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Lawmakers Poised to Protect Libraries

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County lawmakers are ready to stamp their approval on a permanent fund to protect libraries.

A vote by lawmakers approving the Library Protection Act is expected Thursday.

The Library Protection Act has been around for about 14-years. But the law - which guarantees library funding once the tax levy is set - has had to be re-authorized every couple of years.

Now, lawmakers say they are ready to make the law permanent. District 2 legislator Tim Kennedy said the libraries need to be stabilized.

This year, county property taxes brought in about $22 million to fund the libraries. But over the last two, the system had lost about 25 percent of what it previously received.

Library System Director Michael Mahaney said the situation is gradually improving. Lawmakers approved an additional $500,000 for 2007. And Mahaney said the vote Thursday would further help the library turn a new leaf for the future.

Legislative leader have announced they plan to approve the measure at Thursday's session.

But another vote is less certain.

The Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority wants the legislature to allocate another roughly two million dollars for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Kennedy said they want to gradually increase tourism funding. But he said the control board would have them raid reserves to do it now. Kennedy said that is hypocritical coming form a board that wanted lawmakers to build reserves.

Kennedy said he is not sure what lawmakers will ultimately decide.

The Control Board, the County Executive and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership argue that the extra funding would be an investment in the area's only growth industry.