July 2000

The Trustee communicates issues affecting libraries and library services. Once a library and systems join LTA, all their trustees automatically receive this quarterly publication published by LTA. To learn more about membership in LTA, Click Here.

From The Desk Of The Sub-committee Chair Senator Hugh T. Farley: Libraries Deserve a "COLA" Too

July 2000 issue of Trustee

One of the post-budget issues here in Albany is a "COLA" -- a Cost of Living Adjustment for retirees who have seen their once-adequate pensions eroded by inflation. If you have run into one of your long-retired librarians, you surely know about the issue. It is heart wrenching to see dedicated retired public servants striving to maintain their dignity in the face of slow, steady impoverishment.

In a sense, our libraries are like our retirees. Some, like retirees with well-off spouses or fortuitous investments, are doing just fine with generous support from their local taxpayers. Some, like retirees relying on Social Security (which does have a COLA) and a part-time job, are keeping their heads above water. But some, like the oldest retirees who started with the lowest pensions, are inexorably sliding downhill. I think that our libraries should have a COLA -- a regular, automatic adjustment in State aid to keep up with inflation.

This is not a particularly radical idea. Most working people have a COLA. Formal agreements such as union contracts, or informal labor market pressures, help keep most salaries in line with inflation. Retirees usually have at least part of a COLA. Social Security, Railroad Retirement, federal pensions, and many private sector pensions are inflation-indexed. Schools have a COLA. Every year, good times or bad, the Legislature increases State aid to education. So why shouldn't libraries -- which, after all, deliver public education to those of us who are not in school -- have the same sort of COLA? Why shouldn't libraries be able to plan on regular, automatic, indexed increases in State aid?

In cooperation with the Board of Regents, I have introduced a bill (S.7160) which would annually increase State aid to libraries based on increases in the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI-U). The bill has been approved by the Senate Education Committee, and is now under study by the Senate Finance Committee.

If this bill were law now, the 2.3% CPI-U increase between December 1998 and December 1999 would have automatically generated a $2.04 million increase in State aid to libraries.

Detractors say that the dollar amount isn't very big. After all, the Legislature added $5 million in new library aid this year. And, a 2.3% increase is less than $35 for the small public libraries receiving the minimum $1,500 annual State aid.

But, it would be automatic! Instead of being forced to fight for each penny of library aid we can get, library supporters would start with the comforting knowledge that the basic goal of keeping up with inflation is resolved by law. Then we could devote our energies to much-needed improvements in library funding, including capital construction and electronic information resources.

I think that funding increases for libraries should be as automatic as funding increases for schools. We value education, and we demonstrate our commitment to schools through the public purse. Libraries are just as much a part of education as are schools. Their funding should be no different.

Copyright © 2010-2017 Prominence Solutions     |     Development & Hosting by Prominence Solutions     |     Site Map