>In case you missed it, there was an article posted Sunday on the Asbury Park Press’s website that would be of particular interest to those that had been following the drama that had been playing out between Middletown’s Township Committee and the Middletown Library over the past 2 months.
A new law signed by Gov. Christie on Tuesday of last week, created a dedicated line on property tax bills for funding municipal libraries and makes a library’s budget exempt from the state’s new 2 percent cap on annual spending increases.
…Although taxpayers will continue to pay a percentage of their property’s assessment to fund their local library, the money will no longer be considered part of a municipality’s budget, making the process less political, said Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula, D-Somerset, one of the law’s sponsors.
“Unfortunately, some municipalities were not providing the funding to their libraries on a timely basis,” said Chivukula, who noted that library usage has increased statewide since the recent economic downtown.
The law should help to bring parity between local libraries and county systems, which already had dedicated line items exempt from the cap restriction, said Patricia Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association.
“This was a very important piece of legislation,” Tumulty said….
What impact, if any, would this new law have had if in the battle between Middletown and it’s Library if it had been known prior to the Library agreeing to the Township’s terms for transferring $500,000 of reserved forms from the Library’s coffers to that of the Township?
I’m not sure, but I think the Library wouldn’t have felt the immediate need to pony up the excess funds over it’s legitimate surplus, in an attempt to head off the Township from transferring the operations of the Middletown Library to the Monmouth County system. I think the negotiations between the lawyers for both sides would have been extremely different.
The library’s Board of Trustees gave up a lot for very little in return and the impact of the Boards decision will be felt by the library for an extremely long time based on the wording of the 3 Library resolutions
passed at it’s March 16th meeting, which authorized the funds transfer.
As the article states, local municipalities that fund their own library system can’t just transfer control of it’s library to it’s county system on a whim. If the municipal library system was created by an ordinance, as most have been, then the municipality would have to propose a new ordinance stating it’s intention to transfer it’s library over to the county and then place the ordinance on the ballot for referendum approval by township residents.
…For decades, the state’s policy for dissolving libraries has been that municipalities must repeat whichever process was used to create the system originally, Tumulty said. Typically, that has meant a public referendum is required, she said….
I would have like to have seen what would have happened if residents of Middletown did have a say in the matter. I don’t think such a referendum would have gained approval.