Honorable Legislators, good afternoon. My name is Larry Buck and it is my privilege to serve as Chairman of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library Board of Trustees. With me today are Library Director Michael Mahaney, Trustee Rick Berger, who is Treasurer and Chairman of the Library's Budget and Finance Committee, and Chief Financial Officer Ken Stone. (Behind us is the Library's Chief Operating Officer Mary Jean Jakubowski.) In the audience are other members of the Library Board, representatives of our contracting libraries, key members of the staff and some friends from the community.
I'll begin my remarks today with two words many of us don't say often enough: Thank you.
This year, with your help, Erie County and its public library system turned a corner. After two years of crisis, we began to restore what had been reduced and repair what had been broken. We took the first steps toward making our new, leaner library system more responsive and more effective, so it can better serve the diverse needs of our diverse community. While many still depend on us for traditional library resources and services such as books, magazines, media and general reference, more and more of our residents rely on their local library as their sole source for technology and their onramp to the Internet. We need to respond to new needs as well as old needs in a constantly changing environment.
Thank you for investing in our public libraries. This year, for the first time in 3 years, you and your fellow legislators increased our annual appropriation, restoring $500,000, and we have used those funds to expand hours of public access, especially at libraries that had failed to meet New York State minimum standards in 2006. We have much farther to go, but we are moving in the right direction, and we are grateful for your partnership and your continuing support.
As you know, the County Executive has recommended flat funding for the Library in 2008 - exactly the same level of support that we received this year. We have proposed some modest restorations, in a tiered format similar to last year's request package. If these restorations were funded in full, the additional monthly share from the owner of an average $100,000 taxable value property would be approximately 67 cents! We consider that a very modest investment for a significant return. We hope you will consider our request a reasonable one. I can assure you, we and the library users of our community will be grateful for your help.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you again for something else you did for us just one year ago, when the 15 members of the Erie County Legislature voted unanimously to make the Library Protection Act a permanent local law. You can't begin to imagine how much that vote meant to the trustees, staff and volunteers who commit themselves daily to delivering quality library services to the people of Buffalo and Erie County. That vote represented more than just the enactment of legislation. It was a demonstration of your awareness and appreciation of the value of library resources and services within our community, and for that you should be commended. Mr. Mahaney has a few remarks to share with you before Mr. Berger and Mr. Stone provide a more detailed explanation of our basic request and restoration proposals.
Thank you, Mr. Buck.
I too wish to add my thanks for the Legislature's cooperation and support. The Legislature and the Library make a terrific team, and we have accomplished some great things together!
One year ago, many of our libraries did not receive enough in County financial support to meet New York State's minimum standards. This year, thanks to your aid, they do meet those minimum standards - but in some cases just barely. We should aspire to be more than a minimal library system. Our patrons, your constituents, deserve more than the bare minimum, and we should not be satisfied when that is all we can offer them.
Last year, some of our branches were open only 18 hours per week, and that was unacceptable. Through your help, we were able to expand those hours from 18 to 24 at a few locations. Consider again that we have climbed upward, but we are still hovering at minimal levels of access and service. For the sake of comparison, consider the New York Public Library, where even the smallest, least busy branch is open a minimum of 40 hours per week. That should be a benchmark, and with your help, we can reach it at more locations in 2008. Traditionally, the measure of a library's success included such factors as circulation, visits and program attendance. We still collect that data and it's still relevant, but today, with remote access to databases, opportunities for online loan renewals and downloadable media, some of those old measures don't mean everything they used to mean, and other output measures have assumed increasing significance. Consider, for example, computer use.
Many in our community are fortunate to have personal computers and access to the Internet in their homes, offices or schools. Conversely, many do not, and for many thousands of them the only access available to conduct research for a homework assignment, to complete an online job application, to e-mail friends and family around the globe, to compose a resume, to find legal forms and even to request a library book from a branch at the opposite end of the county [the only access] is their local public library. If you examine the board behind me, you can see the growth in computer use from 2006 to 2007. This board was prepared earlier this month before the October statistics were available. As significant as the increased use was between January and September, the number is even larger when you factor in the most recent month. This year, computer sessions at our 37 locations county-wide have increased nearly 25% over the same period last year. Among the City of Buffalo's 8 branch libraries, that increase is a staggering 63% increase over last year. What does this mean? It means many things, but two very important ones: first, many people in our community need this service that the library provides - it is not a frill; it is a necessity ― and second, the only way these individuals can utilize this service is when we can open our doors and let them in. Every hour we're closed is an hour when these individuals are locked out of the global information commons. Access is the key word, both physical access, by providing these valuable resources and a place to use them, and electronic or virtual access, by connecting our residents to online resources that enrich them and enlighten them and sometimes even just entertain them.
We're not Norman Rockwell's library anymore and we shouldn't be!
The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library has assumed an active and leading role in major community initiatives to tackle the serious problem of illiteracy in Erie County, where one in five county residents is functionally illiterate -- meaning they can't read beyond a 5th grade level. In the City of Buffalo, the percentage is nearly one-third. We can't afford to let those numbers stand.
In support of job growth and economic development, the Library actively partners with the Small Business Administration, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the Buffalo/Niagara Partnership, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, other area business associations, governmental agencies and colleges and universities to provide program coordination, networking services and face-to-face training for those who need it.
For example, the Library's Small Business Outreach Program, which is designed to foster economic development in Erie County, has:
Today's public library is a far cry from yesterday's, and tomorrow's will need to be even more. We must preserve what is best from our past as we embrace what is most essential for our collective future.
This is my final appearance before this body in my capacity as Library Director. I retire from active service January 4th. Before I conclude my remarks, I ask you to consider the progress we have made together, and I urge you to help us climb one more rung on the ladder of recovery. We are moving in the right direction, and, as I depart, it would reassure me to know that you remain committed to this great institution that serves so many Erie County residents so well.
Perhaps legendary broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite expressed it best when he said: "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." Continue to invest in the library, and your return on that investment is a better future for all of us and for all those who follow us.
And now Mr. Berger and Mr. Stone can provide you with more detail on the Library's budget requests for 2008.
Thank you Mr. Mahaney.
My name is Rick Berger. I'm President & Chief Operating Officer of NanoDynamics and serve as the Chairperson of the Library Board's Budget and Finance Committee.
The Budget & Finance Committee monitors the Library's budget and provides policy direction to staff in preparing the Library's annual budget request.
The 2008 County Executive's recommended budget sustains the progress made using the $500,000 provided by the legislature in 2007. This "base budget" leaves county "Library Tax" support at 2007's $22.2 million, an amount that is still less than was provided for valuable library services 10 years ago. Unfortunately, we are missing an opportunity to further rebuild the library and the needed services it provides to our community's library users be they children, job seekers, or small business owners.
We made progress in 2007; however we need to continue to move forward, restoring additional access to the streamlined library system. Adding back weekly open hours, emphasizing days and times most convenient to the public, will allow the library to effectively meet growing demand at a modest cost.
To proactively address the situation, we request your consideration of library service restoration proposals. These proposals are grouped, starting with high impact restorations to allow existing libraries to provide more effective public access and service and progressing through a series of service restorations that will pilot and ultimately expand alternate service provision models. They are designed to be implemented sequentially over the course of one to three budget years depending upon the County's funding situation and other needs.
The monthly cost of the Library's restoration requests to an average $100,000 taxable value property is modest.
Just 22 cents per month would restore additional weekly open hours outreach efforts, technology training and children's, teen and adult programming in existing library locations spread throughout the county.
Another 22 cents per month would strengthen existing libraries by further expanding weekly open hours, training, programming; and would pilot alternate service delivery models.
Finally, an additional 23 cents per month would allow the Library to continue to expand alternate service provision models and outreach.
As Mr. Buck indicated, the monthly cost for an average $100,000 taxable value property owner, should all restoration requests be approved, would be approximately 67 CENTS!
The Library will work to maximize the impact of any funding provided in a cost-effective manner. Including all restoration proposals, the value provided to the taxpayer through its library system would be at a total annual cost that would still be less than what the taxpayers provided in 2000 and, for an average $100,000 taxable value property owner, less than the cost of 2 to 4 hardcover books!
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to speak with you on these important matters.
I would now like to introduce the Library's Chief Financial Officer, Ken Stone, who will provide an overview of the Library's 2008 Budget Request.
Greetings Honorable Legislators,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide an overview of the 2008 budget request, which is summarized on pages 2 through 15 of your Budget Overview and Issues handout:
Page 2 provides a brief outline of how we got to this point.
As Mr. Buck mentioned, the much appreciated $500,000 restoration approved by the legislature in 2007 was put to good use to implement focused service restorations aimed at making our leaner library system more responsive and effective, providing the most value for our customers in meeting their diverse needs.
This progress has been achieved with county funding that is still 22.7% ($6.5 million) less than provided in 2004. $2.0 million of the reduction was in the Library Property Tax. The $4.5 million balance of decreased county support resulted from eliminating Erie County Capital support for library material. Overall, County support for the Library remains less than was provided ten years ago.
The charts that follow show that County property taxpayers have seen their library property tax decline over what they paid ten years ago. Both the total Library tax levy and the rate paid per average $100,000 taxable value property are lower!
The chart on page 3 details the county support provided to the library from 1998 to the proposed 2008 budget. It shows the $22.2 million library tax proposed in the 2008 County Executive's budget is less than the levy provided in 1998!
Meanwhile, the consumer price index, depicted by the green line on the chart, will have increased an estimated 30% over that same period and many items the library must purchase increased by larger amounts. Had library funding simply followed consumer prices, Erie County funding would total approximately $31.0 million in 2008.
The charts on pages 4 through 6 place Library property tax support in context.
The County Average Annual Library Tax chart on page 4 shows, on average, a $100,000 taxable value property owner paid $95 per year for library services in 1998 decreasing to an estimated $69 per year for library services in 2008's base budget. Even if all the Library's requested restorations were approved, the amount would rise modestly to $77 per year, which a property owner could recover by checking out just 2-4 hardcover books!
The table on page 5 compares the growth in the county tax base between the 2006 and 2008 budgets and the taxes levied by the county over that same period. Both the tax base and the combined county levy will have grown over 12% over this two-year period. In other words, the combined county property tax rate remained flat, while dollars raised through the levy grew with the tax base.
However, when the combined county tax levy is separated into its two components, the county "mandated" purpose levy grew 14% (or $23,243,348) while the Library tax levy grew 2% (or $500,000). This is highlighted in green on the table.
The blue highlighted row shows the change if the County and Library levies had both matched tax base growth. In other words if both the County "mandated" and Library Tax rates had been held flat. Had that occurred the Library's levy would have grown over $2.7 million and nearly all of the Library's 2008 restoration request would have been already funded!,
The Library Property Tax share of a property owner's total property taxes paid is very small. The charts on page 6 compare the proportions a village property owner paid in taxes by entity in 1999 (the year before Erie County reduced its property tax) and 2007. As you can see, both the County and Library tax make up a smaller share of the property taxes paid in 2007 than in 1999. The library's share having fallen from 2.4% of total property taxes paid in 1999 to 2.1% in 2007. It is important to note that the Library Property Tax is the sole source of county support as the Library receives no share of the county's sales tax revenue.
The impact on B&ECPL staffing over the period is discussed on page 8, with full-time personnel trends over the past thirty years charted on page 9. Under the 2008 BASE Budget County funding, full-time staffing will have DECREASED 346.5 positions and 60% from 1975 levels while Erie County's population decreased 15% from 1,113,491 in the 1970 census to 950,265 in the 2000 census.
Of the 229.5 full-time positions in the 2008 base budget, 211 are in the SAP system (and shown in your budget position runs) with the remaining 18.5 funded through the contract line for those suburban contracting libraries not yet participating in B&ECPL's Centralized Human Resources Program.
Operating under these conditions required constant evaluation of the mix and methods of service delivery and the staffing levels required to cost-effectively provide library services. Techniques included applying technology, conducting process improvement studies, and aggressively managing turnover to evaluate and reclassify/redeploy vacated positions to meet library users' changing needs.
Unfortunately, the 22.7% reduction in County support since 2004 continues to place an unprecedented strain on the Library's ability to provide quality public services. Despite the Library's ongoing efforts to restructure, streamline and innovate, additional support is needed.
The chart on page 12, Library Restoration Requests - Strong Bang for Few Bucks summarizes the Library's requested restoration proposals that, if fully implemented, would restore the Library Tax to $24.7 million. County support would still be $4.0 million LOWER than that provided in 2004 and less than provided in 2000.
As previously mentioned, to proactively address the situation, this budget request contains groupings of service restoration proposals, starting with high impact restorations to allow existing libraries to provide more effective public access and service and progressing through a series of service restorations that will pilot and ultimately expand alternate service provision models. They are designed to be implemented sequentially with timing depending upon the County's funding situation. The Library will work to maximize the impact of any funding provided in a cost-effective manner.
The three level progressive series of restorations are listed in greater detail by location on pages 17 through 23 of this handout.
In LEVEL 1, system funding would provide support for weekly open hours emphasizing nights/weekends; restoring outreach efforts; restoring technology training; restoring system support for faster library material processing; and restoring additional children's, teen and adult programming.
Examples by Library, in alphabetical order, include funding: 5 open hours at the Alden Free Library; 4 open hours for Wednesday evening service at Amherst's Eggertsville Library; 10 open hours at the Angola Library; 3 open hours for Tuesday evening service at the Aurora Library; 6 additional open hours per week (up from 24 to 30 hours per week and 4 days to 5 days per week) at Buffalo's East Clinton, East Delavan and North Park Libraries; 16 open hours to restore Buffalo's Niagara Library to 40 hours per week (up from 24); 8 open hours to provide Thursday service at Buffalo's new, heavily used Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library (increasing the library to 7 open days per week during the school year); 1.5 open hours for the Children's Room, Grovsenor Room and Business and Science departments of the Central Library allowing them to open when the main library opens each day; 4 open hours for Wednesday evening service at Cheektowaga's Reinstein Memorial Library; support for children's programming at the Clarence and Concord Libraries; 6 open hours at the Elma Library; 7 open hours to provide Friday service at the Grand Island Library; 4 open hours to restore Sunday service at the Hamburg Library; 4 open hours to extend Tuesday and Thursday evening service at the City of Lackawanna Library; 4 open hours to restore Sunday service at the Lancaster Library; provide programming assistance at the Marilla Free Library; support increased children's and adult computer literacy programs at the Orchard Park Library; 4 open hours to restore Sunday service at the Tonawanda's Kenmore Library; and provide programming support for the West Seneca Library.
In LEVEL 2, system funding would be provided to support further expanding open hours at the Aurora Library, Buffalo Branch Libraries, Grand Island Library, Hamburg's Lake Shore Library and Tonawanda's Kenilworth Library.
It would also support additional programs for children, teens, business persons; technology training for multiple audiences; and increase involvement with Good Schools for All literacy programming.
Finally, this funding level would allow the Library to pilot alternate service delivery models in cooperation with nearby existing libraries. Tentatively titled "Library Express", space for service points would be leased in mall and street shopping districts. The convenience and extended hours of these locations provide access to a high volume of customers. The ability to "combine trips" in this era of high fuel prices is also a plus. Other libraries using this setting have experienced circulation and use that is four times usage for a similarly sized traditional library location. Being open longer and later than traditional libraries will expose the library to customers who might not otherwise be able to utilize library services. This proposal also provides an attractive opportunity for collaboration/shared tenancy with related educational and cultural organizations.
In LEVEL 3, system funding would be provided to support further expanding programming, system services, community contacts/outreach, and pilot the Library Express concept at additional locations.
As mentioned previously, the monthly cost of the full restoration package to a $100,000 taxable value property, approximately 67 cents, would be less than the price of a regular cup of coffee!
Shifting gears towards the 2008 County Capital Budget, as pages 13 through 15 show, deferred Capital Needs may be coming home to roost. As a result of its fiscal crisis, the County has not secured funding for new library projects in more than three years. The list of needed projects has grown while B&ECPL's County project pipeline is essentially dry. The 2008 Proposed County Capital Budget begins to address this backlog.
Escalator replacement and related asbestos abatement at the Central Library is the Library's top priority project.
The escalators are original, built in 1963 and have never been replaced or upgraded. A study was done resulting in a recommendation to replace the energy inefficient escalators, which run constantly, with a bank of elevators. This project was included in the 2004 Adopted County Capital Budget but cancelled during the 2005-2006 budget crisis.
As discussed on page 13, in addition to being energy inefficient, the 43-year-old, 3 section escalator system (ascending 5 stories) is a potential safety hazard and a recurring maintenance problem. Delaying funding from 2004 to 2008 has significantly increased the likelihood that the escalators will experience unrecoverable failure prior to replacement. This $2.2 million project includes asbestos abatement of the escalator and adjacent areas and replacing adjacent public restrooms at the 1st and 2nd floors.
Central Library Fuel Tank, Mechanical Equipment and Exterior Renovation is the Library's next priority project. The Library has leveraged private and New York State grant funds to support $483,896 of this project's cost, lowering the request for County Capital funds to $150,000. Project detail is discussed on page 14. 2008 County share funding is critical as the construction on the state/private funded portions of the project must be completed by 6/30/2009 or over $239,000 in state funds would be lost.
Library future year capital requests address basic building needs and consolidation opportunities. Listed on page 15, future year projects focus on two areas.
First, completing asbestos abatement and renovation of the Central Library is a high priority. Now in year 17 of the County's 10 year asbestos management plan for the library, further delay of this activity will only increase costs. County funds are requested principally to cover the costs of asbestos abatement and basic building restoration for this county owned facility. Commitment of County support will aid the Library in its fundraising efforts to raise the balance of project costs.
Second, providing incentive funding for future voluntary library consolidation projects stems from a previous County Executive sponsored initiative to consolidate two or more older/smaller libraries into one larger modern facility, providing greater capability to provide library service while controlling annual operating/staffing costs.
The remaining pages in this handout provide additional detail on the Library's 2008 Budget Request, including:
Restoration Request Detail by Category and Library (Pages 17-23); and
Operating Revenue and Expense Listing - "Form 4" (Pages 24 - 30).
Of course, additional explanations, charts and graphs are also available on the Library's website at www1.buffalolib.org
Thank you for your interest and support. Chairperson Buck, Budget and Finance Committee Chairperson Berger, Director Mahaney, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.