Erie County's financial support is the principal funding source for the B&ECPL. In 2004, County contributions comprised more than 85% of the Library's operating and materials budgets with the balance made up of State operating aid, which has remained relatively stagnant, as well as library fines, fees and related income.
As the chart below illustrates, combining a $21.7 million 2006 Library Tax levy with the loss of County Capital funding for Library materials, Erie County's 2006 support for B&ECPL operating and library materials would be pushed down to levels not seen since 1996-97. This funding level is $7 million and 24.5% less than the Library received in 2004. In fact, the funding level is $4.7 million and 17.9% LESS than the support provided in the year 2000, the last year B&ECPL's library materials budget was fully supported through the Property Tax for Library Purposes.
Learn more about how changes in County Support have affected:
Library Operations and Staffing
Library Materials Budget
View the B&ECPL Operating and Library Materials Budgets 1996-2006 -- Chart.
Library Operations and Staffing
With such a large loss of day-to-day funding support, B&ECPL has no choice but to implement the major restructuring and downsizing that is presented in the 2006 Proposed Budget.
As shown in the B&ECPL Full-Time Position History Information, in 1976, B&ECPL had 576 full-time employees. Thirty years later, in 2006, the full-time staff will be reduced by 62% to 218. Meanwhile, the Library System's performance measures (e.g., 2004 circulation) indicate that the Library System had doubled its productivity even as it introduced a host of new services (e.g., public access computing and web-based reference) during that same 30-year period.
This seems a clear indication that B&ECPL not only manages its resources well, but also approaches challenges with innovation and always keeps an eye on economy. Providing a wealth of resources, services and programs, B&ECPL has long represented a tremendous value for the investment of tax dollars. However, given the dire state of county finances, B&ECPL has no choice but change.
Change means further downsizing and living within a smaller operating budget. Change means saying good-bye to conscientious and talented staff who have made library work not only their livelihood but their life. Change means closing the doors of libraries that have introduced children to the wonder of reading, seniors to a tranquil haven that brings the world of information to them on their own terms, and adults to the skills they require to interview successfully for their next job, change the oil filter on their car, learn a second language or manage their personal finances.
As we proceed into the 21st century, there are fewer corner mailboxes and fewer corner stores than many of us remember from days past, fewer firehouses and police precincts, fewer public and parochial schools, and in 2006 there will be fewer public libraries.
This 2006 Budget, reducing funded libraries from 52 to 36 and scaling back funding at all remaining libraries, seeks to preserve that which offers the greatest capacity to deliver quality library resources and services to the largest number of Erie County residents within the limits of available funding.
Library Materials Budget
Erie County changed how funding for the Library materials budget (books, magazines, audio books, CDs, DVDs, electronic databases, etc.) was supported at the same time they reduced the Library property tax from $26.39 million in 2000 to $22.97 million in 2001. That year, the funding was shifted from the B&ECPL's operating budget to the County Capital Budget funded by tobacco settlement proceeds. This was also the case in 2002 and initially in 2003. Mid-year in 2003, a portion of the budget was shifted to bond funding. In 2004, $4.5 million of the total $4.7 million Library materials budget was funded through the Erie County Capital Budget as a "bonded project." In 2005's adopted budget, a total of $5 million for Library materials was included in the County Capital Budget as a bonded project. This funding has not been borrowed nor transmitted to the B&ECPL.
Since this funding is part of Erie County's Capital Budget, NOT the Library's budget, it is not subject to the provisions of the Library Protection Act. The Library Protection Act prevents the County from reducing Library Tax support once the property tax levy is approved in the budget. However, the County Executive may propose and the County Legislature may amend or approve a different amount (up or down) each year during the Erie County Budget process.
As the County's financial crisis has illustrated, the practice of issuing bonds to purchase Library materials is not an advisable long-term practice and one that the 2006 budget does not continue. This leaves a large hole in the Library funding picture, which is the main reason why existing service levels can not be maintained with the current $21.7 million Library property tax alone.
Addressing the Non-Receipt of 2005 Library Materials Funding
Anticipating the delays caused by this method of financing and the County's overall deteriorating fiscal health, the Library gradually decreased ordering as much as possible in 2004 to increase the amount of cash remaining at the end of the year in the hopes of providing at least minimal service into 2005 (including renewing print and online database subscriptions, many of which occur early in the year). Even with these steps, the Library had to scale back regular materials purchasing to the bare minimum, resulting in the lay-off of 10 processing department staff in January 2005. The continued delay in funding has already forced the Library to lay-off another eight full-time personnel as the 2004 balances were exhausted, and their workload was eliminated.
Without the $5 million in capital money for 2005, the Library has no funds left for materials purchases for the remainder of 2005. This forced the Library to implement even more extensive cuts than already experienced. At its August 4th meeting, the Library Board of Trustees approved a 20% reduction in fourth quarter operations for all libraries. These cuts are funding approximately $1 million in materials purchases for the remainder of the year in order for the Library to continue meeting its mission.
2006 Library Materials Budget Will Also Be Limited
The need to incorporate library materials purchases within the reduced Erie County support expected in 2006 is the major factor driving the restructuring taking place within the B&ECPL. As with any major restructuring, one-time downsizing costs, such as termination payments and unemployment insurance costs for laid off employees as well as asset disposition expense, will be incurred in late 2005 into the 2006 budget. This expense, estimated at $2 million, is therefore not available to support library materials purchases in 2006. To avoid having to close even more libraries in 2006, the amount carved out of the existing operating budget for 2006 library materials purchases is proposed at $1.99 million, $3 million LESS than the 2005 adopted (but not received) capital budget and only about half the amount needed to properly support the 36 remaining libraries funded in the 2006 proposed budget. In 2007, the portion of the 2006 operating budget carved out to cover one-time downsizing would be available to restore the 2007 library materials budget to approximately $4 million, a more adequate amount for a 36-library system. THIS IS DEPENDENT ON 2007 COUNTY SUPPORT NOT BEING FURTHER REDUCED AND LIMITING FUTURE HEALTH AND RETIREMENT EXPENSE GROWTH TO LEVELS THAT CAN BE SUPPORTED BY LOCAL ECONOMIC GROWTH.
2006 Funding Severely Strains Library's Ability to Serve the Community, Restoring Even a Portion of the $7 Million Reduction Urged
The $21.7 million County support in the proposed 2006 budget provides an exceedingly lean funding level in 2006, even for a reduced 36 library system. This drastically reduced support will inhibit the Library's ability to serve Erie County residents properly.
Restoring even a portion of the $7 million reduction would make a major difference. For example, a $2.0 to $2.1 million increase in operating revenue and/or issuing a portion of the 2005 $5 million adopted county capital budget allocation for library materials could be used to raise the proposed 2006 library materials budget from half the national average to the national average of 15% of operating expenditures. This would at least allow the public an adequate level of new books and other library materials to help offset the fact that they will be provided through a reduced number of library facilities open fewer total hours in 2006.
STRENGTHING THE REMAINING B&ECPL MUST BE A PRIORITY IF WE ARE TO PRESERVE A QUALITY, COST-EFFECTIVE LIBRARY SERVICE THAT OUR COMMUNITY DESERVES AND AN ENLIGTENED SOCIETY REQUIRES!.