CHIVUKULARAMOSVAINIERI HUTTLE LIBRARY MEASURE SIGNED INTO LAW
N.J. Experiences Upsurge in Library Use with 55M Visits Recorded in 2009
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Upendra J. Chivukula, Ruben J. Ramos Jr., and Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would render funding for libraries independent of municipalities, has been signed into law.
The measure (A-2679) provides fiscal parity to all public libraries by requiring a dedicated line item on property tax bills for funding for municipal libraries in addition to county libraries. Under previous law, appropriations for municipal and joint municipal libraries were part of the general municipal fund while county libraries had a dedicated line item.
“A library can open the door to opportunity or help an individual pursue an education to a better future. Access to information and the internet can make a significant difference in a job search or to graduating from college,” Chivukula (Somerset) said.
“This measure will ensure that funds meant for municipal libraries are not diverted or delayed by cash-strapped municipalities and would provide certainty in budgeting and planning for libraries. By providing fiscal parity, this measure will help keep the doors of more libraries open.”
The measure will extend the current exemption for county libraries from the 2 percent cap to all public libraries. It will ensure the disbursement of funds to all libraries on a quarterly basis. Prior to the enactment of this measure, municipal public libraries often experienced delays and did not receive funds until the end of the fiscal year.
“In today’s challenging fiscal environment, municipal officials may turn to the public library for revenue in an attempt to balance budgets while an increasing number of out-of-work residents are relying on public libraries to conduct their job search or study,” Ramos (D-Hudson) said. “This measure will protect the funds intended to pay for the staffing of libraries and the purchase of computers, books and other necessary resources for a growing number of library users.”
New Jersey experienced an upsurge in the use of libraries during the economic downturn, with 51 million visits recorded in 2009, an increase of more than 11 percent since 2007. The number of books in circulation also registered an increase of more than 14 percent to touch 64 million that year.
“All public libraries are created by the people through referendum. They should be funded as a line item and should be exempt from the 2 percent cap,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said. “By providing a fair and uniform system for funding throughout the state and exempting public libraries from the cap, the measure will ensure that millions of New Jerseyans can continue their use and enjoyment of our state’s 304 public libraries,” Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) said.
Mary Romance, president of the New Jersey Library Association (NJLA) welcomed the enactment of the Dedicated Line Item Library measure.
“Public library service is not mandated. A public library is created by The People, who have chosen, through the referendum process, to have, and support, a public library. This legislation will bring the budget back to the people,” Romance said. “As with open space funding, library funding through a dedicated tax will provide an opportunity for the public to see the real value of library service that could cost less than $59 dollars per capita per year.”
The NJLA represents 1700 members including public, academic, school and special librarians. Romance also serves as director of the West Orange Public Library.
Earlier, the measure sailed through the Senate with all 40 members voting in its favor while it received 76 votes in the Assembly.