SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Onondaga County allotted $15.5 million for Onondaga County Public Libraries (OCPL) in the adopted county budget approved this past October. The $15.5 million set aside for libraries is only a fraction of the total $1.47 billion adopted county budget for 2024.
In the past decade, the county’s budget has seen a 20% increase. Despite the steady increase, money set aside within the county budget for the OCPL has only experienced a growth of about 2% since 2013.
A timeworn budget has exacerbated inequities between inner and outer city libraries. Jackie LaSonde, a community advocate for Syracuse’s Southside told the Central Current of the differences she had noted between county libraries in and outside of the city.
“Because surely in the suburbs, when I tell you, they have a great arts program, they have a great jazz program. You can see the investment walking in the door, you could just see it” said LaSonde.
LaSonde also noted that she believes Beauchamp Library, located in downtown Syracuse, has failed to provide adequate parking and reliable air conditioning during the summer.
The OCPL consists of its Central Library, eight city branches, two satellite locations, and 21 libraries.
Katie Hayduke, OCPL acquisitions manager, said if there was surplus money from the budget, her prioritized expenditures have to be centered around expanding accessibility and the digitization of OCPL resources and content.
“I look at our statistics and our circulation numbers and kind of see okay what is really getting more bang for our buck and what are our patrons really looking for” said Hayduke.
The Central Library, the eight city branches, and two satellite locations are primarily funded by the adopted budget. This upcoming year they will receive the planned $15.5 million plus an additional $6.2 million from the City of Syracuse for the operation of its city branches.
The total $21.7 million spent on the Central, city, and satellite branches amounts to $85.97 spent on the libraries per inner city resident.
The remaining 21 library branches outside of the city are almost exclusively funded by local taxes and municipal budgets.
The Fayetteville Free Library and Manlius Library will be funded by tax levies providing $3.6 million and municipal budgets of $3.4 million. This denotes about $133.44 spent per resident.
When asked about the OCPL’s modest budget, County Legislature Bill Kinne acknowledged the issue of inequity between libraries within the city and those in the neighboring suburbs and spoke of plans to address the issues, before ultimately pivoting, increasing the budget instead for increasing capacity at the Onondaga County Board of Elections.
Other legislators, including Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Jim Rowley spoke in support of Kinne’s decision to change amendments to address other matters included in the budget. Rowley explained that the need for libraries cannot be assumed and that it is up to the OCPL to request additional funding while the county budget is being drafted.