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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

PPL: What Happened?




At the last PPL Library Board meeting, Denise Nephew, president of the local AFSCME union, addresses the board, saying that the union is willing to work with it in dealing with the library's budget crisis.


During a recent meeting the Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Trustees voted to eliminate three full-time and one part-time positions.

Library supporters plan to rally on, hoping to save the positions. There is a chance in that the final city budget isn't decided until January. Supporters will now be putting pressure on the city council, planning to attend its next meeting Thursday, December 8th, at 5 PM in City Hall.

So how did things end up this way?

Listening to various sources -- with different POVs and interpretations -- there seem to be two main problem areas: oversight and communication.

As one person observed, the Library Board is well-intentioned, wanting to do its best, but it isn't trained in the oversight of municipal department budgets. The budget problem should have been caught three years ago but it was overlooked until recently, snowballing to the point where cuts are needed. This shouldn't happen again as an accountant is now a board member.

PPL employees were aware of problems years ago and tried to communicate their concerns to the Library Board. This resulted in the employees being censured and receiving oral reprimands. Represented by the AFSCME union, the employees are considered by the board to be adversaries.

During the last board meeting AFSCME local union president Denise Nephew stressed the need for cooperation, that the union was willing to work with the board on the budget, finding other areas that could be cut. In the info she was given, she challenged the need for PPL to budget $48,000 for a lawyer to deal with union matters.

After the meeting it was mentioned that in the past a lawyer would represent the library pro bono.

There was also communication problems between the library director, Stan Ransom, and the city council, a misunderstanding about what money was being requested. It seemed the library director wasn't asking for an increase in the budget for the year and that he wanted to even cut part of it. But what he wanted to cut was really part of a requested increase in a certain part of the funds. Unknown to the director Mayor Donald Kasprzak had already removed the increase.

Listening to discussions about the miscellaneous items of the PPL budget, funds coming in from various sources, my head sometimes hurts trying to track it all. If I sat on the PPL Library Board I would need a big bottle of aspirin.

In fact, it seems that the budget information the union has access to isn't the same data used by the city council. It's like dealing with two different budgets at the same time. Both sides aren't on the same page of numbers. Maybe the accountant now on board can sort it out for everyone and help to eliminate headaches, not jobs.

EDITED 12/6/11 7:14 PM -- First sentence: corrected number of positions being considered for cuts, full and part-time. Revised last sentence.

4 Comments:

Blogger Shera said...

Who's the new accountant now on the board? Thanks for getting these details down.

7:52 PM  
Blogger David said...

No surprise here. Look at the people making the decisions about cutting a vital public service. They all can afford to buy the books they wish to read and don't give a tinker's damn about the rest of the community. Does this sound familiar? This is class warfare at its best...the well-healed in Plattsburgh crapping on a long honored institution that serves the less fortunate, which there are many in this town. This sickens me.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Luke T. Bush said...

Shera:

Don Moore is the accountant. He joined the board two months ago and so far has attended four meetings.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Luke T. Bush said...

David:

Thanks for your comment.

As it has been reported library usage has gone up. But if anyone thinks it's just "poor people" there are many middle-class families using its services, families whose income has been cut and are trying to make ends meet with less income and increased expenses (such as paying more into health insurance).

2:39 PM  

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