In what librarian union president Tim Galvin calls "a severe blow," the Republican members of the Erie County Legislature held an unexpected press conference on Sunday morning to announce withdrawal of their support for full restoration of funding to public libraries. They said they would support $3 million in restored funding, not the $4 million that is needed.
The Librarians Association of Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries, headed by Galvin, staged several rallies and turned out in force at public hearings to persuade lawmakers to hold fast on the budget. They had been hopeful when the legislature, in a preliminary vote Nov. 30, voted unanimously to restore the $4 million in library support that was taken away by County Executive Chris Collins.
After their vote, Galvin said Collins went full out on a campaign to get Republicans to flip their vote, using radio commercials and robo-calls telling people the restoration would increase taxes.
Not so, says Galvin, who cites the county comptroller as agreeing that the county is well over the amount in its mandatory surplus, which contains federal stimulus funds.
Even with $3 million restored, there will be a loss of 50 full-time equivalent jobs, Galvin said, including librarians and clerks from three different unions. In addition, many branches would have "radically diminished" hours. "Most branch hours would be cut from around 40 to either no more than 24. In our outer suburbs, there is only a library every 10-15 miles."
Sixteen branches were closed in 2005 and never reopened.
The $4 million restoration, which would maintain current funding, would mean the loss of 30 full-time equivalents, due to Collins' refusal to release $750,000 already-allocated funds in a balance transfer, Galvin said.
He said Collins has been taken to court twice by librarians and once by Erie County Community College for failing to release similar funds and for diminishing the bargaining position and work status of librarians. He has lost each case.
"He's busting unions is what he's doing," said Galvin, noting Collins' is known for buying companies, firing everyone, and bringing back help as non-union members with diminished or no health benefits.
You can send emails of support by going to http://www.voteyesforourlibrary.org/eriebuffalo/.