WEST ORANGE, NJ – A petition to increase funding for the West Orange Public Library is scheduled to be presented at the Town Council meeting on March 8.
The petition, which can be seen HERE, is addressed to Mayor Parisi and the Town Council Members. In part, it says the library is an essential part of the community, and asks the council to fund it above the state minimum standards.
Right now, a lack of operating funds has the library looking at ways to save money by reducing the number of books, electronic devices, hours of operation, programming and possibly staff.
West Orange resident Jennifer Shanet, who posted information on the petition on Facebook, said she did so because she really likes the library, and has already seen the hours of operation decrease over the six years she has been a resident. She said she does not want the hours to decrease further.
“The children’s program is wonderful,” she said. It teaches respect for books and my kids always have a great time there.”
Prior to this year, President of the West Orange Board of Trustees Sheri Lynn Prupis said the library used money on hand to close gaps after additional town funding stopped. “Since then, the library board of trustees moved money reserved for capital expenditures to operating expenses and this is not sustainable.”
Prupis added that funding from the library comes from assessed values of property.
“By state law, the library is funded at a one third of a million dollars—the minimum level of funding is that for every $100,000 of property value you pay $33,” she said.
She also said she wanted to dispel rumors that the town is stopping its funding for the library.
“The town is not defunding the library,” she said. “They are just not appropriating any additional funds to the library. Without additional funds, the board of trustees will have to reduce expenditures.”
Mayor Robert Parisi said, “The township has no ability under the law to cut their funding.” He added, “Yes, their funding does ebb and flow based on assessed valuation of all property in town.”
Prupis said that besides looking at schools, the library is the first thing people look at when moving to a new town.
“Cutting library services could be detrimental in attracting new families to buy houses that are for sale in town,” she said.
Parisi also noted that the township is facing its own financial problems. He described “a significant deficit this year as well as operating costs, and mostly health insurance increasing faster than we can keep up with it.”
Councilwoman Michelle Casalino said she is looking at all the information that is being presented to her, including the petition.
“I have become educated about the budget and it looks pretty tight,” she said.
Casalino said the March 8 council meeting is a part of the conversation.
“We will hear what their needs are, and then continue the conversation during the budget meeting on March 12,” she added.
The West Orange Town Council meeting is set for Tuesday, March 8 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The public is invited to attend.