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Walter Asks Collins to Restore Library, Cultural Funding in 2012

Yesterday, Erie County Legislator Ray Walter proposed a plan to restore funding in 2012 for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library and cultural institutions that Erie County Executive Chris Collins cut from his 2011 budget.

Walter proposes that the county hold on to two percent of the portion of the sales tax it shares with municipalities and school districts, or about $5.3 million. That would be enough to restore the $4 million that Collins wants to cut from the libraries this year and add $1.3 million for cultural institutions, which would go a long way toward making that budget whole again.

The restoration of funds could not take place until 2012, however, because the proposal would require terminating the current agreement, and that takes one year’s notice.

“This is a smart spending plan that doesn’t raise property taxes and fairly utilizes sales tax for programs that an overwhelming number of residents want funded. Libraries are a community asset and I believe all municipalities and school districts should join together to ensure proper funding is allocated,” Walter said in a press rlease. “I encourage the County Executive to consider this win-win solution.”

My guess is that Collins has already considered the measure, or Walter — a fellow Republican who represents the county executive’s hometown — would not have proposed it. Cracking open and changing the sale tax sharing agreement is no easy task, but it may well be that this is what Collins and his allies on the Legislature aim to do.

  • Ray Walter

    I am intentionally trying to avoid the prospect of renogotiating the sales tax agreement. I would like to see this proposal added on as an addendum or rider to the existing agreement. Obviously the parties to the agreement, Erie County and the Cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna, and Tonawanda would have to go along with it. My hope is that the costs would be dispersed throughout each of the towns, cities, villages and school districts to the point that it would not impact one particular budget too much. The benefits of libraries and cultural organization are enjoyed by each of the municipalities so participating to a greater degree in their funding seems like a logical approach. This is a sincere effort to try and find a partial, long-term solution to our ongoing funding crisis for these organizations.

  • Joe

    Mr Walter,

    I take you at your word that this is a sincere effort. However, sales tax revenue is volatile from year to year. This fiasco started in July with Mr. Collins announcing the 20% cut to the library [and other county organizations] because of a “projected sales tax shortfall.” As it turns out, that projection was wrong and sales tax revenue went up [though not as much as we’d like]. Yet the cuts remain with a now different rationale [blame Albany and Medicaid].

    I’m sure you can understand how difficult it would be to run an agency, department, or organization with funding based on a revenue source that fluctuates so much, particularly during an economic downturn.

    The real question here is what value do culturals and libraries have for this area? I think they MAKE this area great. In fact, the Albright-Knox, Historical Society, and Science Museum got their start at the Young Men’s Association [which later became the Buffalo Public Library]. It’s why people continue to live here. Without them, more will leave, creating an ever-smaller tax base. We have seen survey after survey that culturals are and continue to be an economic boon to this area. Mr. Collins even stated so in his State of the County Addresses. If we value culturals and libraries as vital components to our region’s economic future, then we [and politicians] have to make the commitment to find a dependable source of revenue so these groups and our region can thrive.