14 February 2009

NY Librarians Bear New Tax Burden

Yesterday's Daily News included yet another story about the increase in library use during economic downturns. This latest rendition focused on Queens Library, its patrons, and the bleak promise of a budget-slashed future. Here are some budget statistics excerpted from New York Library Association's draft of estimated State Library Aid for 2009-2010. Remember, these figures represent New York State funding only:

Beyond the disheartening numbers and proposed service cuts, the Daily News mentions another baffling decision by our friends up in Albany, namely, "the state Department of Taxation and Finance's move to stop mailing income tax packets. The agency is instead urging people to go online or pick up the forms at their local libraries." Though this move saves $1 million and cuts down on paper waste, what of the extra work and expense incurred by public libraries? The tax men have set up a special phone number for librarians, but it seems they've underestimated taxpayer neediness. According to this article in the Times Union, libraries across the state are overwhelmed with questions, running out of forms, and having to pay out of pocket for copies. The Caldwell-Lake George Library "set up a collection jar to help offset some of the additional cost." What's next, bake sales? Buy a cookie, get a 1040 instruction packet?

In testimony given at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on January 28th, NYLA lambasted state legislators. "Not only are you asking us to do more with less," they argued, "but you are asking libraries to help collect the very tax dollars you are taking away from us." Don't bite the hand that feeds you, New York.

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