Officials Spar Over Squan Library Budget
Library requests more funding at council's budget meeting
Members of Manasquan's governing body at their Saturday budget meeting sparred over whether to raise or cut funding to the borough public library's budget from last year.
While some members of the Borough Council called for the libary's 2012 budget to be either kept flat or raised from the previous year, Mayor George Dempsey said it was possible that a second-straight year of funding cuts would be needed to stay under the state-imposed 2 percent budget cap.
The squabble began after Republican Councilwoman Patricia Connolly noted that last year the library was the only borough department to not ask for a funding increase -- the council cut their 2011 budget anyway -- and that fiscal responsibility should be rewarded by at least considering this year's request.
The library's 2011 appropriation was $133,537 -- $2345 less than it had requested -- and this year they're asking for $138,878.
Representatives from the library were on-hand to plead their case during the meeting's public portion, but it appeared as if their request fell mostly on deaf, albeit sympathetic, ears.
"In this economy, I can’t see even giving them the $134,000 -- I could see giving them less to get within the 2 percent cap," Dempsey said.
And while Connolly and Conservative Party Councilman Don Grasso attempted to highlight the library's importance to the community, Democratic Councilman Owen McCarthy said that there were cuts across the board last year, and in 2012 the borough's priorities would have to be carefully weighed.
“The nature of government is making difficult decisions and we had a fixed two-percent cap (last year) that we were dealing with. The library does a fantastic job but I think so does our police, so does every group that came in front of us," McCarthy said.
Connolly said that the difference between departments such as the police or public works and the library was that the library didn't ask for more money, when all others did in 2011.
“Public safety, I think, should override a library, as far as saving lives," Dempsey said.
Renee Callett, of the Manasquan Public Library, said that even if the borough appropriated the full $138,000 the library was requesting, they would still have a $7000 shortfall to fund day-to-day operations and capital improvements.
The library usually makes up for that shortfall through donations, Callett said.
“While we’re grateful for the donations, to have to rely on them every year, they don’t come enough," Callett said.
Last year, the library received $10,000 in donations, Callett said.
Callett added that the building's two HVAC systems were more than 20 years old and could stop working any day.
“We’re not going out and buying one until it croaks, but it could happen, and that’s what you need money in the bank for," Callett said.
Callett also highlighted to the council and mayor how many residents used the library.
Callet said that the library had 3181 cardholders out of 5897 residents according to latest Census, and that 50,000 items had left the library in circulation in 2011. In addition, last year the library ran 159 programs with 2389 participants, she said.
“That’s usage – we all know it," Callett said.
Grasso asked Callett and Library Director Carol Meaney, who also spoke briefly during the meeting, to prepare a report listing the various programs and services the library offers for the council and mayor to review.