At the May 21st public Town Council meeting, the Council will vote on the 2013 budget, including cuts of about $100,000, or more than 7%, to the Library while the Town’s budget as a whole will increase by more than $400,000 (a little more than 2%). Though I’m a Republican, for me this issue isn’t political. Though several reasons for the cuts have been suggested, it seems to me that for Council members Glover, Gialanella and Beckerman political considerations are the real reason.
At April’s public Council business meeting, a standing room only crowd expressed support for the Library. Not one person spoke in favor Mr. Glover’s plan to slash the Library’s budget. Just this Saturday (the 11th), the Library held a festival celebrating Latin authors, music and culture. More than a thousand people took time out on a Saturday, came downtown and attended the Festival. The decision to ignore the public outcry and the huge public usage and support of the Library by Scotch Plains residents is stunning.
We’ve heard from Mayor Glover that the primary reason the Library’s budget will be cut is that in prior years other departments were cut and the Library was spared, so now it is the Library’s turn to suffer. That’s no way to set budget priorities for a $24 million budget for a town of +23,000 residents! It seems almost as if Council members Glover, Gialanella and Beckerman have an axe to grind against the Library; this rationale is so bad that hopefully this isn’t their true motivation.
At the last Council meeting, before voting with Mr. Glover and Mr. Beckerman to cut the Library’s budget, Council member Gialanella said that she did not understand all the numbers floating around about the Library. She suggested that because the issue was so complicated the Council needed to sit down with the Library Trustees to go over the numbers. But the Town budget on sheet 34 of the public document is, and has been since the Council got the budget in early February, quite clear about the +$100,000 being slashed from the Library. Mr. Glover suggested last month that $67,000 was “found” as left over from 2012. As has been explained and documented by the Library staff, most of that money has already been spent for 2012 bills. Mr. Glover has also suggested that there may be other ways to give the Library more money while at the same time cutting its budget. But he’s done nothing to explain what he’s suggesting. No matter what smoke screens are used to complicate things, the cuts are in the budget and nothing has been done officially to change that. I hope the Council members really aren’t so financially naive that they do not understand that the cuts are real, that much of what’s been said serves only to confuse the issue or what ‘double counting’ means.
Politics is what’s driving the Democrats. Mr. Glover has publicly boasted that this year’s tax increase will be the lowest in ten years. Keeping tax increases small is good, but it isn’t the whole story. The Town’s budget is actually going up. This is because of salary increases for many of the Town’s 168 employees, most of whom are members of public employee unions, and because of big increases in the costs incurred by the hiring of the Town’s new set of lawyers, engineers and other professionals, virtually all of whom are contributors to local, Assembly and County Democrat campaigns. In order to be able to boast about a small tax increase and at the same time increase salaries and payments to campaign contributors, the Town budget has to be cut somewhere. Politically, cutting the Library is an easy place to cut. They are sticking to this, even though the public doesn’t want the Library budget to be cut, because to do otherwise would go against their political goals. Politics as practiced by Mr. Glover, Ms. Gialanella and Mr. Beckerman (and presumably their Democrat party leader, Ms. Stender) will give the Democrats a catchy campaign slogan and favor their political friends at the expense of the public interest.