Questioning library spending, proposed Town of Cheektowaga budget cuts library funding by $30,000

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CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Town of Cheektowaga is looking at slashing the budget for its two libraries by $30,000 in the upcoming year.

The proposed $92.8 million budget for the town for 2020 cuts the libraries’ budget down from $80,823 this year to $51,163.

“It was a major surprise,” library director Glenn Lubo said. “Last year, when there was talk about budget cuts coming up, we knew well in advance- this year, there was no advance warning.”

Town of Cheektowaga supervisor Diane Benczkowski said that this year’s budget was difficult, and budget cuts are proposed for every department.

“I had to go through line by line and make some very difficult decisions,” Benczkowski said. “Once we started looking at how the library was using some of the funding, we felt perhaps they should use it more wisely.”

Some of the library’s spending the supervisor is questioning includes the purchase of three chairs with a massage function, which the library purchased in 2017 as replacements for old furniture in the break room.

“They had been in here for a very long time and were well beyond their useful life,” Lubo said of the old chairs. “I wish I had taken pictures of them so people could see how in disrepair they were.”

Lubo said the library paid for the replacement chairs, which were $229 each, out of its maintenance fund.

“While we were in the process of securing the replacements, the opportunity arose where I could get a much higher quality chair for essentially what I was paying for regular chairs, so we opted to go with a chair that would last much longer,” Lubo said.

Lubo said that he’s concerned if the budget is passed as it is now, the library will have to make cuts at both the Losson Road and Harlem Road branch.

“It would take our staffing line budget for the town down to zero,” Lubo said.

Lubo said possible options would be cutting down current part-time employee hours or eliminating two recently vacated part-time positions.

Benczkowski says that the library shouldn’t need to cut staffing or hours due to the budget cut.

“We have one line of funding dedicated to the library and how he uses that is totally up to him,” Benczkowski said. “Just because there’s budget cuts doesn’t mean you reduce staffing and hours- those things should be the first priority over anything.”

Both libraries are part of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, and are funded mostly through the county. The buildings themselves are owned by the town.

Benczkowski said that the town increased its funding to the libraries after then-county executive Chris Collins cut the county’s library funding in 2005.

She compared the Town of Cheektowaga’s library funding to Amherst, which budgeted $72,000 for its four libraries’ building and maintenance this year, and the Town of Tonawanda, which allocated $45,000 for its two libraries.

“We put in over $500,000 in improvements to the library in the last three and a half years,” Benczkowski said.

She added that increases to the town’s expenses this year include Erie County chargebacks for assessment challenges, contractual minimum staffing requirements, costs for recycling and dash cams, body cams, and tasers for Cheektowaga Police.

“Since we’ve been historically the highest-taxed town in Western New York, I’m trying to get us levied out and stabilized so we’re not the highest-taxed town in the future,” Benczkowski added.

Lubo said that if the proposed budget goes through as is, there will be no way to replace the $30,000.

“The county is maxed out in terms of funding,” Lubo said. “There’s no immediate alternative to fill that gap.”

A public hearing on the tentative 2020 Town of Cheektowaga budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Council Chambers, 3301 Broadway.

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