JAMESTOWN – Supporters of the James Prendergast Library were among those on hand at Jamestown City Hall Monday night for a budget meeting between city and library officials.
With the Jamestown City Council continuing to consider possible adjustments to the 2018 city budget, Prendergast Executive Director Tina Scott went over the details of the library’s operating budget and explained how funding from the city is used to help ensure the doors stay open and all services are being met.
Mayor Sam Teresi’s executive budget is calling for a 50 percent cut in library funding, from $100,000 this year to just $50,000 in 2018. Even with the cut in funding to the library, the city is still faced with a budget deficit for 2018 over nearly $950,000.
Scott said since 2013, the library has reduced their budget by $363,000, or 30 percent, and that every dollar from the city is essential to ensure the library can continue to operate.
“We’ve cut hours. We’ve offered early retirement. We’ve cut services. And we’ve instituted a hiring freeze,” Scott said. “There really is no where else to cut, being that we need to be open 55 hours a week in order to just be a library in a community of this size.”
In addition to Scott appearing before the council, several library board members and community members talked with lawmakers, urging them to restore the $50,000 cut.
Outgoing city council president Greg Rabb pointed out that the vast majority of the city council supports education and understands the important role the library plays as an educational institution in the community. However, he also said that while the entire city council wants to support the library, members also have to face the reality that the funding simply is no longer there.
“We’ve got a million dollar deficit. Tell me where you’re going to get me a million dollars so we can balance the budget. Tell me where I’m going to get $200,000 to keep our firehouses operating so our firefighters don’t have to worry about ceilings leaking and have to offer to help repair,” Rabb said, referring to details offered earlier this month by Deputy Fire Chief Chet Harvey, who stated that two of the city’s firehouses are in desperate need of repair.
“I love the library. [The rest of the city council] loves the library. We want to do the right thing, but the right thing is sometimes very painful,” Rabb said, adding that he doubts there will be an opportunity for the council to restore the money that is being cut.
If the cut stands, the city will have reduced funding for the library by more than 85 percent over the past three years.
Despite the cut in city funding, the library will be seeing an influx in new revenue due to the auctioning off of its classic art collection, which was initially valued at $1.17 million. So far the auctions have brought in $340,000 in sales, with the most valued of the art pieces yet to be sold. The next auction will take place later this month on Nov. 21 at Sotheby’s auction house. But even with the new revenue, it’s unlikely it will be adequate to help the library though its financial challenges because the majority will be put in its endowment fund, with the generated interest from that fund being applied toward future library budgets.
Council Also Hears from City Development Department, Fenton History Center
As part of the budget deliberations, the council also heard from City Development Director Vince DeJoy, who focused on the various successes the city has seen in economic development and housing initiatives, despite having to work on a shoe string budget.
Fenton History Center Executive Director Noah Goodling also shared details of his budget with the city. The history center is located in the Fenton Mansion, which is owned by the city and as a result, the city is responsible for helping with the building’s upkeep.
The city council will hold a public hearing on the budget next Monday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. and will likely approve a final spending plan when it holds its monthly voting session on Monday, Nov. 27.
Copies of the city budget are available in city hall in the clerk’s office and the mayor’s office, as well as at the James Prendergast Library.