$20/year for libraries? "No way!" says Stamford's mayor

As of September 13, Stamford’s main library hours will be cut back substantially and Stamford’s branch library hours will be mostly eliminated:

the Harry Bennett branch will open Wednesdays from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Weed Memorial & Hollander branch will open Monday from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and the South End branch will open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m.

The main library isn’t much of an option for me because it’s so far away and because there’s no nearby parking downtown. Just getting there and back takes more than an hour. So I rely on the small branch library that’s a few minute’s walk or a larger branch library I can drive to and park at within ten minutes. But their hours are getting cut to the bone.

What’s especially outrageous is how little our new (Republican) mayor — I voted for the other candidate, who was much better — is saving by nearly closing our libraries:

As the library pushes for a new property tax to cover a more than $1 million budget gap, the city responded this week by denying the Board of Representatives' authority to create such a tax.

Michael Larobina, Stamford’s director of legal affairs, released a legal opinion Monday rebuffing a proposed resolution that would add the new levy, known as a library fund, to the October tax billing.

Ferguson Library board Vice Chairwoman Kathryn Emmett has said the resolution would result in an increase of $20 to $27 on the average home’s fall tax bill if it passes.

The move, if successful, would circumvent the city’s budget process, reversing Mayor Michael Pavia’s $1.2 million cut to the Ferguson’s budget request earlier this year.

Supporters of the plan, however, have said the action is permitted under a state law allowing cities and towns to set up a special tax for public libraries. According to the law, “the legislative body of any municipality may establish or operate a public library and reading room” and its facilities, “and may levy a tax annually on all taxable property of the municipality for the establishment and operation of a public library.”

Libraries offer residents so much knowledge and entertainment (including new movies) at so little cost. They also provide Internet access that especially benefits poorer residents who don’t have access at home. Cutting libraries over $20 per year is outrageous.

When my boy asked why the library will be closed so much, my wife immediately mentioned a book I recently bought him, The Very Silly Mayor, about a mayor who orders firemen to put out fires with peanut butter and tells policemen they must wear clown costumes. Except I’d rather have our mayor tell police to wear clown costumes than have him shut down our libraries.

Posted by James on Thursday, August 26, 2010