RED BANK: COUNTY LIBRARY COSTS WEIGHED

rbpl-garden-siteTrustees of the library say local taxpayers would still have to foot the cost of the borough facility on West Front Street, above, with access to fewer resources from Monmouth County. (Photo above by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The question pops up periodically, and did so several times last year in a user survey: would Red Bankers be better off if their library was part of the Monmouth County library system?

According to the Red Bank Public Library’s trustees, the answer is “no,” and it’s not a close call.

In a one-page report shared with redbankgreen, the trustees concluded that taxes would rise, and the level of service would decline, if Red Bank were to become a member of the county system.

By contrast, the number of books, videos and other materials available through the Libraries of Middlesex Automated Consortium (LMXAC), of which Red Bank is a member, already eclipse those of the Monmouth library system, and that membership comes at a fraction of the cost of county membership, trustees Beth Hanratty and Sara Hansen wrote.

From the report:

Because of our proximity to the Eastern Branch of the MCLS, our library would be considered a “Member” and not a “Branch.” This means our taxes to them would only pay for materials, IT [Information Technology], and some programs. The estimated cost to join MCLS in 2015 would have been $366,176 per year. RBPL would still need to pay for Staff, Building and Facilities, and the remainder of programs.

By contrast, Red Bank pays $22,000 annually for its membership in LMXAC, a fee that covers IT and online resources, the report states. In addition, through LMXAC, users have borrowing privileges at more than 150 libraries, compared to 21 in the county system, the report says.

Offering a side-by-side comparison, the report says the LMXAC system offers twice as many DVDs, 12 times as many Spanish-language books, almost double the number of Ebooks or audiobooks, and a comparable number of reference materials as the county.

The “bottom line,” according to the report:

A Red Bank resident with a home [assessed at] $400,000 currently pays $132.00 per year to the library. If we joined MCLS, the cost would increase to $205.56. RBPL’s 2015 budget would need to go from $708,000 to $916,000. We believe we’ve made the best decision possible for our community. We encourage you to come in and see how far your library card can stretch!

Here’s the report: RBPL MCL faq sheet 042216

Library Director Elizabeth McDermott told redbankgreen via email that the issue of a possible switch arose two years ago, during a disputed fiscal crisis, and the conclusion then was that it was “clearly cheaper” for Red Bank to be part of LMXAC.

Since then, she said, the upside of being part of LMXAC have increased.

“As more libraries join our consortium, the number of items available for borrowing increase and the strength of the consortium to negotiate good rates with vendors improves,” she said. “The cost of becoming a member library of the county hasn’t decreased, and the benefits of LMXAC keeps increasing.”

While the county library has a lower tax rate per household, it would no pay for building upkeep and staff the library’s biggest cost. “So the net cost would increase approximately $200,000,” McDermott said. “And services/materials would decrease.

“The county is a great system, but not for us,” she wrote.

McDermott said the trustees plan to discuss the five-year strategic plan at their next meeting, scheduled for May 19.