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Library Looks For Solutions To 2006 Budget Squeeze

Candace Braun

Cutting back on hours, increasing non-resident membership fees, and offering a passport service are just three remedies the Princeton Public Library's Board of Trustees is considering to offset the impact of its 2006 budget proposal to the Borough and Township.

The library is being asked not to significantly increase its 2006 budget from the previous year, and members of the library's Board were brainstorming budget strategies at their meeting on Tuesday, September 20. A 2006 budget request is due to both municipalities in October.

Last year, according to Director Leslie Burger, the library was asked to submit a budget that did not increase at all from 2004.

"This was a challenging task considering that 2005 was the first full year in the new library," she said, adding that the library was able to accomplish this through a number of one-time opportunities, including allocating unused Borough and Township funds for 2004, a total of $79,000, to the operating budget.

Some of the budgetary concerns that are facing the library this year include a relatively insignificant increase in contributions from the Friends of the Library, and the failure of non-tax revenues to sufficiently plug the gap between Borough and Township funding and the library's operating needs.

"Your terrific success is a double-edged sword," said Borough Mayor Joe O'Neill, noting that the increase in membership and programs at the library has caused an additional need in staffing and resources.

According to a financial report released by the library in July, there has been a 22 percent increase in the number of cardholders since last spring, and the total circulation of library items has increased almost 45 percent since last year.

One possible means of increasing revenue would be to offer a passport service to residents on nights and weekends. While the measure has been contested by the Borough in the past, Ms. Burger noted that the library would only offer the service when both Borough Hall and the post office are closed.

The service would bring in $30 per passport, with little cost to the library. The Borough currently brings in approximately $40,000 per year in revenue from the service, according to Mr. O'Neill.

Other possible sources of revenue that the library will consider are asking the Friends of the Library to increase their contribution approximately 10 percent, and increasing the membership fees for non-residents. Current fees for non-residents under the age of 65 are $30 for one month, $90 for six months, or $150 for a year.

"I know people who still think [the current fee] is a bargain," said Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, adding that the library could also consider raising the rental fee for use of the community room (currently $50 for four hours), as well as cutting back on the number of hours the library is open.

However, in regard to decreasing library hours, Ms. Marchand said: "We're not there yet."

Although it would slow down getting books back on shelves, reducing employee hours is also a possibility, said Ms. Burger.

The library director added that the library currently spends $15,000 annually for trash pick up and snow removal, and said she will ask the Borough if it would consider sharing the service it uses.

"I'd be willing to put trash barrels out on the street if it would help," said Ms. Burger.

The board of trustees will review a formal budget proposal for 2006 at a special budget meeting, slated for October 4.

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