JAMESTOWN – The James Prendergast Library will be in financial dire straits if the city were to move forward and cut 70 percent of its funding for next year.
That’s according to Library Executive Director Tina Scott, who met with Jamestown City Council members Monday night during a works session for the 2017 city budget.
According to Scott, nearly a third of the library’s annual operating budget comes from the city of Jamestown through an annual payment. However, the city is facing a major budget deficit next year and as a result, it is proposing a 70 percent cut in funding – which equates to $250,000.
Scott told city lawmakers that if they were to go forward with that type of a cut, it would result in domino effect of funding cuts that would further impact the library, and would also reverberate through the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System.
“When we are cut more than five percent over two years, the whole library system is in danger of [seeing state funding] cut by 25 percent. That would result in $237,847 in state aid being cut for the system, which serves 36 libraries within the two counties. Because Prendergast is a central library, we split the central library funding with Olean, but we get two-thirds and they get a third, so that would be loss of $27,000 between us – or $18,000 for us and $9,000 for Olean.”
Scott also said that in addition to the library system losing state funding because of the cut, the problem would be compounded because the Prendergast could lose central library status because it would likely have to cut several key services, including staying open 55 hours each week, providing adequate reading material, and offering on-site computer and internet service.
“If we can’t meet those needs, then we can’t have central library status,” Scott told the city council. “And what we’ve discovered this week is that we thought that [staying open] 55 hours a week was necessary just because we are a central library, but it’s not. We also have to be open 55 hours a week because of the size of the city we are in. If we were to lose central library status, we’d lose about $75,000 in central library aid. So we would lose that money and we could – over the years if this goes forward – keep taking money from our endowment and it reduces to nothing, we’ll be a very, very small library.”
So if the city were to cut funding by $250,000, Scott says the actual impact it would have is closer to $343,000.
LIBRARY ALREADY PURSING CUTS TO BALANCE ITS OWN BUDGET
Scott said the library has already made cuts to its budget for next year, including having three top-level employees take early retirement. She said that the board is still weighing its option about selling its art collection – although that money would likely go into the library’s endowment and would provide long-term support that is needed to have the library continue to operate at its current level.
Following her presentation, the city council asked if there were other fund raising possibilities for the library to pursue to offset the loss form the city, and Scott said they were continuing to work on those kinds of ideas. She said a couple of public input sessions are also planned later this month to allow the public an opportunity to help with the library’s strategic plan.
Following the discussion, City Council member and Finance Committee Chair Tony Dolce said that it’s not likely the city council will be able to restore any of the funding to the library, as it continues to look for ways to close its own operating deficit for next year.
So far, the city council has identified about $53,000 in savings to the proposed $35 million budget for next year, but that comes no where near the amount needed to close an $879,000 deficit.
The city council will act on the 2016 budget on Monday, Nov. 28. A final budget meeting is set to take place that same night, starting at 6:30 p.m. the council will vote on the budget during its 7:30 voting session that same night.