Bridgeport Mayor Proposes 25% Cut in Library Budget

Bridgeport Mayor Proposes 25% Cut in Library Budget

Mayor Bill Finch has proposed a $1.1-million cut in next year’s funding for Bridgeport (Conn.) Public Library. The 25% reduction in the operating budget would require laying off one-third of the staff and the likely closing of branches.

“We are getting back to basics, police, fire, and education. We will not try to be all things to all people. Libraries are not essential services. We tax poor and working-class people to pay for things that the state and federal government should pay for,” Finch said in the April 2 Bridgeport Connecticut Post.

At an April 11 meeting of the city council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee, City Librarian Scott Hughes said the cuts would “essentially shut all four branches.” He added that the current economic picture makes the timing of the cuts particularly bad, noting that “It’s a national trend people use the library more during hard times. Cutting the funding does not diminish the community’s need to use the library,” the Post reported April 12.

Although Hughes had proposed what he termed a “very conservative” budget of $5.1 million to the mayor—a modest increase over the current $4.03 million—the library had hoped to expand its services:. The Black Rock branch, closed for renovations since 2003, was scheduled to reopen this summer, and the city recently obtained a nearly new bookmobile from Seattle. “You’ll probably have a ribbon-cutting ceremony [at Black Rock] and then lock the doors,” said library board member Sylvester L. Salcedo. “And the bookmobile? It’ll never get out of the garage.”

Hughes told American Libraries that the city council has been holding departmental hearings on the budget, as well as one public hearing that drew “a tremendous amount of public comment” in support of the library. He added that a possible reprieve may come in the form of a city ordinance that was passed in 1990 but never enforced that gives the library a set percentage of city taxes. The full city council must adopt a budget by May 13.

Posted on April 25, 2008. Discuss.