Municipal Library Tax Levy Law Signed: This is not a new tax!

            Governor Christie signed the Municipal Library Tax Levy Law on March 22, 2011  (S2068/A2679). The passage of this legislation was  important to NJ municipal libraries, such as Middletown,  because now tax bills in  communities that have a  municipal or joint library will now be treated the same as those that are in a county library.

             Library funding is a very small part of any tax bill. This legislation gives each household the ability to see exactly what they are paying for library services.   The local tax support for the Middletown Public Library is 2% of your total property tax bill – now it will show up as a separate item.  For example, a homeowner with a total of $7,000 in property taxes in the Township pays $96.60 for yearly support of the library.  

                  In supporting this law, it was my opinion that the taxpayers of Middletown would be pleased to see that such a small amount or portion of their total taxes can deliver a truly great library. High value and low price is a winning combination.  Good internal fiscal management and dedication to public services guide our every move.   In spite of the economy and declining property values, which  have resulted in two consecutive years of lower budgets, we were prepared with savings and belt tightening.   And yes, that preparedness is changed by the recent decision to transfer $500,000 in reserves and a small budget surplus from two and three years ago to the Township for its 2011 budget.  However, the library has kept enough resources to keep its four branches open without a reduction in hours, and without a layoff of employees, many of whom are residents of Middletown.  

               Moreover, we already know that our municipal appropriation will drop significantly in 2012 [at least one third of a million dollars, we are told], due to the reassessment of property.  The Library Trustees have planned for this scenario, and are due respect and praise for their fiscal stewardship of the library.

                 Now back to this new law. The legislation provides fiscal transparency for library funding. This is not a new tax.  It does not result in any increased taxes, but changes the way the minimum library appropriation is displayed to the public on the tax bill.   It is supposed to be implemented on the 3rd quarter 2011 tax bills.   An article in the Asbury Park Press on March 28 by Kevin Penton on the new law was very confusing and misleading, and contained false assumptions and facts.  I don’t mean to be glib, but to try and interpret and correct this article – well, I think I might be writing Atlas Shrugged.  This blog is probably too long as it is.

-Susan O'Neal

Director of the Library