TRENTON, NJ - Gov. Chris Christie has signed Sen.Christopher “Kip” Bateman’s (R-16th) New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, ensuring it can appear on the ballot in the upcoming November general election.
“Public libraries drive the economy by providing career training and access to technology for people who wouldn’t have it otherwise,” Bateman said. “They are invaluable community centers that everyone should have access to, but 78 percent need repairs and less than half are ADA accessible.”
“Putting this on the ballot allows the public to decide on how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, which is exactly the way it should be done. I have no doubt that people will rise up to support their local library in November. It’s the right thing to do,” Bateman continued.
The bill authorizes $125 million in general obligation bonds to provide grants for construction, expansion and upgrades to New Jersey’s public libraries. The grants would pay for half the cost of constructing or upgrading a library, with local governments covering the other half. The State Librarian would establish eligibility criteria for the receipt of grants.
“This bill addresses a critical need,” said Michael Cerra, assistant executive director of the NJ League of Municipalities. “Many public libraries in New Jersey are simply outdated and cannot accommodate modern technologies. The NJ Library Construction Bond Act, if approved by voters, will provide an appropriate revenue source and thus diminish the financial impact on local governments.”
Currently, aid for libraries only amounts to 42 percent per capita. Although there were as many as 44 million visits to New Jersey libraries last year, many have been forced to reduce their hours or forego much-needed upgrades due to a lack of funding. 78 percent of libraries are in need of some repairs.
“Libraries are not just for storing books. They are shelter during a storm, career centers, and gathering places for new neighbors. They help our children grow into well-rounded adults. We simply cannot afford to let them crumble or fade away,” Bateman added. “I will continue to work with the dedicated advocates and local residents who have fought for this act to ensure our grandchildren know what it’s like to grow up with a library nearby.”