HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -  Library funding is not something that normally gets a lot of attention from the media nor the general public.  Services and hours, parking and programs are what the public focuses on. How that is funded is not something the average citizen thinks about, nor cares about.

Changes to services however, do get the public’s attention.

So residents of Hasbrouck Heights should be concerned by the new funding formula that was approved by the Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS), which will cost Hasbrouck Heights approximately $9,000 in funding, while Paramus loses approximately $60,000 under the new formula.

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It was enough of an issue that Hasbrouck Heights Jack DeLorenzo and Councilman Steven Reyngoudt both made mention of it in their reports at the June 28th Council meeting.

This article is the beginning of a multi-part series of articles on the Public Library System, how it is funded, and how changes to the funding could change services at local public libraries.

So who is BCCLS? And how do they fit into the funding?   

BCCLS is a consortium of public libraries in which encompasses every library in Bergen County, as well as 15 other libraries in Essex, Passaic and Hudson County.  Founded in October 1979, the organization allows for reciprocal borrowing among its members so that books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, and other media are shared among the libraries cooperatively. Anyone with a valid library card from member towns can  reserve materials online and have them transferred to their local library, where materials can be retrieved.

Membership in BCCLS also allows those with a valid library card to visit any library in BCCLS to take out a book, use the library research or computer facilities. 

Funding for BCCLS comes from membership fees charged to member libraries, as well as funds mandated by taxes. 

“N.J.S.A. 40:54-8. Library tax. - Within every municipality governed by this article there shall annually be raised by taxation a sum equal to one-third of a mill on every dollar of assessable property within such municipality based on the equalized valuation of such property as certified by the Director of the Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury in accordance with the provisions of R.S.54:4-49. The amount shall be assessed, levied and collected in the same manner and at the same time as other municipal purposes taxes are assessed, levied and collected therein and shall be paid from the disbursing officer to the treasurer of the free public library on a quarterly basis.

(THIRD OF A MIL EQUALS 33 CENTS ON $1,000 OF ASSESSED VALUE. For example, a home which is assessed at $100,000 would pay $33 a year for library service.)”

That is the minimum amount of funding provided to the library from the town.  Hasbrouck Heights funds the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library above the minimum by 20 percent.  Most towns do not fund more than their budget above the minimum’s required.

“We are lucky that the Council funds us higher than the minimum,” stated Hasbrouck Heights Library Director Mimi Hui.  “The money enables us to have more programs, have more professional staff on hand, and more materials.” 

Part of the budget also comes from a $150,000 grant from the Bergen County Freeholders, which is split up to the various libraries in BCCLS.  A change in how that grant is distributed at the center of the issue. 

Who is a member of BCCLS?

All libraries in Bergen County, plus the following towns:

Hudson County: North Bergen, Secaucus, Weehawken

Essex County:  Montclair, Livingston, Nutley, Millburn, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield, West Caldwell, Maplewood, West Orange, Roseland

Passaic County: Hawthorne

(Tomorrow:  An explanation of how the grant had previously been split up, and how it will be going forward, and why there is an issue.)