Library employees took less pay and hours to save the Plattsburgh Public Library.
In a unanimous vote, the 15 employees agreed to a four-year contract that is supposed to salvage four positions and put the library on the road to financial stability.
The last step in the process comes Wednesday night, Dec. 28, when the Plattsburgh Common Council is expected to approve $60,000 in new funding for the library.
“Basically, we saved the library,” said Karen Ricketson, a library employee and vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents library employees.
The Plattsburgh Public library faced a $150,000 deficit. In response, the library’s board of directors presented a budget that eliminated four positions.
Library supporters and some employees criticized the board, saying the move would hurt the library and risk its state accreditation. Many people have also openly questioned how the library ended up with a deficit.
Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak criticized the library, pointing to weak management and said the deficit is partly the result of some employees abusing the system.
Library employees countered that there were two sides to every story.
The union offered an alternative budget to try and save the four positions and close the budget gap, but the Board of Directors ultimately went with a plan presented by Plattsburgh Common Council member Tim Carpenter.
His four year plan, among other things, would have the union work with the board to resolve the cost of overtime and reduce the book budget $5,000 to $10,000.
Employees would see their hours reduced from 37 to 35 hours.
The union would have to agree to drop all grievances for a savings of $11,000.
Employees would have to sign a four-year contract with 0-percent raises and a 15-percent contribution toward health insurance from all employees.
Employees would only be able to earn 12 sick days instead of 24, and a new grievance process would be instituted. It would include a grievance committee of two union representatives, two board members, one management and a facilitator.
Carpenter said if the agreement can be approved by Dec. 28 with the union’s blessing he would request additional funding of $60,000 from the City of Plattsburgh.
Library employees unanimously approved the plan on the evening of Dec. 26.
“It’s on our backs,” Ricketson said.
She’s losing more than $3,000 under the new contract.
On average, library employees, the lowest paid union members in the city, will lose $55 per week.
“And yet they took the biggest hit,” said Denise Nephew, union president.
“But if we had not have done it, there would have been a ripple effect, and we all care about the library,” Ricketson said. “We know what the library needs and what it means to people, and it would have meant a cut in services and hours.”