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Court tells city to pay for library

A judge Monday ordered the City of Niagara Falls to pay the Niagara Falls Public Library Board the balance of $2.1 million appropriated in the 2005 budget.

City leaders this year had underfunded the library by half -- transferring just over $1 million to the city's two libraries.

In a written decision on a lawsuit by the Library Board, State Supreme Court Justice Vincent E. Doyle ruled that the city budget consistently lists the library's total expenses and total revenues as $2,063,292 and directed the city "to provide funding accordingly."

The city argued that the library was allocated $1,048,292 in the budget and that the $2.1 million was what the library had requested for the year.

But Doyle disagreed.

"To keep carrying throughout the budget sums that were requested but not allocated would not make sense," Doyle wrote. "(The city) asks this court to read Greek when it sees plain English."

Mayor Vince Anello said that after reading the decision, he isn't sure what is expected of the city.

"I don't know what the next procedure is," Anello said. "I can't write a check if there are no funds. A court order that would make us go into deficit would force us to open up the budget, and that would mean cutting jobs."

Anello said he will discuss the decision with the city's Law and Finance departments and has not decided whether to file an appeal.

Anello and other city leaders had banked on a June referendum, when residents were asked to approve a school district library and funding it through a new tax. That failed, however, and the city did not allocate more funding to the system.

The library's board then sued the city and threatened to close at one point.

While the city since has allocated about $80,000 per month for the remainder of the year, it would have to pay an additional $500,000 to $600,000 to fulfill the $2.1 million.

In the meantime, book orders have been put on hold, subscriptions to more than 15 periodicals will expire this month, the history department is closed, and the board has discussed closing the LaSalle Branch.
The board will meet on the decision at 5:30 p.m. today.

"I feel that it seems to be good for the citizens of the city because at least they will have a library," Library Board President Dolores Marino said.

Doyle also decided that the board's appointment of Morton Abramowitz to a vacant seat on the Library Board was illegal.

He ordered the city to cover the cost of attorney fees in the suit.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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