Council Supports State Assembly Bill to Eliminate Library Statutory Minimum Funding
Resolution of support approved 6-1; Councilman Michael Vernotico only dissenting vote.
Common Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to officially express it's support of State Assembly bill A2555 which would eliminate the minimum statutory funding requirement for libraries.
Currently, libraries are funded through a formula which allocates one-third of a million on every dollar of assessable property. The Summit Free Public Library's approved 2010 budget was $2.4.
The bill, if approved by the state legislature, would allow municipalities to determine the budget of the library based on what is "deemed necessary for the proper maintenance of a free public library," the bill reads.
"I think we need as much flexibility as we possibly can," said Councilwoman Ellen Dickson.
Councilwoman Nuris Portuondo agreed saying that while the city has been asking every department to run more efficiently, supporting this bill would express the same sentiment for the library.
"The council should be able to opine on your budget," Council President Dave Bomgaars said, likening it to the authority council has over the school district's budget.
Library Director Glenn Devitt reminded council that library usage and circulation are at the highest levels in the libraries history. Library users borrowed more than 169,000 items in the first half of 2010, nearly a 10 percent increase over the previous record-breaking year, Devitt said in August.
"If citizens didn't want our services they wouldn't be using them," he said Tuesday night.
The library's 2010 budget already reflected a 2.13 percent reduction in the salutatory minimum funding requirement. As a result, the library is now closed on Thursday nights.
"All of us in Summit have an economic interest in the town to assure the good services and reputation of our institutions," said Jon Plaut, a member of the library's Board of Trustees. "Don't undermine this with this foolish, penny-poor approach to our library which will open the door to less service and a less attractive community."
Mayor Jordan Glatt also expressed concern that municipal control of the library's budget would lead to censorship.
"If we have the purse strings, the temptation will be there," he said.
Councilman Michael Vernotico was the lone dissenting vote, but added he feels regardless of council's action Tuesday night, it will have no impact on the state assembly's action regarding the bill.