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Feedback 10/23 

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Tit for tat on RCSD finances

I am writing to correct some factual inaccuracies contained in a recent letter-to-the-editor by Willa Powell, chair of the Rochester City School District's Finance Committee, that was published in CITY's October 2 edition.

Ms. Powell stated that the maintenance of effort (MOE) payment schedule for 2019-20 budget year was altered and that RCSD wouldn't receive money from the city until October. This is false. The schedule has been the same for many years and was not altered. In fact, the city has already made two scheduled $20 million disbursements to RCSD, on August 2 and September 30. The district's cash flow statement will confirm this.

Second, Ms. Powell stated that the Board of Education knew of the MOE payment schedule change and planned accordingly. Since there was no change to the schedule, the board couldn't know of one. The fact is that the city was forced to issue a revenue anticipation note (RAN) for RCSD once RCSD's need for short-term cash increased beyond $50 million. It is important to note that, beyond the MOE payments, the city has routinely loaned cash to RCSD to assist it in managing its revenue streams. In fact, the city lent over $49 million to RCSD in the 18-19 fiscal year, which can also be confirmed by the district's cash flow statement. And the city will continue to lend money to RCSD in the 19-20 fiscal year, in addition to the MOE payments and despite the RAN.

It is both surprising and unfortunate that Ms. Powell is misinformed on these matters. Hopefully this letter will provide some clarity, both to her and to CITY readers.

CHRIS WAGNER, ROCHESTER

Wagner is the director of the city's Office of Management and Budget.

Publisher's e-book embargo creates 'have and have-not' readers

If you run a business, would you decide to limit sales to a customer responsible for 45 percent of your business? This is what Macmillan Publishers decided to do when it announced recently that it would embargo public libraries from purchasing more than one copy of an e-book for the first eight weeks of its release.

Macmillan believes that every e-book checked out from a library is a lost sale and that e-book lending hurts their bottom line. In a memo announcing the embargo, Macmillan CEO John Sargent asserted that 45 percent of e-book "reads" were being "borrowed for free" from libraries, a trend he attributed to "active marketing by various parties to turn purchasers in to borrowers."

While some borrowers are also buyers, it is also true that many people rely on public libraries as their sole source for books, audiobooks, films, music, and information. By limiting access to the newest books available, Macmillan is creating a situation where the people who can afford to pay have access to the newest books while those who cannot pay must wait. This is antithetical to everything the public library stands for.

It's important to recognize the impact on library systems like ours, which serves more than 500,000 people in Monroe County.

Use of digital content has grown at a greater rate than print borrowing for the last several years, with most months showing a 25% or greater increase in digital borrowing than in the prior year. In 2018, 562,083 e-books were borrowed, and we expect to loan 141,000 more in 2019. A single copy of a new title in e-book format for a period of two months is not sufficient to meet the demand nor is it acceptable.

In some instances, this embargo will force readers to wait a year or more to borrow an e-book published by Macmillan, whose authors include J.D. Robb, Liane Moriarty, Bill O'Reilly, and Louise Penny.

E-books are likely to become the primary way people read in the future. Actions like Macmillan's creates a class of readers who benefit from early access to information because they can afford to buy.

The Urban Libraries Council is currently gathering support from elected officials who agree that the Macmillan embargo on purchases must be reversed. Mayor Warren has signed on to the ULC campaign alongside mayors from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and many other North American cities. The American Library Association encourages readers to join us in urging Macmillan to reverse its policy by joining the #eBooksForAll campaign. Visit ebooksforall.org to ensure access to information and content for all here in Monroe County.

PATRICIA UTTARO, ROCHESTER

Uttaro is the director of the Monroe County Library System and Rochester Public Library.

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