Wednesday, December 3, 2008

LETTER: Fund the libraries, not the Library System

Rugala is an Italian pastry and other things I learned from the Library Systems Budget

I learned that Rugala is an Italian pastry from the Lancaster Library System. [Editor's note: The System provides services for the libraries.] No, not from a novel but from an expense listings while examining their budget a few years ago when they were campaigning for a dedicated library tax.

Yes that's right, I discovered multiple instances of the library system's bureaucrats buying this fancy treat with our tax dollars – does this sound like someone who having trouble with money? ($67 and $87 seems like an awful lot of rugala but then what does this simple dutch boy know about such things?)

I guess buying your own rugala doesn't occur to these bureaucrats because they also had regular deliveries of coffee and spring water that every other Lancaster County government office worker buys out of their own pockets.

In a six month period they spent over $1,000 on TWO occasions to have a lavish meals at the Olde Greenfield Inn. In another example, in April of 2003, the Library System has a surplus of $100,000 – what should they do with that money? According to their meeting minutes:

'She (Shannon Pierce, bookkeeper for the library system) reported that this is the first year the Library System will have a surplus. It could be distributed to member libraries, but it would negatively impact their local effort, or it could be used to move the System office.'

So rather than give money to libraries where the kids, moms, dads and business people actually use books and receives services – the library system took that $100,000 and fixed up an office space that includes 585 square feet for each of the 23 employees! They also signed a lease that committed them for over a million dollars for the 10 years and ever increasing condo fees from High Properties in their bookless Greenfield offices.

When Lancaster County taxpayers fork over $2 million to the Library System do they realize that very few of those dollars actually reach the libraries themselves? For instance, Lancaster City's Library on Duke Street is in serious need of funds to renovate and improve a well-used and needed building. Meanwhile, the Library system bureaucrats live in relatively luxurious digs out in the country with rugala served to them – thanks to your tax dollars.

At tonight's budget meeting, the commissioner heard various library supporters ask for more money from county taxpayers that would go to the Library System. My suggestion is that the commissioners allocate the $2 million NOT to the Library System but to each of the various libraries throughout the county. Then let the Library System justify their existence to the member libraries. I know when I see the conditions in the downtown library, that they are working hard to provide needed services to people under trying circumstances. When you give money to people like this – they will not only be grateful for the money but will spend it wiser than those who are snacking on rugala.