The director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library on Wednesday defended the process being used to pursue a countywide library taxing district.
Mary Jean Jakubowski spoke to the Clarence Town Board at the board’s invitation, to provide more details of the plan.
Board members had questions about a memorandum of understanding that municipal library boards of trustees have been asked to sign. The document would advance the creation of a special taxing district, designed to provide libraries with a stable source of funding that would not fluctuate with the county’s budget decisions.
Jakubowski answered criticism included in a resolution approved last week by the Association of Erie County Governments. The resolution opposed the memorandum of understanding and urged its municipal library boards of trustees not to sign it. Twenty-six members voted in favor of the resolution, with Grand Island abstaining.
Among the resolution’s criticisms were that the memorandum calls for creating a “top on down” structure that would “strip local community boards of trustees of any authority over their local library” and that the process puts “pressure” on the local library boards to support it “with fear of retribution if they don’t go along with the process.”
“The memorandum of understanding was developed by and for, and at the request of, the member library trustees,” Jakubowski said. “It was not driven by the [library] system at all.”
Jakubowski said library system officials were unaware the county governments group was voting on the resolution until just days before the vote occurred. She said an email was then sent to town and village leaders to address “misinformation” about the proposed library district. She plans to issue a formal response to the resolution by the end of this week.
Jakubowski denied municipal library boards of trustees are being “threatened” or pressured to sign the memorandum.
For a countywide library taxing district to take effect, a few hurdles would have to be cleared. State legislation allowing for the district would have to be passed. And Erie County voters would have to approve the idea in a referendum, a step supporters hope will occur in November 2013.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Jakubowski said she was disappointed the Association of Erie County Governments “did not ask for more information” from library system leaders as the group was developing its resolution.
“I am extremely concerned over some of the contents within that resolution and welcome the opportunity to present to them, to answer any of their questions, to have a brainstorming session, because the library is in dire need of stabilized funding,” she said.