risk, but they will be the focus of a tourism campaign aimed at the myriad of individuals and groups that travel thousands of miles to see such assets. The New York Public Library and Cleveland Public Library draw thousands each year to visit their exhibits of rare books and artwork, and there is no reason that the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library cannot attempt to do the same with the priceless community assets it owns.

Poloncarz will also work to ensure that our libraries continue to be the centers for learning in every community of Erie County as they have in the past. While it is doubtful the system will ever grow to as many branches as it used to have, the citizens of Erie County deserve a system that retains the aspects that we have all come to expect: a place to learn for a lifetime. Andrew Carnegie understood that the key to success in life was to educate oneself and Mark Poloncarz understands the same. As such, he will demand that all library branches meet the basic criteria of being a place where people can learn from the age of 5 to 105, and that the latest technology
be available to educate the people of our county.

Libraries are important and valued community assets that provide a return on the people’s investment, and help grow and maintain an educated, informed, and connected community. As manufacturing continues to decline, and we move more towards a knowledge-based economy, the importance of libraries cannot be overstated, especially for the poor and unprivileged. It’s time to stop playing politics and hiking taxes for inexplicable ends. It’s time to elect a County Executive who understands this.

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.