Voters Tuesday turned down the Library Board's bid to separate from city government by a nearly 2-to-1.
The unofficial count was 1,942-1,028 on the proposition to create a community library and set a budget of $1.8 million.
Total voter turnout was 2,904 without absentee ballots. The large turnout surprised many observers. Steady streams of voters stood in lines for an hour or more in the humid heat in the LaSalle branch, which has no air conditioning, and the Earl W. Brydges branch, where the air conditioning had been broken since Monday.
About a dozen people willing to discuss their votes upon exiting the polls cited their desire to avoid a tax increase as the main reason for their opposition. A few said despite their "no" votes, they felt that the community library concept might have merit but that there were too many unanswered questions.
Mayor Irene J. Elia, who along with her top aides waged a vigorous campaign to defeat the proposition, said her administration "applauds the decision made by the citizens of Niagara Falls to defeat the Library Board referendum."
"This vote shows that the people were attentive to our message about the negative impacts the Library Board proposals would have had on the city and it residents. At the same time, we are committed to work with the Library Board to provide the best possible library services for the people of Niagara Falls," she said.
Elia said she was not prepared to say how she would work with the board she has been at odds with for many months.
"We have to just re-evaluate," she said, but said she had not gone beyond her prepared statement in determining how.
She said the city workers, including City Administrator Albert T. Joseph and department heads, who spent much of Tuesday at the polls, had taken personal days and were not on city time. She said the mailings sent out to defeat the proposal and buses used to bring in senior citizens to vote had not been paid for with city funds. She said nothing was done on city time or with city money. The Committee to Save Our Library, a political action committee, headed by City Clerk Cynthia R. Baxter, has obtained commitments -- but no funds yet -- to pay for the campaign, Elia said.
Library officials said they were pleased with the process and the turnout despite the outcome. They attributed defeat to "a campaign of misinformation" by opponents.
"The community has spoken," said longtime library Trustee Don J. King, whose attempted ouster by Elia was one of the factors that led to the proposed split.
The other reason cited by library officials was a history of budget cuts culminating in December when Council members advised library trustees to seek alternative funding because more cuts could be expected until city finances improve. They believed the library had a better chance of achieving long-term financial stability with the voters than with the politicians.