Local library directors are asking Genesee County to provide $48,000 in funding in its 2019 budget, which would restore the county's share of funding to 2011 levels.
Without committing, either way, several members of county's Human Services Committee on Monday questioned why towns in the county that don't have libraries aren't doing more to assist funding libraries since their residents certainly use libraries, whether it's the Richmond, Haxton, Corfu, Woodward, or Hollwedel libraries.
"You need to make a presentation to GAM (Genesee Association of Municipalities) because there are still significant portions of the county that are not contributing to the libraries," said Robert Bausch, chairman of the County Legislature. "I hate to say that certain people in certain towns are dumber than other people so, therefore, they don’t need libraries. I don’t think that’s true but the bottom line is, this has gone on now since approximately 1986, so this has gone on for 30 years and these other towns have not stepped up."
Suzanne Schauf, director of the Hollwedel Memorial Library in Pavilion, suggested that because of towns without libraries -- such as Bethany, Alabama, Alexander, and Elba -- aren't legally obligated to pay for libraries, any funding that comes from the towns could be precarious and subject to political whim.
Bethany, she said, used to make a contribution to the Pavilion library, but then somebody said the wrong thing to somebody, somebody else got mad, she said, and the funding was cut.
To secure more funding from these towns, libraries would need to recharter to incorporate these towns either in a library district or as part of an appropriate school budget.
That can be a lengthy process, though the Corfu Free Library rechartered as a school district library and became the Corfu Public Library in 2016.
Bausch was actually part of the committee 30 years ago that came up with the formula for the county to provide financial support to all of the libraries. The original plan was for the county share to be $60,000, or $1 per resident.
Over time, that share was reduced and is now less than $48,000, though the county's population is 58,000.
More than half the money goes to the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia and though that is the largest piece of the funding pie, said Director Robert Conrad, it is the smallest portion of the library's revenue stream.
The county share is generally used for the purchase and upkeep of technology and purchasing new books.
The Legislature is asking that the topic be placed on the next GAM agenda.