Labor & Management
B&ECPL: the self-created sacrificial lamb of Erie County.
By Cindy Gauthier
May 20, 2005, 18:24

In the focus of the County crisis, that has plagued our region, is the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The 52-branch countywide system that was threatened with losses this year is currently lobbying the Legislature for an added $5 million to cover the cost of books & materials.

Since the start of this County crisis, the B&ECPL has maintained their losses are due to the County’s financial problems. They are in the midst persuading County Government to allot “needed” funds, they’ve struggled with a large number of lay-offs; the cutting of hours to area branches to save money and … they have increased pay for two years?

Rebecca Pordum, Chairperson of the B&ECPL Board of Trustees said Thursday afternoon they are trying to let the Legislature know the book budget is needed.

B&ECPL in December of 2004 claimed Library Branches might have to close due to the County crisis.
“We are trying to work towards keeping our libraries to what would be the best interest of our patrons. We’re really looking at all of the options that are available to us.”
Mrs. Pordum said.

She stated they met with Legislator Michael Ranzenhofer Wednesday morning to discuss what the needs of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s are, especially with their $5 million books & materials budget. A meeting with Legislator Demone Smith had to be postponed, but there was also a discussion the B&ECPL had with Legislator Lynn Marinelli.

“We’re trying to get a cross-reference of the Legislature, to let them know what the situation is with the five-million dollar book budget that we need in order to sustain our system and keep it as is.”
Mrs. Pordum said.

“The Library’s operating budget is in relatively good shape at this point.”
Kenneth Stone said.

After having laid-off more than a hundred employees, Stone said relatively compared to other departments (of the County) who had cuts of 40 – 50% and more, the B&ECPL have emerged in better shape primarily due to Real Property Tax and the Library Protection Act.

The B&ECPL book budget for this year, Stone said is scheduled to be part of the Erie County Capital Budget.

B&ECPL in the midst persuading County Government to allot “needed” book funds.
In the Report of the Director, Michael Mahaney said
“We indicated that if we would get full appropriations of the $5 million, we would extend that not only to the end of 2005 but all the way through 2006.”

Mahaney said if the B&ECPL can ‘get by’ with five million (dollars) for 18 months, a fraction of that would be what they would need to finish off this year. Mahaney said it is still a “moving target”.

In addition of the books & materials budget, which is their foremost concern, Library Director Mahaney said during this month’s board meeting, there is a worry about County support for the new Branch contract on the East Side of Buffalo. The City is constructing the building, but the County has a role, he said, in outfitting the library building with new materials, equipment and furnishings.

However, on the opposite side of the financial balance, the B&ECPL voted for pay increases, retroactive for this year and concluding for the next year.

During the Board of Trustee’s Monthly meeting in January of 2005, under their unfinished business, it says: Mr. Mahaney asked Assistant Deputy Director Mary Jean Jakubowski to present the resolution as she was directly involved with contract negotiations.

Ms. Jakubowski expressed her appreciation to the Librarians Association for its diligence in working through contract issues. The key factors are 2% wage increases for 2005 and 2006. The percentage increase is equal to other County bargaining unions. Ms.
Jakubowski believes the contract is fair and will bring librarians in line with other unions.

Part of Resolution from January said:

The Board of Trustees and Erie County Officials have indicated their desire to attain relative parity in compensation and benefits between employees represented by the Librarians Association and other Erie County public employee bargaining units.

Erie County employees covered by the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) have negotiated salary increases for 2005 & 2006 at 2% and 2% respectively.

The proposed contract includes salary increases for Librarians at 2% for 2005 and 2% for 2006 and provides for various other benefits and work rules comparable to those afforded CSEA members.

The proposal for the new contract was approved unanimously.

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