To the Editor:
The Monmouth County Library System, with its 12 branches and 15 member libraries, is the largest and, in my opinion, best lending library in New Jersey.
Recently, Finance Director Craig Marshall brought to my attention the fact that there was a better way to craft the Library budget than had been the Library’s practice over the past several years.
As a result, I am pleased to report that this re-examination of the Library System’s budget has resulted in a zero tax increase without impacting programs and services, or taxpayers in member municipalities.
The new $16 million Library budget does not cut services or increase taxes on member municipalities. The tax levy will remain $12,150,000, the same as last year. The tax rate will remain flat -- despite the ever-increasing demands on the Library System during these tight economic times.
In 2009, the Monmouth County Library logged a total of 5.4 million visits overall to its branches and member libraries, and circulated more than 5 million pieces of information -a 7 percent increase system-wide from 2008. Some branches registered a double digit circulation increase-- Eastern Branch in Shrewsbury recorded a 14 percent increase and Howell Library, 11 percent.
In these times of economic upheaval, the Library has become a refuge for those residents most in need. For example, the Monmouth County Career Information Center at the Eastern Branch provides a variety of career services for residents and valuable Internet access for jobseekers. In the past few months, free tax preparation for seniors was offered at three Library branches, and the Eastern Branch alone assisted in preparing 1,338 tax returns.
As a Monmouth County resident, you don’t have to own a library card to enjoy the Library’s free programs and services. Earlier this month, almost 800 people came to the Headquarters in Manalapan for a free concert by Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields. In May, we can look forward to a free lecture by international celebrity Rabbi Shmuley, one of many events planned by the Library System to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month. The Library System has become a true community and cultural center for surrounding municipalities.
To ensure the Library System continues to practice sound fiscal management while it strives to meet the needs of residents and patrons, I have recommended the Library Board of Commissioners form a Budget Review Committee, made up of three commissioners who will routinely provide strong fiscal oversight. That committee will begin meeting monthly.
I look forward to another successful year of providing informative, entertaining, and cost-efficient Library services and programs to library patrons and Monmouth County residents.
Monmouth County Board of Freeholders