Funding for Library, Education Focus of West Haven Budget Hearing

By Zaretsky, Mark | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), April 5, 2016 | Go to article overview

Funding for Library, Education Focus of West Haven Budget Hearing


Zaretsky, Mark, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


WEST HAVEN » Support for education and concerns about library funding cuts dominated the discussion as 110 people turned out Tuesday night for the City Council's public hearing on Mayor Ed O'Brien's recommended $157.6 million fiscal 2016-17 budget.

West Haven Public Library supporters were responsible for the largest share of the comments at the hearing in the West Haven High School auditorium following a short budgeted presentation by the mayor.

Elizabeth Kosa, 8, needed her mother, Tracey, to lift her high enough to reach the microphone -- but had plenty to say once she got there, begging the council not to cut library hours or days.

People need to "go to libraries more often" and kids need to go to them so they can learn more, said Elizabeth, a student at Our Lady of Victory School.

The budget calls for a second five percent cut in the library budget, which originally was $1.68 million for the current fiscal year but was reduced to $1.63 million when citywide 5 percent cuts went into effect last fall, library officials have said.

Next year's library budget would be $1.59 million.

The effect of that would be to reduce the hours of the Louis Piantino (Allingtown) and Ora Mason (West Shore) libraries from five days a week to three days a week, while the main library at Campbell Avenue and Elm Street and both branches would be closed Saturdays, Library Director Colleen Bailie said. The cuts also would affect programming, she said.

"Libraries today are so much more than books," Bailie told the council, pointing out that in a city in which just 76 percent of residents have an Internet connection at home, many people go to the library to work on computers and look for jobs.

West Walk residents Tom and Rose Tiernan asked the council to "please reconsider" and "to at least allow the library to maintain its current budget" if no money is available to increase it.

Donnell Green, 17, who lives on Bull Hill Lane, told the council that "cuts to the library should be stopped.

"I love the library now. I can honestly say it's one of the most positive parts of West Haven," Green said. "If you keep cuting it ... then I'm afraid that this great and wonderful place" will be harmed.

Lacy Whitefeather said she's in the library "just about every day" and there are senior citizens there every day, as well. "They don't have a lot of money," she said. "They use the computers. They read the (news)papers every day."

Mayor O'Brien told the council that if they chose to restore funds cut from the library budget, he would support the effort.

On the school budget, Superintendent of School Neil Cavallaro told the council that the budget O'Brien and Board of Education members hammered out "will not require layoffs and will preserve existing school programs," but it "is contingent on ongong talks with unions." He thanked the unions "for the understanding and cooperation they've showed so far" and urged the council to approve the budget at its current level, which represents a 2.7 percent increase.

West Haven Federation of Teachers President Kristen Malloy- Scanlon said "we are being told this budget will not have layoffs, however it is counting on 10 teacher retirements. …

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