March 27, 2013

Library Asks Municipality for Budget Increase, Funds for Two-Hour Parking, Capital Projects

Mayor Liz Lempert and members of Princeton Council will meet this Monday, April 1, at 7 p.m. in open session in the Princeton Municipal Building at 400 Witherspoon Street.

Among other agenda items, action is expected on the 2013 budget of the Princeton Public Library, projected as $5,020,025.

This figure includes $4,030,619 in municipal funds, or 80 percent of the library’s total operating expenses. According to the library’s budget request, this amount is “consistent with the ratio of tax support and private support that has been in place for years.”

The balance would be made up by donations from the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, the Princeton Library Foundation, grants and library fees. The Friends, which operate the library’s book-sale and annual benefit, anticipate a donation of $150,000 to the library’s operating budget this year.

According to the library, after holding the
line on budget increases for the last four years, the increase is necessary as a result of increased costs for health benefits, unemployment and disability insurance, and pension contributions.

In addition, the shift from in-house server-based technology to cloud computing has increased operating costs for information technology.

The 2013 budget represents a 4.5 percent increase over last year and includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for library employees. It also includes a request for $150,000 from the municipality in support of the up to two hours of free parking in the Spring Street garage that the library provides to Princeton residents.

In addition, the library requests a combined 2012 and 2013 capital allocation of $412,077 to support building and technology improvements, and other miscellaneous projects. Since the library did not receive capital funds in 2012, the budget includes the amount requested in 2012 together with an amount for 2013. The 2012 figure is $195,000; that for 2013 is $217,077.

This money would be used to replace worn carpeting over a three year period ($91,077 for the first year), electrical upgrades to reduce the library’s utility costs ($18,000), the installation of hands free low flow bathroom fixtures to reduce water consumption and paper towel waste ($19,000), furniture and painting ($100,000), and for a replacement vehicle ($30,000).

The Princeton Public Library has become known as Princeton’s “living room.” No more so than during the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy when residents sought shelter by the  Library fireplace, charged up their cellphones and used their computers at a time when many homes were without power and heat. The library has reported serving more than 29,000 people in this way over a six day period.

”The demand for study and seating space in the library continues to grow each year, and it is never more evident than when the library opens in response to a storm,” the budget request states.

Last year the number of visitors using the library, which is open 74 hours a week, was more than 840,000.

Mayor Lempert. a member of the library board, said at the March 19 public board meeting that the issue would come before the municipality on April 1; until then she could not comment. The library’s budget will be introduced as part of the municipal budget.

In a phone interview Monday, Library Director Leslie Burger presented a no-harm-in-asking attitude when questioned about the library’s request for extra funding from the municipality. “It’s merely a request and it’s up to the town to decide at what level it intends to support the library,” she said. “Up until now the library has been a joint agency dealing with the Borough of Princeton and the Township of Princeton. Now we are a single agency and we are feeling our way through that process of change.”

Ms. Burger pointed to decreasing revenues from movie rentals now that library patrons are streaming movies instead of borrowing them. She also acknowledged receiving a number of calls about the issue. Asked if she thought it likely that the request would be approved, Ms. Burger commented that it was in the nature of budget proposals to change.