Town government is expected to finance the library without village dollars, after voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan last week that would have supported it with a special district tax.
The Town Board this week approved funding the library with $290,000 for 2005. That is $10,000 less than approved for this year and $60,000 less than what the library requested.
"Ten thousand dollars is a lot of books," Library Director Lisa Seivert said. "Our staffing is down to the bare minimum. This cut weakens our purchasing abilities and staffing. We've already lost three pages, so we have no one to shelve books."
Seivert said that even with a $300,000 budget for 2004, the library is operating at a deficit of more than $20,000 and now faces the decision of whether to make more cuts or operate at a deficit next year until the system runs out of money, then shut down for part of the year.
Some members of the Town Board have asked the library to turn to the Village Board to make up the difference. Currently, funding comes from a part-town fund, which means village taxpayers are excluded.
Village Mayor Richard F. Soluri, agreeing with Town Board members, said he would like to see the funding for the library put back into a whole-town fund so that both town and village taxpayers would pay toward the library.
There are two other libraries in the town, in Ransomville and Sanborn, which are supported by all town taxpayers. These are free-association libraries governed by different regulations than the Lewiston library, which is a public library.
Town Board members have urged the Village Board, unsuccessfully, during the last three years to pay as much as 40 percent toward the Lewiston library budget. The town's unwillingness to pay 100 percent was the main reason the library board considered a special district plan, Seivert said.
"How can you plan a budget year to year when you never know how much you are going to receive? We were hoping to achieve a stable funding source," Seivert said. "An agreement (between the town, village and library) made in 1990 says the town is responsible for our funding; only one party has designated that agreement null and void."
In the early 1990s, it was established that the town, as the host community, was receiving more benefits and would pay for the library, Soluri said.
"I never knew where they got that 60-40 idea from. (The village) will agree to give full responsibility to the town by transferring all of the assets and will allow the town to make all appointments to the library board," the village mayor said.
Seivert said the town and village are both required to make appointments, according to state library law.
Town Budget Director Alice DiRamio said the $290,000 funding for the library will come from an unappropriated fund balance and will not affect the final tax rate, which is still expected to decrease by 13 percent for 2005.
The Town Board expects to reconsider the library funding and adopt a 2005 budget during its final budget meeting Friday.