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Towns Approve Joint Budget, Library Endowment Debated

Matthew Hersh

Members of Borough Council and Township Committee met last week to approve joint spending for the two municipalities' 15 shared services and agencies.

The April 26 hearing at Borough Hall saw cuts to nine of the agencies, as Borough Council and Township Committee were largely in accord on the allocation of the $7.5 million reserved for shared services.

As was the case in 2004, however, the centerpiece of the hearing was the budget for the Princeton Public Library, which will receive about $3.1 million from the two municipalities this budget cycle ‹ down $70,368 from last year's allocation.

Also at the center of the debate was money generated by a library endowment and how that could ease budgetary tensions.

The library budget, according to Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi, "was the most difficult to do."

The library had requested an increase of $450,000.

But Mr. Bruschi said that while that request was not granted, the library could mitigate any impact of lost funding by creating a $300,000 capital support for its book and compact disc purchases. Those purchases were to be funded through the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, but, under this budgetary consideration, those monies would be redirected to cover operating costs.

The library will also have access to an $80,000 balance remaining from its funding last year.

An ongoing discussion between the two towns concerns the issue of money for library parking. "We're trying to come up with an agreement," Mr. Bruschi said, adding that the problem would be revisited in the future. The 2004 budget had covered parking costs for library patrons at the Spring Street Municipal Garage, with about two-thirds of that $100,000 parking cost going to the Township. The split, as is the case with other joint agencies, is based on the number of tax-generating properties, of which about two-thirds are found in the Township.

Bill Enslin, a member of Township Committee, suggested that the library consider other methods of cutting costs, possibly through the use of solar energy. Borough Councilwoman Peggy Karcher agreed, saying that the library is often fully-lit well after it closes. Those lights, however, are needed for the cleaning crews, according to library officials.

Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, who voted for the budget, said she "hoped" that using books and CDs as capital expenses was a non-recurring budgetary tactic. "The library should have money to buy books in its budget and that is something that should really be the goal for all of us," she said.

Councilman Roger Martindell called the practice of putting books to bond "bad policy."

Mr. Martindell also said that the municipality had been assured that an endowment created by the not-for-profit Library Foundation would produce capital money of its own by generating income and contributing to fund increases and operating expenses.

But Library President Leslie Burger said that no income has been generated by the library's endowment "at the moment."

When money was being raised for the new library, the fund-raising was a two-pronged process: one was a capital campaign, of which $12 million has been raised, and the other was by establishing an endowment using a $2.5 million gift from George and Estelle Sands, after whom the library building itself is named. "We don't have that cash in hand," Ms. Burger said, but what the library is doing now is to raise endowment funds from pledges. "The income in hand is slightly less than $2 million at this point," she said.

The independently-chartered Foundation board is responsible for setting investment policy as to how endowment funds are used, Ms. Burger said. The goal of the endowment is $10 million, according to Harry Levine, treasurer of the Library Foundation.

Ms. Marchand said that the library "should not suffer" because of municipal miscalculations of the size of its budget.

"We knew that the budget was going to be big and that the operating costs were going to be much larger than we had ever had before," she said. "I don't think there are people in the community who are going to object to the cost that we have put in for the library as a resource," she said.

Other cuts in spending were levied on Animal Control, the Cable Television Committee, Corner House, the Fire Department, Fire Facilities, the Health Department, the Sewer Operating Committee, and the Suzanne Patterson Center. Increased spending will go to the Recreation Department, the Regional Planning Board, Human Services, the Environmental Commission, and the First Aid & Rescue Squad.

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