Funding To Library Cut In Half In Budget Plan

The James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry St., could possibly receive a 50 percent cut in funding from the city of Jamestown in 2018. The library received a 71 percent cut in funding from the city this year.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry St., could possibly receive a 50 percent cut in funding from the city of Jamestown in 2018. The library received a 71 percent cut in funding from the city this year. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Officials at the James Prendergast Library could possibly receive another large funding cut from the city of Jamestown in 2018.

After a 71 percent cut in funding for the library in 2017, the proposed 2018 city budget cuts the facility’s funding by 50 percent. If the cut remains in the 2018 city spending plan, that will be a total reduction of $300,000 in funding for the library from the city in the last two years. In 2016, the library received $350,000 in funding from the city. The proposed 2018 budget includes $50,000 for the library.

Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, released his executive budget proposal on Tuesday and was not happy about the proposed cut for the library in the fiscal plan.

“It pains me to recommend these reductions,” he said.

Teresi said it wouldn’t be right to propose an increase in funding to the library when he is proposing a budget with a $946,679 deficit because of increased costs for health insurance, retirement benefits and possibly salaries. Four city employee collective bargaining units have expired contracts that could potentially get settled through negotiations or arbitration and might include salary increases. The proposed 2018 budget currently has a $94,577, or .58 percent, decrease in salaries, but this would most likely change if and when an agreement is reached with the employee unions.

“How do we increase money to outside agencies when we cannot pay our own bills,” Teresi said. “The library is an incredible asset for the community.”

Gregory Rabb, Jamestown City Council president, said he also doesn’t like to make such large cuts in funding to the community’s library.

“I’ve spent 90 percent of my adult life as in adult educator. To agree to this is very painful,” he said.

Teresi said, for the most part, the library is the last outside agency the city still assists with funding. The Fenton History Center also receives funding, around $16,000, from the city, but Teresi said that is only because the city owns the Fenton Mansion and the money goes toward maintaining the facility.

Teresi’s executive budget summary, which can be found on the city’s website at jamestownny.net, said prior to the 2018 proposal to cut the library’s funding, the city has made a total cut to the facility in recent years of $285,000.

Last month, before the release of the 2018 executive budget proposal, the James Prendergast Library Association Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of receiving no funding from the city next year. While discussing their 2018 budget, R. Thomas Rankin, library board president, said they have created two different budgets, one with no city funding and one with $100,000, which is how much the city funded the facility this year. Rankin said, with their current proposed 2018 budget, what ever the city funds the library will go towards its new materials budget.

“Shame on the city if they do cut us,” Rankin said last month prior to the release of the city’s proposed budget.

The library board will meet for the first time following the release of the proposed city budget at 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

The 2018 city budget proposal includes a tax levy increase of $167,712, or 1.1 percent. With the tax levy increase, the city has once again hit its constitutional tax limit of $16,011,982. The constitutional tax limit is the amount of money a municipality can ask its property taxpayers to provide compared to the total assessed property value in the community. Each municipality in the state has a constitutional tax limit of 2 percent of the five-year average of the total assessed property value in the community.

The total budget is $35,724,391, which is a $700,897, or 2 percent, increase. The tax rate will be $23.98 per $1,000 assessed property value, which is a 21 cent increase. The proposed city budget is under the state’s tax cap.

Budget deliberations will start Monday when the council will talk to the Parks and Public Works department officials. The council has a Dec. 1 deadline to pass a budget or the executive budget will be the spending plan in 2018. To view a copy of the city budget, people can visit the offices of the city clerk or mayor at 200 E. Third St. or they can visit the James Prendergast Library, located at 509 Cherry St.

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