By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank Public Library has put its entire staff on notice of possible layoffs in the face of a looming budget shortfall.
Library director Virginia Papandrea confirmed to redbankgreen Tuesday morning that all 10 staffers, including three part-timers, were advised by letter dated Friday that they could be laid off unless the facility can fill an operating budget shortfall estimated at $131,000.
The move comes as the library faces a whopping payout of more than $70,000 in unused sick time to a retiring employee and a drop in the sum that the borough is obligated under state statute to pay into the facility from property tax collections.
Under state law, municipalities are required to fund their libraries to the tune of a fraction of a penny for every dollar’s worth of combined property value in town. In Red Bank, that payment has fallen from $741,106 in 2011 to $668,788 for the current year, Papandrea said.
“Those are some big chunks,” she said of the year-to-year declines.
“They’re serious problems, I’ll say that,” library board president John Grandits said of the facility’s finances at a February 27 meeting, where problems with the elevator and a roof leak were also discussed. “It’s been a struggle about how to resolve them.”
The library averted a financial shortfall last year in part by the borough government’s agreement to include the cost of sick-time payout of about $30,000 for a retiring library employee in a bond covering such payouts to all town employees who were retiring.
This year’s retirement, requiring a contractual payout in “the low-to-mid-seventies,” was unexpected, and the library has no guarantee from elected officials that the payout will be similarly addressed, Papandrea said.
Compared to libraries serving similar-sized communities, the Red Bank library is “top-heavy with full-timers,” said Papandrea, who’s been in her post for just a year.
Staff members believe the ax could fall as soon as Thursday, said one who asked not to be identified.
“Me, I’m packing,” said the employee. “Others are walking around in a daze.”
Library funding is expected to come up as an issue at Wednesday night’s bimonthly meeting of the borough council.