An ominous sign at the entrance to the Mount Vernon Public Library warns patrons that the library will close on Dec. 31 if it does not get more money than Mayor Clinton Young proposed in his 2011 executive budget.
However, at the library’s monthly trustees’ meeting last night, board president Millie Burns said that the library will not close at the end of the year.
Burns also stated that library officials were not “crying wolf,” because closure is a real possibility if the library’s proposed 2011 of $3.5 million is not restored to the 2009 funding level of $4.1 million.
Under Young’s 2011 proposed budget, homeowners are facing a 5.54 percent tax increase that will hit the average homeowner with a $173.44 property-tax increase.
Additional help for the library could mean a higher tax hike, unless other city services are cut.
This situation has led to finger pointing among library administrators, library workers and elected officials.
At last night’s meeting library officials said city officials do not understand the library’s obligations because the library cannot simply lay off more staffers and continue operating 55 hours a week, which it is legally mandated to do.
“We are being forced to follow our charter,” Burns said last night. “The (state education) regents will reject our charter if we don’t follow it.”
However, library workers union president Gary Newman called the crisis “ridiculous.”
“People are very angry at what they regard as the poor administration of the library,” he told the trustees last night.
On Tuesday Young said that library officials have to work harder.
“The library board and administration have to be more aggressive in raising funding,” he said.
Last night Burns noted that the Mount Vernon Public Library Foundation, which is supposed to raise money, actually considered disbanding itself, an idea she opposed.
Earlier today the library’s director Opal Lindsay, said that she and the board will continue to draw up plans for addressing their financial crisis.
“What we’re trying to do is work out scenarios,” she said.
There is not much time left to make changes to the city’s 2011 budget or the library’s appropriation. The Mount Vernon City Council will meet on Friday morning to set a public hearing on the budget, which must be adopted by Dec. 31.
As part of the fingerpointing, Young release a statement of his own about the library’s crisis last week. Here it is…MAYOR YOUNG SPEAKS OUT ON THE MOUNT PUBLIC LIBRARY CONTROVERSY
December 9, 2010;
Mount Vernon, NY – “With the rumors circulating about the possible closure of the Mount Vernon Public Library at year’s end, it is important to reiterate my position on the status and continued operation of this important and historic institution.
I have consistently been loud and clear in saying that my administration is fully committed to the success of the library. Not only is it the Central Library in the Westchester Library System, but it is historically significant in that it is the last remaining Carnegie funded library and it plays a very important role in the lives of so many of our citizens.
The proposed 2011 municipal budget allocates $3.5 million to the operation of the library, which causes me to question the wisdom and intention of any rumored decision to close the library on January 1, 2011. Wouldn’t it serve the best interests of our citizens to remain open while all involved parties look to find funding solutions that would not only keep the doors open, but also help the library to reach new heights?
In the proposed 2011 budget, as well as the 2010 budget, every city department has suffered significant reductions to their operating budget and, unfortunately, the library is no exception.
Today’s challenging economic conditions should be no surprise to the administration or the Board of the Mount Vernon Public Library. Since the very beginning of my tenure as Mayor, I have met many times with each of those parties and indicated to them that their total dependency upon city funding cannot continue and that they must make a greater effort to secure grant funding. It is quite clear that the library has failed in its commitment to pursue other revenue sources.
It is also important to highlight the very unique governance issue regarding the Mount Vernon Public Library. The Board of Education, an entity completely separate from city government, has the responsibility of selecting the library trustees who oversee the operations of the library. However, the city is responsible for funding the library’s budget with absolutely no say in how that institution is run. This must change.
Again, I reiterate my commitment to library’s success and my continued willingness to work with the Board of Trustees and the administration of the Mount Vernon Public Library to find solutions that would allow the library to thrive as an institution.”
– Clinton I. Young, Jr., Mayor