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LIBRARY SEEKS YEAR'S FUNDING IN LUMP SUM

The city library wants its entire $1 million 2005 budget by Jan. 4 in order to pay the cost of becoming a special-district library, and it has decided to look for a new location.

This year the library must use its budget -- just half of what it received last year -- to preserve books and artifacts before it closes in June, and to launch a public relations campaign to explain what a school district library is and why residents should approve it, said Kenneth Hamilton, vice president of the Niagara Falls Library Board of Trustees.

The city library is only funded for half of next year under the recently approved 2005 city spending plan. On Tuesday, the library board voted to ask for all of its funds up front.

Mayor Vincenzo V. Anello said he had no choice but to reduce library funding when faced with balancing the budget, which included about a $4 million deficit.

"If the Council cut five firemen and five cops, they could have saved the library," said Anello, "In good conscience I don't think we can do it with five less. . . . I'm not going to do it, I won't have the city less protected."

The library board plans to become a school district library, a measure that must first be approved by the Niagara Falls Board of Education and then passed by voters in a spring referendum. A similar attempt was defeated by voters in 2001.

Library board members say even if the measure passes -- which would create a separate library tax to be collected at the same time as school taxes -- the facility will have to close until the new taxes are paid in August and November.

While library leaders prepare for a possible closing, Anello said the city will apply for tax anticipation notes to keep it open to the end of 2005.

"Even if the library closes, it still means a de facto tax increase because they aren't going to write off the $2.1 million (that used to go to the library's budget)," Hamilton said.

Anello has said he cannot lower taxes to make up for an added library tax because he needs the money formerly allotted for the library to operate the city.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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