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Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3, says an amendment which passed the Board of Estimates Monday to give additional funding to the public libraries should have been given more time to be considered.[/media-credit]

Officials say strides will be made to improve the Madison Public Library system after more than $50,000 was added to the system’s budget at a city committee meeting Monday night.

MPL will use the additional $50,322, awarded by the Board of Estimates, to maintain adequate staffing at various branches throughout the city, Library Director Barbara Dimick said. She said certain branches were becoming increasingly busy and that these additional funds would allow all locations to continue operating without reduction in services.

Mark Gartler, branch supervisor for Hawthorne and Lakeshore libraries, spoke in favor of the amendment and said these funds were vital for MPL’s continuance.

“[This amendment] will give additional resources to allow us to maintain hopefully a high level of services to the people of Madison,” he said. “These are difficult times, and every little bit helps.”

Tim Birkley, vice president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 60, shared similar sentiments. He said he strongly supported the board’s decision to add these funds.

“I’m glad funds are being restored to the library Operating Budget,” he said. “The library is essential to our community.”

The board also approved an amendment to decrease furlough days for city attorneys from 20 to 15 days. This would increase the size of the Operating Budget by approximately $35,500. Members voted almost unanimously, with the exception of Ald. Lauren Cnare, District 3.

She said she was concerned by the last-minute nature of the amendment and said she felt more deliberation time was necessary.

“I didn’t want to decide on this tonight because I think that there’s still room for the mayor, the city attorneys and the Human Resources Department to negotiate something better,” she said.

Cnare also said the decision bordered on contract negotiation – something which neither the Board of Estimates nor the City Council typically deals with.

Because the board met only to discuss unfinished business from its Oct. 24 meeting, Cnare said the amendment’s introduction was out of place at the time.

“As it stood tonight, only the mayor had new amendments,” she said. “That’s not an equitable situation in my opinion.”

She made a motion to refer the item to a later meeting, which was unsuccessful.

Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway, District 12, said she was sympathetic to Cnare’s concerns, but she ultimately trusted Mayor Paul Soglin’s judgment in proposing the amendment.

She said she believed he had a reason for introducing the amendment at Monday’s meeting rather than at a later time.

Soglin acknowledged the amendment would increase the cost of the Operating Budget, but he ultimately felt that it was an improvement. Given previous state legislation, he said he felt this was the only option the city had.

“I find it difficult for anyone to want to oppose this,” he said. “We are recognizing that there were severe limitations that were put on us by state government this year, both financially and legally.”

City Council will take up the board’s recommendations at a meeting Nov. 15 in which council members will make final decisions regarding the Operating Budget.