February 17, 2018

Will Temporary Sales Tax Plan Save Buffalo System?

By LJ Staff

The 52-branch Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (BECPL), NY, could close all its branches as of January 1 unless a change is made to a county budget that cuts $18 million in support–75 percent of its operating funds. BECPL already has eliminated its reserve service. As property taxes in Erie County are currently at 40 percent above the national average, some members of the Erie County legislature may propose a temporary sales tax increase to 9.25 percent beginning March 1 to generate $109 million in 2005 and $125 million the following year. The decision deadline is December 7, the same date that would be the last day to borrow and renew library materials if the system shuts down.

More than 5500 residents signed a petition to keep the libraries open, with two rival groups working to make that happen. Save Our Libraries supports keeping all branches operational, despite BECPL’s plan to close two and build a new one. It is not endorsed by BECPL. Citizens to Save the Library is approved by BECPL, which urged both parties to present a unified front when testifying in public. The library has prepared an advocacy page, which includes a statement to the county legislature by Board Chair Rebecca Pordum, who noted that 2003 was the library’s busiest ever, and that the trend has continued in 2004. "I stand behind the Library’s original 2005 budget request–one that continues to economize but sustains current service levels to all Erie County residents," she said. At a hearing, Philip Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, charged, "Closing libraries is the equivalent of burning books."