Mahwah February 25, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • Page 3 Township council urges reduced library funding by Frank J. McMahon The Mahwah Township Council has approved a resolution urging the state legislature to reduce the amount of money municipalities must appropriate in their budgets to support the operation of the public libraries in their towns. The resolution, requested by Mayor Richard Martel, urges the legislature to revise the existing statutory requirement that municipalities appropriate one third of a mill, or a third of a tenth of a cent, on every dollar of equalized assessed value of property within a municipality to fund their public libraries. This resolution calls on the legislature to reduce that minimum funding requirement to one sixth of a mill, or a sixth of a tenth of a cent, which would essentially cut the current funding in half. The township was required to include $2,240,986 for the library in its 2008 budget, an increase of $101,404 over the 2007 funding amount, according to the current state statute that requires each municipality to fund its library’s ongoing operation based on each municipality’s equalized assessed value. The equalized assessed value is the assessed value of all property in a municipality that was established in the last revaluation of that municipality equalized to a level that is theoretically near full market value at the time the number is set. Martel emphasized that his request should not be construed as a lack of support for the township’s library. “Speaking for myself, that is so far from the truth, and it hurts to think that some people might view it that way,” Martel said. He emphasized that he fought for 10 years to build the township’s current library to replace the old library building on Franklin Turnpike, and he is a big supporter of the library. “But I’m wearing a different hat now and I have to look out for our taxpayers,” Martel said. “It’s a shame it has to come to that.” In its resolution, the council explains that the 1944 statute concerning the funding of the public libraries has only been amended once since it was enacted, and that change was made 28 years ago. The document also points out that the equalized assessed value of property within the state at that time was substantially less than the equalized assessed value of property today considering the rate of inflation and the “boom” in the real estate market in the mid-to-late 1980s and again in the early-tomid 2000’s. The resolution emphasizes that the equalized values of real estate have increased perhaps as much as 50 times the equalized values in 1944 and as much as two-tothreefold since 1985 and yet the fractional obligation that each municipality must contribute toward its free public library has not changed. It also points out that the amount each municipality is required to contribute under the current statute far exceeds the reasonable needs and requirements of the free public libraries in the municipalities governed by this law. Curtis Koster, the president of the township’s library board of trustees, advised that he was opposed to the township’s resolution. He pointed out that the library has returned some of its surplus funds to the township. “In principle, as a trustee of a library within the state I am opposed to the resolution,” Koster said. “However, the fact is that the Mahwah Library has made a one-time contribution of $200,000 back to the township in 2008 and it is my understanding that we are the only library to have done so to date.” The action by the township was prompted by a resolution passed by the New Jersey League of Municipalities that asked the state legislature to enact legislation to reduce the minimum funding level for municipal libraries. The league approved the resolution seeking to reduce the library funding by municipalities at its conference last November, and it will be one of the items that will comprise the league’s legislative agenda for 2009. “We believe that, as local governments confront unprecedented fiscal challenges, a reform to the statute is both appropriate and necessary,” stated William G. Dressel, Jr. the executive director of the league. “We note that such a change would not prevent a municipality from providing more funding than it required, but merely lower the required payment for municipal libraries.” The league’s position supports a bill that was recently introduced in the New Jersey Assembly that would cut in half the amount of money that municipalities must raise in taxes to fund the operation of their free public libraries. The bill, A-3753, was sponsored by Secaucus Assemblyman Vincent Prieto, (D-32 Bergen & Hudson) and it has been referred to the Assembly’s Housing and Local Government Committee. The Mahwah Public Library will present “Celtic Art, Myth, and Spirit” with Susan Slater-Tanner, assistant professor of art history at SUNY Orange in Middletown, New York on Wednesday, March 1 at 7 p.m. Professor Slater-Tanner will explore the tenacity of the Celtic spirit as manifested in the art an myths of early Celts. Professor to discuss Irish heritage The hour long presentation will examine the Book of Kells, Tara Brooch, and the visual significance of horses in Celtic art. This program is free. No tickets are necessary. The Mahwah Public Library is located at 100 Ridge Road in Mahwah. For additional information, call (201) 529-READ. Welcome to • Well and sick visits • School, camp, sports and work physicals • Complimentary prenatal consultations • Same-day appointments available • Electronic medical records with electronic prescriptions • Board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics We are accepting new patients from newborns to age 21. Call (201) 485-7557 to schedule an appointment 810 Franklin Avenue Franklin Lakes, NJ 07417