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Prendergast Library Loses Its Central Library Status

The James Prendergast Library is no longer considered a central library by the state of New York.

On Tuesday, Tina Scott, library executive director, told The Post-Journal that during the holidays, New York state revoked the Prendergast Library’s central library status.

The Prendergast Library had shared the central library status with the Olean Public Library.

Scott said the loss of the central library status was a result of the failed state Maintenance of Effort clause. The state’s Maintenance of Effort for Public Library Systems clause tries to ensure that local municipalities fund library operations so the state isn’t the only taxing entity supporting the facility.

When city of Jamestown officials reduced its funding toward the library from $350,000 to $50,000 during a two-year period, 2017 and 2018, the Prendergast Library failed the state’s Maintenance of Effort clause. The Maintenance of Effort clause states that the reduction of 5% or more of a library’s funding by the local community for two consecutive years will result in a reduction in state aid. Because of its own financial issues, city officials cut funding to the Prendergast Library by 71% ($250,000) in 2017 and 50% ($50,000) in 2018.

The loss of central library status will result in a significant loss in state aid for the Prendergast Library. Prior to the failed Maintenance of Effort clause, the library would have received around $123,000 in state aid in 2019. However, because of the 25% percent cut in state aid, the library only received around $81,000 in state aid last year.

Now because of the additional loss of central library status, the library will only receive around $11,000 in state aid in 2020.

“We lost $111,000 in state funding because we’re no longer a central library,” Scott said.

Scott said the Prendergast Library and Olean Public Library together normally received around $167,000 in funding as co-central libraries. The funding was split with Prendergast receiving two-thirds of the state aid because it’s a larger library while Olean received a third of the funding. Now, because the Prendergast Library is no longer considered a central library, Olean will receive a little more in state funding, but not as much as the two libraries collectively received in past years.

Scott said the libraries used the state central library funding to purchase non-fiction and reference materials. Because the Prendergast Library is no longer receiving this funding, it has reduced its budget for non-fiction and reference materials, which was shared with smaller libraries in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Library System (CCLS).

“We would purchase non-fiction and reference materials that all libraries (in the CCLS) benefited from,” she said. “Other libraries cannot afford these materials. Because we will no longer receive that aid, it’s a huge loss. We were all using that money for non-fiction and reference materials.”

Library officials will be hosting a public vote for residents of the Jamestown Public Schools district asking for $350,000 in additional funding. If voters approve the additional funding, Scott said the library will eventually regain its Maintenance of Effort funding and central library status. However, it won’t regain its state aid and central library status until 2022 because of the two-year period it takes state officials to approve the Maintenance of Effort. Scott said the library will be hosting a another community conversation about the library vote at 5:30 p.m. today at the library, located at 509 Cherry St.

In other financial library business, Scott said Prendergast officials will use the additional $50,000 in funding from the city to lower the percentage use of its endowment fund. She said during the last five years, the library has increased its use of endowment funding to 7%. She said it is recommended to only use 5%, but because of the funding cuts the Prendergast Library Board of Trustees increased its use of the endowment. She added that because of the additional $50,000 from the city in 2020, a total of $100,000, library board members selected to reduce the amount it uses from the endowment to 6%.

The library also received a $50,000 grant from the Lenna Foundation for operations in 2020.

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