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Library Pitches Cut-Free Budget to Eliminate Projected Closures

Mayor says the library may not get total request, but council will try to get as "close as possible"

officials say would seriously impact their ability to serve residents, but the council is warning them to brace for the possibility they don't receive their full request.

On Wednesday, at the , library trustees and administrators appealed to the council to restore funding levels to that of 2009, the year before cascading cuts and declining property values began a budgetary downward spiral.

Because of the way , the minimum level of funding municipalities can allocate is largely determined by property values. With another decline in the average assessed home in the village, the municipality could decrease 2011's allocation by roughly $71,000, .

"We're no longer able to do more with less," library director Nancy Greene told the council. "We're doing less with less."

A bump of $61,800 over last year's appropriation – which included a $35,000 increase over the minimum required funding – to a total of $2,259,000, would stave off any closings in 2012-2013 and eliminate furlough days that have increased in number over recent years, library officials said.

"The library is increasingly relevant in the community," remarked John Saraceno, library board president. "Secondarily, as trustees we've tried to be good stewards of the appropriations given to us by the council...A third year of cuts would hurt the library and I think, therefore, the village."

Council members were startled at some of the levels of activity cited Wednesday.

"Thirty-one thousand people visit the library each month," said Greene, a number that even she thought appeared high at first blush. Mayor Keith Killion expressed surprise, as did other officials.

According to Greene, librarians and others lead vocational classes, help with tech troubleshooting, spearhead free tutoring sessions for those that cannot afford it, among many others.

To keep up with demand, Greene hopes to create a new space by the periodicals collection and expand the young adult area. The library has aims to better integrate services with the schools and also update its book collection, which hasn't seen an update in 15 years.

Ridgewood library workers, among the top trained in the state, field the most reference questions in New Jersey, logging over 55,000 a year, Greene said. It ranks number one in the level of programs provided and third in circulation of books and media. All the while, Greene said, the Ridgewood library maintains one of the most cost efficient staffs across the state.

The increasing level of demand is compounded by budgetary constraints that in many ways mirror that of the council's overall budget, Saraceno said. Salaries and benefits are within its budgetary cap, positions impacted by attrition haven't been filled, (with a privatized maintenance staff), and trustees haven't been able to open up contracts with unionized staff.

"I know you have a great advocate in Councilman Aronsohn," Mayor Keith Killion said to library officials. "I want to let you know that the rest of the council are advocates also. We were dismayed that the library hours were cut short and you couldn't do more."

It's a tough year and everybody's budget is going to be scrutinized," Killion continued, saying there were certain "gems" in Ridgewood, the library being one, that needed close inspection.

"It may not be 100 percent but I think everybody looks at it and says we'll try to get as close as possible," he said.

Ridgewood council members and top administrators are currently battling to lower an . Council members have repeatedly stated they have every intention of lowering the tax hike well below that level, though any cut south of 4 percent will mean layoffs.

The mayor asked that library officials be made available in the coming months as specific questions regarding the budget emerge.

delgado April 21, 2012 at 12:35 AM
look Bergen Republicans say cut cut cut cut cut. Cut the budget, cut the cops, cut the schools, just cut everything. The Bergen Tea Party won, so just cut...

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