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The Prendergast Library Still Has No Official Word On State Funding Cut

The James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees discussed how it hasn’t been told officially by the state if its aid will be cut by 25%. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

More than three months after being told unofficially its aid would be cut by 25%, James Prendergast Library officials still haven’t received word from state officials on whether that will be the case.

On Thursday during the James Prendergast Library Board of Trustees meeting, Tina Scott, library executive director, said she is still working with state officials on the maintenance of effort waiver process.

In June, Scott told The Post-Journal that the unofficial word has come down from state officials that the library’s aid will be cut. The library typically gets around $75,000 from the state in aid, of which $65,000 will receive the reduction. The state aid reduction will be around $16,500.

Scott said in June funding for nonfiction and reference materials for the entire Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System will also receive a 25% reduction. She said the two center libraries, Prendergast and Olean Public Library, house the nonfiction and reference materials purchased with the state funding. She said typically the entire library system receives around $45,000 for nonfiction and reference materials, but that will be reduced by 25% this year, which will be a decrease of around $11,250.

The reduction in state aid is a result of city of Jamestown officials cutting the library’s funding by more than 5% in a two-year period. Because of its own financial issues, the city government cut funding to the Prendergast Library by 50% ($50,000) in 2018 and 71% ($250,000) in 2017.

For the first half of the year, the Prendergast Library and the entire library system completed a maintenance of effort waiver application to possibly avoid the 25% cut in state aid. Library officials have to apply for the waiver because of the state’s Maintenance of Effort for Public Library Systems clause, which tries to ensure that local municipalities will also fund the library so the state isn’t the only taxing entity supporting the facility.

“It’s frustrating for me,” Scott said about not know whether the library’s funding will be cut by the state.

In other business, the library discussed its funding request to the city for the 2020 budget. Scott said library officials will be asking for the same amount — $50,000 — it has received the last two years. Last year, library officials had requested that city officials increase its funding to the library back up to $100,000, which is what it received in 2017. However, the city kept its funding level at $50,000 in 2019.

Scott told the board that the library has received official notice from the state that it will receive a “Creating Comfort Responsibly” construction grant from the state Education Department. Scott said the library will use the grant to finish changing the windows on the Sixth Street side of the facility to more energy efficient windows.

Last year, all of the windows on the Cherry and Washington street sides of the building were replaced while five of 26 windows facing Sixth Street were exchanged. The library received a $125,000 New York State Aid For Library Construction grant for the window replacement project. For library officials to receive the state grant, they needed a 25% local match for the project. With help from the city of Jamestown and the Lenna Foundation, library officials were able to attain the $42,000 match they needed for the $167,500 window and elevator door replacement project.

Along with replacing the remaining windows, Scott said library officials would also like to install a sound absorber to lessen the noise from the air conditioner in the community room and be reimbursed for the LED light conversion project they have already completed.

Scott said the local match for the possible future project is $70,000. She said so far library officials have received $55,000 for the next project. The total cost of the project is around $250,000.

If completed, this will be the fourth capital project at the library since 2014. At the beginning of 2015, construction was finished on the first phase of library renovations. Phase 1 improvements included constructing Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restrooms for men and women on the first floor; adding a family restroom in the children’s room; turning a second-floor storage space into a community room; and creating a new teen space. The library received a $294,000 state grant and a $70,000 matching grant from city officials for the first phase renovations.

In October 2016, Phase 2 was completed, which added Americans with Disabilities Act upstairs bathrooms and converted a freight elevator into a passenger elevator. In 2015, library officials received a $243,000 grant from the state Department of Education through its Public Library Construction program for the Phase 2 project. Library officials also received $77,000 from the Hultquist Foundation that was used as the 25 percent local match, which was necessary to receive the state grant.

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