‘Librexit’ will benefit taxpayers in the long-run
LONGPORT – The Board of Commissioners Oct. 17 established the inaugural Board of Trustees for the Longport Public Library and appointed eight members to the board.
The members are Mayor Nicholas Russo, Board of Education President Carl Tripician, Roy Law, Patricia English, Erin Schaivo, Elizabeth Peterson-Ricci, Dolores Wilson and Damen Tomassi. Terms will be staggered from one to five years, with Russo’s and Tripician’s terms running concurrently with their terms in office.
The library was formed following a public referendum in November 2016 that gave the borough the go-ahead to withdraw from the Atlantic County Library System. The Board of Commissioners said the borough could run a library just as efficiently as the county and offer more programs at a lower cost to taxpayers. The vote was 240-149 in favor of Longport establishing its own library.
At that time, Longport officials believed they would remain part of the county library system for another two years, giving them time to form a library board to establish their own library, but were surprised to learn that the county decided it would not renew its lease. The county removed all books, furniture, computers and equipment and closed the Longport branch on Dec. 30, 2016.
Following the “librexit,” Longport formed an advisory board to assist the governing body in forming a library that suited the needs of the community. The borough entered a shared services agreement with Margate to allow the Margate Public Library to provide technical support to get the new library up and running. The library space was designed, furniture and equipment purchased, staff hired and the facility was stocked with 800 books and periodicals. A grand opening was held on July 28, 2017.
To the delight of officials and taxpayers, the library has since increased the number of programs and activities for children and adults, hosted concerts, established monthly art exhibitions, book clubs and more. Margate provided Longport with the use of its computerized library loan system and provides books for residents upon request within 24 hours.
According to regulations set by the NJ Division of Local Government Services and the State Library Board, the borough was required to collect the full library tax – 1/3 of a mil based on the borough’s total assessed valuation – and turn those funds over the county system during a two-year phase-out period that ends this year.
Although the borough had to fund the formation and operation of the new library through its capital and municipal budgets during the first two years of operation, taxpayers will benefit in the long-run, officials say.
According to Chief Financial Officer Jenna Kelly, the amount of library taxes being collected for 2018 is $644,000, with the final payment to the county due on Nov. 1. The cost to run the borough library for the first nine months of 2018 is $143,000, which was also funded through the borough’s operating budget, she said.
Over the next eight years, the borough will still be required to collect the full library tax and can use a portion of the money to fund the library, with any remaining funds put into an escrow account. At the end of the eight years, funds that accrue, which could be quite a substantial sum, can be put into the general fund, returned to the taxpayers in the form of tax relief, or used for any purpose the commissioners decide.
After the eight-year period, the borough will still be required to collect library taxes at the full millage rate but can decide each year how to use any surplus funds, Solicitor Pacifico “Pat” Agnellini said.