From the Courier Post:
Far from crying poverty, public libraries in some well-to-do New Jersey shore towns may be getting too much of a good thing.
The booming shore real-estate market combined with a 120-year-old state law that allocates a fixed percentage of local taxes to libraries has created a surplus that has reached in the millions in some cases.
In Avalon, where taxable real estate has tripled since 2004, $2.3 million will go the town’s library this year. In Ocean City, officials expect a library surplus of more than $4 million.
Now, town officials want legislators to modify the law so they can transfer some of the surplus to addressing other municipal expenses. The New Jersey State League of Municipalities plans to continue pushing for a change.
“Some of these towns, their library systems cannot possibly spend the amount of money they’re collecting,” William Dressel Jr., the league’s executive director, said in published reports.
But library advocates warn that the law is a necessary fail-safe because it stops politicians from cutting library budgets.
The real-estate slowdown may act as a natural regulator. And some local officials point out that library revenues fall under a state cap on how much property taxes can be raised, currently at four percent. The more towns raise for libraries, the less wiggle room they could have under the cap.