MIDDLETOWN, NJ – Given the amount of misinformation being spread about the issues of the Library System in Middletown Township, it is important to all residents that the Township address some facts regarding this matter:

  1. In New Jersey, Free Public Libraries are funded via the following formula established by State Law.: The total equalized assessed value of all properties in the municipality times .000333333.Thus, library funding increases as values go up and they decrease when values decline as they have been in recent years. For 2013, for example, the Municipal allocation for the Middletown Library is over $3.4 million. This amount has been decreasing in recent years as property values decline.
  2. NJ library law gives the Library Board  responsibility for the use of funds available for library purposes (Municipal: N.J.S.A. 40:54-12).Middletown Township’s governing body, the Township Committee, has no role or power regarding the way such funds are spent.
  3. An issue has been raised to what have been referred to as “chargebacks.” These costs are actually the Library’s allocable share of its obligations. Library employees are covered by the Townships various insurance plans and the states pension system at great benefit to the Library whose cost would be much greater than if it had to obtain and pay for these directly. Therefore the payments associated with these are driven by the number and cost of covered employees of the library. The Library Board is to use funds from its statutory allocation for the Library’s portion of these costs. Since the Library receives its funds via a dedicated tax borne by the taxpayers for the purpose of funding all of their obligations, such costs should not be an added duplicate burden on the municipal budget and the taxpayers.
  4. In previous years, the amount paid by the Library to cover these aforementioned costs  were substantially lower than the actual costs, so in fact, the Library was paying far less than it should have for many years.
  5. In order to explain the process for establishing the Library’s share of costs, a meeting was held between the Library Board’s President and Township Staff. The entire analysis was discussed. A subsequent meeting was held in December with the Library Board’s entire Finance Committee. The Township presented its analysis and some discussion ensued at which time it was agreed by the township to lower the costs by about $50,000.00. These reduced amounts had to do with services provided by the Township to the Library and were not associated with insurance or pension costs.
  6. The Township has always absorbed certain additional costs associated with the Library. In fact, in 2002, the Main Library underwent an extensive remodel and expansion project. This cost was in excess of $8.5 million and the Township continues to pay the full costs of the debt service associated with this project which are approximately $650,000.00 per year. Also in 2002, the Township allocated $45,000.00 from municipal funds for work at the Bayshore Library Branch.
  7. The Township anticipates including plans in its 2013 Capital Budget for a parking lot expansion at the Main Branch. This cost will also be borne out of the Township’s budget and not the Library’s.

 There is no question that a funding mechanism based upon assessed property values was going to be challenging for the near future with home values decreasing. Now with the impacts of Superstorm Sandy, that challenge will last longer and have an even greater impact on both Library and Municipal budgets. The Executive Director  and former Library board  which gave 6% raises and continued its overstaffing and excessive overtime apparently did not plan for or anticipate the obvious future. Hopefully the new Library Board will take these matters into consideration and address them to continue Middletown’s terrific library system.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...