The Plattsburgh Public Library, faced with a $150,000 shortfall, cut four positions despite public outcry.
Plattsburgh Public Library employees presented the Board of Directors with a list of ways to cut the budget without impacting positions.
The board, which has already voted to eliminate four positions, will review the list. But at least a couple members are skeptical if the savings will amount to even one saved position.
“This is a really serious thing,” said Russell Puschak, Stafford Middle School librarian, at the Dec. 13 Board of Directors meeting at the Plattsburgh Public Library. “I don’t know what happened.”
The library is faced with a $167,000 deficit in 2012, an amount reduced to $150,000 using fund balance.
The Board of Directors, some under protest and stressing they had no choice, voted to eliminate four positions.
Nearly 50 people turned out for Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We cut staff, we cut services,” said Karen Ricketson, who works in children’s services and is vice president of the union that represents library employees. “We have come up with suggestions of ways to cut the budget that would not impact positions.”
The plan the employees came up with totaled $122,000 worth of cuts. They then suggested asking for $28,000 from the Common Council.
Employees suggested cutting the book budget $58,700 and instead relying on fundraisers.
“The public loves the library and wants to help,” Ricketson said.
Ricketson recommended dropping attorney’s fees and appointing a board member who could bring legal experience to the table.
“We do not need a lawyer involved to start negotiating a contract,” Ricketson said.
Under the proposal, overtime would be cut by $7,000.
“Employees have agreed to earn overtime as comp time and not cash,” Ricketson said. “Talk with us. We can work something out to help you.”
Other cuts included office supplies, building repairs, equipment, postage and conferences.
Board member Harold Brohinsky, who has said he would prefer not to cut positions, referred to the list of suggestions as optimistic. He would be impressed if any new cuts could save one job.
“There are some things frankly, I would not even consider.”
Brohinsky voiced skepticism at any attempt at fundraising for books that went beyond a one-time shot.
Puschak also questioned fundraising and cutting the book budget. Many people are broke, he pointed out, and everyone needs to give and take. He suggested a salary freeze.
Sherry Silcio, library clerk, asked the board to put as much work into examining the suggestions, which might remedy the situation, as it did taking detrimental action.
The library’s board has come under fire as people question how the fiscal oversight occurred, with the Common Council calling for increased communication with the library and suggesting a lack of trust in how it spends its money.
The board has complained about overtime and grievance costs.
“We have gone through the budget extensively and we know where we are,” said Board member John Prim. “We want a commitment from the union when it really comes to working things out and not just running and filing a grievance.”
“There are two sides to every story,” contended Ricketson.