2007-10-31 / Political Page

Queens Library Underfunded; Comrie Bill Would Correct Inequity

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Councilmember Leroy Comrie is calling for legislation to address "these longstanding inequities in funding". Councilmember Leroy Comrie is calling for legislation to address "these longstanding inequities in funding". The Queens Borough Public Library is the busiest library system in the city, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall often states proudly. She also notes frequently that the borough library gets the smallest share of city dollars.

Last week, she was joined by Councilmember Leroy Comrie in calling for legislation to address "these longstanding inequities in funding".

Marshall, a former member of the library board of directors, added: "Additional dollars are desperately needed to ensure that future generations can capitalize on the success that our library system has already achieved. It is time for a fair funding formula to eliminate a longstanding disparity in the treatment of our three library systems."

Comrie (D- Jamaica), applauding Marshall for her aggressive efforts on the issue, stated: "Despite the advent of the digital age, there is still a digital divide in many Queens communities and our libraries remain the only place where our seniors and youth can access the Internet.

"But the current funding formula for libraries in our city creates an unequal disparity that creates disadvantages for our seniors and youth. For too long, Queens residents have not received their fair share of city services and I am more than happy to join Borough President Marshall in fighting for our share of library funding."

Thanking Marshall and Comrie for their steadfast advocacy on behalf of the Queens Library, Director Tom Galante stated: "We encourage any and all efforts to increase funding to the Queens Library so that we may continue to provide lifeenhancing programs and services to the people of this great borough."

At Marshall's request, Comrie has filed legislation that will provide "baseline dollars", according to a new formula that includes such factors as the percentage of the population served by each library system; the percentage of the circulation handled by each library system; the percentage of library visits handled by each library system, and the percentage of the city's geographic area covered by each library system.

Marshall stated that the city financial plan for the next fiscal year anticipates that on average, library branches in Queens will receive $95,374 less per branch than Brooklyn and $35,050 less than the system made up of The Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan.

In a recent report released earlier this year by the city Independent Budget Office (IBO), entitled, "Library Funding: Subsidies Rebound, Disparities Remain," the two Queens officials said, it was concluded that a comparison of per capita funding across the three library systems "suggests that the distribution of city subsidies in 2006 did not reflect how intensively the libraries were used".

The report went on to state, the officials said, that Queens had the greatest number of annual visits, but the smallest share of the city subsidy.

Marshall said that if Queens received the same $7.95-per-visit support as the New York City library system, libraries in Queens would receive an additional $41.34 million in funding.

Marshall added that in August the Queens library system was recognized as the busiest library system in the nation. In 2006, she said, the system's 63 branches had approximately 14.5 million visitors. Since she became borough president she said she had allocated more than $44 million to Queens library branches.

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