A task force Friday recommended the public library become independent of city government.
During a meeting of the Library Board of trustees in the Earl W. Brydges Library, it was agreed the board should petition city voters to change the library's charter from a municipal to a school district library.
Most task force members agreed the proposed change is the best option for long-term stability of library finances without skimping on services. As an alternative to the current city-run system, they added, it also offers the advantage of public oversight.
"The public can then digest whether the people who are running this place are spending money like drunken sailors," said City Court Judge Robert Restaino, a trustee on the board.
The board formed the task force in December after the City Council reduced its operating budget by more than $200,000. In addition to library trustees, the task force included representatives from city government, the Niagara Falls School Board and the community.
After two monthsof exploring alternatives to the current system for financing the library, the task force made its final recommendation Friday.
No vote was taken. Instead library board President Cynthia Bianco asked task force members for their recommendations. Though there seemed to be near universal agreement on the school district library option, some members expressed concerns.
Apprised that school district libraries tend to get funded at higher rates than city-run libraries, City Administrator Albert T. Joseph wondered whether that might encourage the Library Board to overspend.
"Easy, large fat budgets tend to generate waste and inefficiency," said Joseph.
Bianco argued that having a system where taxpayers vote on the library's budget would help to keep spending in check.
"The community would have the power to make sure the board is not spending frivolously, and that's the ultimate check," she said.
In addition, voters will have the power to not re-elect trustees whom they don't think are a doing a good job. Currently trustees are named by the mayor.
City Council Chairman Anthony Quaranto, a task force member, said many of his colleagues support the school district library option, though he stressed that misperception that the school district would be taking over operation of the library must be dispeled.
A school district library is not part of the district's operation and does not come under the authority of the School Board, Bianco said. And to further dispel the misperception, trustees and task force members referred to the proposal as a community-based library.
As a school district library, its service area would extend only to the school district's boundaries which, unlike some local municipalities, are identical to the city's. As a school district library, the levy to support the new library system would be included on a taxpayer's school district bill, though like school taxes are now, the fee would be collected by the city, Bianco explained.
Joseph on Friday submitted a letter to the Library Board from Mayor Irene J. Elia, who expressed concerns about the closing of the LaSalle Library.
"On a regular basis, I am told that the loss of the LaSalle Library facility represents an unfair penalty for this vital segment of our community," Elia wrote.
"The board of trustees is to be commended for reopening the children's room at the Main Library. Now I ask you to do the same thing at the LaSalle branch," she wrote.
Library officials revealed Friday that the LaSalle Library will reopen with at least two library clerks on duty at all times.