Recently Mr. Lou Beckerman, a Democrat running for the Scotch Plains Town Council, posted in a local media outlet a letter “setting the records straight” regarding his vote in favor of cutting the Scotch Plains Library’s budget.  He was responding to a letter from Llewellyn Jones, the Republican candidate for Scotch Plains Town Council.  Unfortunately, while trying to set the record straight, Mr. Beckerman did not correctly characterize state law concerning the Library’s budget and failed to mention a relevant fact concerning some money which was left ‘unspent’ by the Library at the end of last year.

Mr. Beckerman said that “[t]he amount that the Town Council includes in its budget for its municipal library is set by State law.”  That’s not true.  State law sets a minimum amount of funding required for libraries. As he mentioned, some towns have misplaced priorities and do not much care about whether their libraries have adequate support, can buy books and e-readers or are open at convenient hours.  Towns like that can’t shortchange their libraries as much as they’d like since state law requires at least a bare minimum amount of funding.  That’s what the budget Mr. Beckerman and Mayor Glover approved did.  It approved only the bare minimum.  Mr. Beckerman failed to mention that State law does not set a maximum amount of funding.  Many towns, as did Scotch Plains in previous years, provide more than the minimum required by the State.

Mr. Beckerman also said that “[a]t the end of 2012, the [Library] was sitting on approximately $60,000 in unspent funds.”  However, he failed to mention that the money left unspent at the end of the year was ‘unspent’ only in the sense that the Library had yet to pay all of its 2012 expenses.  Quite a few bills for 2012 had not yet come in, and from what I’ve heard from people at the Library, about $50,000 of that amount was paid out in the first few months of 2013 to pay outstanding invoices from 2012.  He could only call this money ‘unspent’ if he thought that the Library’s bare minimum 2013 budget should be used not only to pay 2013 expenses but also to pay 2012 expenses for which the bill had not yet been received as of year-end.

I don’t think Mr. Beckerman set the record straight at all.