By the end of the Nov. 17 City Council meeting, it appeared that public elm trees and library branches will be protected for another year.
At the request of several aldermen on Nov. 15, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz presented a fine-tuned proposal to restore some positions and programs that had been eliminated previously. The new proposal restored funding for inoculating public elm trees against Dutch elm disease on the same basis as this year. The additional funds came from a reserve fund dedicated to elm-tree inoculations. Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne asked whether the use of reserve funds would put the program “under threat in out-years.” Mr. Bobkiewicz said, “No.”
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said that, with savings garnered from inoculating elm trees rather than removing diseased or dead ones, there might be enough for “a tree fund – a sacred tree fund.”
Aldermen also voted to allow the Library Board to makes its own funding allocations, affirming, as Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover said, their trust in the Board members.
The Library Board’s budget, which was higher than Mr. Bobkiewicz’s recommended amount, called for funding both the North and South branch libraries for the full year.
Unless other money is found, the Library Board will be constrained in 2011 by the amount recommended in the City Manager’s tentative budget.
While the City Manager said the amount he recommended for library funding did contain sufficient funds to keep the branches open for half of the next fiscal year – five of the 10 months between March 1 and Dec. 31, 2010 – his recommendation was to spend that money on collections rather than branches. The Council’s vote to allow the Library to make its own funding allocations frees the library trustees to decide at what level, if any, they will fund the branches.
Some Library Board members attended the meeting, but none was asked by Council members whether or at what level they would fund the branches. The applause in Council chambers at the 7-2 vote, however, indicated that many of the persons in the audience, most of whom had come to support the branches, believed that they would be kept open.
Council is scheduled to vote on the entire budget for fiscal year 2011 at its Nov. 24 meeting. The next fiscal year begins March 1, 2011.