JAMESTOWN – Members of the Jamestown City Council heard from residents Monday night, requesting the city restore funding the James Prendergast Library as part of the city’s 2018 budget deliberations.
Six people spoke to the council in an effort to show support for library funding. In addition, Library Executive Director Tina Scott was on hand and provided the city council with a petition of 377 signatures that have been collected during the past week, calling for the city to continue funding the library at its current level.
In the executive budget that he presented last week, Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi proposed cutting funding for the library in half, down to $50,000.
Since 2015, the city has cut funding for the library by more than 85 percent to help in the effort of offseting annual funding deficits in the city budget, due to mandatory expenses such as salaries, benefits, and debt service.
Among those who spoke was city resident Paul Demler who said as someone who’s also had experience working on a budget with various challenges, he understands the situation the council members are facing, but added that they still must find a way.
“I can understand the problems with getting the money together for everything that’s necessary, but it’s something you have to do. It’s within your responsibility as it is in my responsibility,” Demler said. “I made sure that when we did it, we had the funds and we may have had to shift them from time to time, but at least the funds were available for all our needs. I think the library is one of those items the city council must devote itself to. There’s kind of a moral responsibility for all of this.”
Another city resident, Susan Kalfas, also requested that the city find a way to provide the library with adequate funding.
“Just as the council works diligently to retain home control of our city by conforming to all state regulations, so too, it is in the best interest of the city and all of its citizens to maintain the library with its impressive 204,000 item collection and its existing endowment so that this outstanding city resource will not go into decline, but will continue to support our people, especially our children,” Kalfas said.
Residents Ned Lindstrom and Michael Smoker also spoke to the important role the library plays in helping those with mental health issues, as well as area youth.
Later in the meeting Mayor Teresi addressed the city council about the city budget, including the library funding issue. He said that while he would like nothing more than to see the city increase financial support for the library, it’s something that it simply can not do under current circumstances.
“I need to stress that there should be no new spending, at least until such time, as the $947,000 deficit that we are grappling with right now can be resolved,” Teresi said. “We can not be adding any additional lines of spending in this budget and we literally can not spend what we do not have, and right now, there is a series of other things that we have to reconcile in this budget and that we’ve got to deliver on first before any new programs are added or before any existing programs that have been cut can be restored back to higher and previous funding levels.”
As the mayor noted, the $35.7 million executive budget for 2018 contains a deficit just south of $950,000 and the city council is working to identify ways to close that deficit before approving a final budget before the Dec. 1 deadline.
The council began that task on Monday night with the start of budget hearings with various department heads. Last night the council heard from the city Department of Public Works, Parks, Recreation, and Finance Departments – all of which said the proposed budget is calling for significantly less funding than what they are requesting, adding that it will be a very difficult year when it comes to equipment and building upkeep, due to a lack of adequate money.
Budget deliberations will continue in two weeks on Monday night, Oct 30 at 6:30 p.m., prior to the city council’s 7:30 voting session. Both meetings are open to the public.
The library board, meanwhile, will continue to work on its own budget for 2018 when it meets this Thursday at 5:15 p.m.