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Let the People Vote on Library Funding

The Buffalo & Erie County Public Library “the people’s university” is being pulverized before our very own eyes. This once proud library system which numbered 52 branches at its pinnacle now has downsized to 37 branches since the red and green budget of 2005. The former Erie County Executive capriciously decided to allocate less money to the library during his tenure than previous administrations. In his estimation the library was not considered a valuable cultural institution that attracted visitors from outside the region, thus it was not worthy of increased funding. This was an erroneous statement.

At a recent meeting of the Erie County Legislature an 8-2 vote was taken not to support the idea of a referendum by the library to have the citizens of Erie County decide whether or not to establish a Special Library District (SLD) to raise revenue. The citizens have every right to determine that the library have a dedicated revenue source. Certainly the annual ritual of funding the library has become a lesson in futility. The politicians are afraid of losing their control of the budget process. The Special Library District is a similar concept to the local school districts voting on budgets. The SLD is not an extra tax. The County property taxes fund the library. So why not give the citizens the right to vote on a referendum to allocate funds for libraries?

During my 35-year career as a librarian and library director I survived at least five major budget reductions to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. Once I was laid off and fortunately found another job as a librarian elsewhere. When the 2011 library budget was released and reduced hours and staffing were called for. I decided that it was time to retire because that was the last budget that would take a toll on my career and health. The library is a venerable organization that has been in existence since 1835. It is very cost effective and gives residents a big bang for their dollar. So let’s take a risk and give the library the financial independence it seeks. Let the citizens decide the future of the library and not the politicians. Why does Erie County have to be so provincial instead of progressive?

> Salvatore Bordonaro, Kenmore



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