Today’s news:

Queens libraries spared a major budget slashing

The Queens library system and its network of cultural and educational programs maneuvered through the city’s budget negotiations without any major cuts to funding.

Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to curtail Queens library funding by 5 percent, or about $4 million, for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which is considerably less than the $10.5 million reduction the mayor proposed slashing before negotiations.

The cut “allows us to maintain at this point in time not only six-day service, but also the service and staffing levels we currently have in place,” said Gary Strong, director of the Queens library system. “We are pleased that the Council and the mayor have recognized the library as an essential service.”

Before negotiations, the City Council in countering Bloomberg’s proposed $10.5 million cut suggested Queens library spending should be cut by 3 percent or 4 percent in the next fiscal year.

Queens libraries have learned to live with cuts during the last year and will be prepared to trim an additional 5 percent, a spokesman for the library said. In the middle of the current fiscal year, the city took $4.4 million from the Queens library system, forcing it to pare back spending.

After the cut, the borough’s libraries slashed material spending and eliminated Sunday service in all but three locations, a library spokesman said.

“The previous reductions and service suspensions we have made to date are sufficient to carry us into next year,” said Strong, adding that libraries may even look for ways to restore money to programs that faced cutbacks during the current fiscal year.

Still, the Queens library system will keep a close eye on its spending as concerns about the city’s fiscal situation and its $5 billion budget gap linger.

“It is important to remember that our city’s budget situation remains at risk as the recovery effort continues into the next fiscal year as well,” said Strong. “The Queens library will, of course, remain a partner in that recovery.”

The Queens library system is the busiest in the country, boasting several educational programs such as English as a Second Language, children’s reading programs, and other classes helpful to immigrants, to name just a few.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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