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Bill Would Amend New Law to Help Fund Independent Libraries

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) is introducing legislation to amend a recently-enacted law she sponsored to help libraries throughout the state that are struggling to stay open, like Northvale in Bergen County.

The new law (A-2679) helps provide 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.

However, the law does not pertain to libraries like those in Northvale, which are considered an independent association library, meaning unlike municipal libraries, towns are not required to fund them so the amount they receive each year is based on the discretion of the local governing body.

“Faced with a budget crisis, Northvale is considering eliminating the library’s funding this year, a move that has sparked understandable outcry from residents,” said Vainieri Huttle. “Even though it is not technically considered a ‘public library’ it still services the general public and we cannot afford to see these services cut or eliminated.”

By amending the new law to include independently associated libraries, funding they receive would also be exempt from the state’s newly enacted 2 percent property tax cap. Vainieri Huttle noted that this 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.

“By providing a fair and uniform system for funding throughout the state and exempting all libraries from the cap, the measure will ensure that millions of New Jerseyans can continue their use and enjoyment of our state’s libraries,” added Vainieri Huttle.

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.