Library Board Aims to Keep Staff
After losing $183,339 in taxpayer funds, trustees tap into surplus, savings and income from fines.
Middletown Township Public Library Director Susan O'Neal enjoys hearing from patrons who find new employment after using the resources in the library's Job Help Center.
"So many people have come back and told us they found jobs," O'Neal said yesterday in a telephone interview.
With the help of library employees, center patrons have updated their computer skills, learned how to write resumes, completed online employment applications, and found jobs online, the library director noted.
"It's a soup to nuts program that helps people build their job skills," O'Neal said of the program based at the library's main branch at 55 New Monmouth Road.
However, the New Year approaches, O'Neal and the library trustees are focused upon saving the jobs of their own employees in light of the coming $183,339 decrease in township funding for 2012.
The trustees are willing to forego improvements to the main branch's parking lot and to postpone purchasing extra print materials as a means of avoiding employee layoffs, furloughs, or decreased hours of operation, O'Neal said.
The trustees' approved $3.8 million budget for calendar year 2012 breaks down to about $3.6 million from the township committee and another $211,275 culled from three sources: $115,500 from the board's $799,178 unrestricted surplus, $34,725 in leftover savings from the 2010 budget, and $61,500 in anticipated fine and photocopying revenues according to a copy of the budget posted on the library's web site.
"We are using our reserves to meet the shortfall between what the township is giving and what we need to operate without cutting services for the public," O'Neal said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
"[Services] include the staff. We need people to run this organization," she added.
Compared to the 2011 budget of $3,859,723, the approved 2012 budget of $3,822,109 leaves the trustees with $37,614 less to pay for salaries, wages, benefits, building operations, utilities and materials during the next 12 months.
Nearly 72 percent of the total budget, or almost $2.8 million is intended for salaries, wages, and benefits for employees at the main branch and three satellite branches, O'Neal explained.
The $2.8 million breaks down to $1,847,523 for salaries and wages and another $922,000 for benefits according to budget documents.
Non-managerial staff, who belong to their own union separate from other township employees, are due for a one percent salary hike in 2012, the last year of their current three-year contract, O'Neal pointed out.
"We have to meet the contractual agreement," she said.
While dipping into the surplus is not the most desirable option, O'Neal believes doing so trumps laying off staff, decreasing hours of operation or shuttering any of the individual branches located in Port Monmouth, Navesink, and Lincroft.
The satellite branches have one employee each working 23 hours a week, O'Neal said.
"Which branch would we cut? We'd have a huge decision to make," she said.
The trustees have ruled out closing the main branch on Sundays because cultural and educational programs offered that day during the operating hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. attract patrons who also use other services.
"We have as many people here on Sundays as we do during the weekdays when we're open for 12 hours," O'Neal said.
Going forward, the board will watch over the surplus to ensure that sufficient funds are available for unexpected emergencies such as a leaky roof, the library director pointed out.
To save money, library staff will take small measures such as cutting back on purchases of commercial films for patron rental and buying only one copy, rather than duplicates of certain newspapers and magazines, O'Neal said.
Any savings realized through such cost-cutting measures could be used to buy new books and software for electronic readers, known as Ematerials, according to O'Neal.
"We hope that in 2012, there will be a perception by the public that we can purchase more Ematerials that people can read on a Kindle," O'Neal said. "We're looking at a mix of things including tangible books on the shelf and electronics."
The township committee cut its library funding by $183,339 due to a recent property reassessment that yielded decreased property values in the township. Under state law, taxpayer support for local libraries is dictated by assessed valuation in a given municipality.
Earlier this year, the library board agreed to give $499,947 from its surplus to the township committee after receiving an additional $500,000 in state funding at the end of 2010. In accordance with state statutes, the trustees had received the extra funds due to the drop in township property values post-reassessment.
However, with the extra $500,000 in the bank, the trustees' surplus exceeded what municipal libraries are allowed to have in reserve under state law. The trustees agreed to transfer most of those funds to the township budget for property tax relief.
As a caveat to that arrangement, the township agreed to pay the debt service on capital improvements made to the library's main branch in 2003 and 2004.