Catalog

Understanding Mahwah's Library Referendum

The Need

More than ever, the Mahwah Public Library is central to the lives of residents.  It enriches individuals and families in countless ways from early literacy programs for youngsters and after-school activities for teens to informative lectures for adults and concerts for the whole family.  It provides computers and internet access for research and job seeking, meeting spaces for one-on-one consultation and small group projects, support for English as a second language, a safe space for children, and, of course, a great selection of books to build a lifelong love of reading plus music, movies and video games for all ages.


Mahwah clearly loves its library. Last year, the Library hosted over 2,000 programs, welcomed over 200,000 visitors and loaned nearly 300,000 items.  The Library receives the minimum tax funding established by state law in 1884.  Tax support for the Library has fallen by 14% in the past decade, failing to keep pace with rising costs and residents’ need for service.  This is no longer sufficient to meet the changing expectations of a modern library.

On November 5, the Library is asking voters to authorize an increase in the dedicated property tax that funds the library - the first such request in its 117-year history - to sustain essential services and to provide innovative new services that will directly benefit residents.

Why Now?

From 2009 through 2014, Library funding fell from $2,350,000 to just under $2,000,000. Funding has remained largely flat since 2014.  Inflation has grown by 18% over the past decade.  The Library cannot continue to provide the current level of service on a flat or nearly flat budget.

Library Funding 2009-2019

The proposed referendum would increase library funding by $250,000 - for a total roughly comparable to 2011 - ensuring the Library can continue to meet resident's expectations of a modern library.

Under to New Jersey law, any surplus funds would be returned to the Township for property tax relief.

Ballot Language

On November 5, 2019, Mahwah voters will have a direct voice in Library funding by voting on the following question:

Ballot Language "Shall the Tax Rate annually levied for the support of the Free Public Library in the Township of Mahwah be increased from 3.333 cents per $100 of Assessed Equalized Value of Real Property to 3.75 cents per $100 of Assessed Equalized Value of Real Property?"

Accompanying the ballot is the following explanatory note provided by the Township:

1)      The minimum amount required to annually be raised by taxation for the support of the Mahwah Free Public Library pursuant to subsection a. of R.S.40:54-8 is $2,014,953.

2)      The current amount annually raised by taxation for the support of the Mahwah Free Public Library pursuant to subsection a. of R.S.40:54-8 is $2,0145,953.

3)      The proposed change in the amount to annually be raised by taxation for the support of the Mahwah Free Public Library is $251,892.

4)      The effect of the proposed change on the property taxes of a residential property assessed at the average assessed value of residential properties in the Township of Mahwah is $20.76.

5)      The length of time a higher tax rate will be in effect is 10 years.

View a sample ballot (.pdf)

A Yes Vote - Thumbs Up
A NO Vote - Thumbs Down

Increases lifelong learning opportunities for all residents with innovative early literacy programs for children, engaging after-school activities for teens and informative lectures for adults, plus more of our popular concerts for the whole family.

Encourages reading for all ages through robust collections of books, media and other items for all ages that reflect the community’s tastes with multiple copies of popular items.

Significantly expands access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming media and more to meet the surge in demand and reduce waiting time for these services. 

Enhances non-traditional services such as notary public, passport processing, one-on-one technology assistance, job and life skills training for all ages, and other services that residents identify as important in their daily lives.

Creates convenience through extended hours, home delivery and live streaming of popular programs.

Invests in our community-guided vision for the future with targeted long-term improvements in services, the building and parking lot as outlined in our Strategic Plan.

Increases taxes by 1/4% - about $21/year for the average household.

Reduces books, DVDs and other items on our shelves. Funding for collections – the cornerstone of what we do – may be cut by 10% per year, resulting in a 50% decrease in new items by 2025.

Limits access to eBooks and online resources. Fewer copies of eBooks, audiobooks and streaming media would be available, resulting in longer wait times for popular items.

Decimates programs like early literacy for children, after-school activities for teens, lectures for adults and concerts for the whole family. Program funding may be cut by 10% per year, resulting in half as many programs by 2025.  Some will cease to exist.

Downsizes staff in order to balance the budget.  Staffing levels were trimmed several times over the past seven years. Any further reductions will translate into longer lines and reduced services.

Curtails hours. Based on community feedback, residents would like the Library to be open more but cutting evening or weekend hours is a very real possibility.

Eliminates funding for major repairs and renovations. While this may not seem important at first glance, careful budgeting and saving for major repairs has allowed the Library to maintain and enhance its facilities and services at no additional cost to residents. 

Maintains the existing library tax - no change to the average homeowner.

What does the Library Tax pay for?

The Library relies on support for nearly all Library operations – programs, collections, materials, technology, building maintenance and long-term initiatives.

Personnel

Books and library collections

Programs and events

ALL personnel costs, including salaries, pension, medical and other benefits.   As with other business in New Jersey, the Library must comply with increases to the minimum wage.

ALL library materials – the books, DVDs, CDs, eBooks, streaming media, online homework help and research that people demand from a modern library.  eBooks often cost twice or three times the equivalent hardcover and libraries must repurchase the title after two years.

ALL programs from early literacy for our youngest patrons through after-school activities for teens, lectures for adults and concerts for the whole family.

Operating Costs

Maintenance and Repairs

Major repairs and renovations

ALL other operating costs – everything from paper and pencils to telephones and technology.

ALL maintenance, repairs, utilities and insurance necessary to keep the Library open and welcoming to our neighbors 340 days every year.

ALL major repairs to the building and parking lot plus long-range strategic initiatives designed to improve services to residents.

How the Library Enriches Lives and Enhances Our Community

2018 Year in Review

Download the "2018 Year in Review" flier for details. 

Value for Mahwah

$2 million funding yields $5 million value

According to the American Library Association's Value Calculator, the Library offers $5,000,000 in value to the community each year. 

Library Use

Value

Borrowing Books, DVDs, CD and Other Items

$

3,840,403

Attending Adult, Teen and Children's Programs

$

529,203

Use of Online Research & Homework Help

$

288,716

Use of Meeting & Quiet Study Rooms

$

168,650

Use of Public Computers & WiFi

$

154,183

In-Person Research Assistance

$

102,774

Museum Passes & Other Services

$

3,760

Total Value to the Community

$

5,087,690

Learn more about these calculations and calculate the Library's value to you and your family by visiting the American Library Association's website.

How Will Additional Funds be Used?

If approved, the increase would go directly to collections, programs, capital repairs and enhancements, and other initiatives identified in the strategic plan.  As required by law, surplus funds would be returned to the Township for tax relief.

Tree showing growth

This past fall, the Library asked Mahwah residents to help set our long-range strategic goals.  They called for growth in several important areas that are reflected in the Library's Strategic Plan.  Under this community-driven plan, the Library seeks to:

Continue to support reading for all ages through robust physical collections of books, media and other items that reflect the community’s interests.

Invest in additional digital collections, enhancing access to eBooks, eAudiobooks, streaming media and more to meet the incredible demand for these services.  This is central to residents' expectations of a modern library.

Expand non-traditional services such as notary public, passport processing services, one-on-one technology assistance, life skills training for all ages, and other services that residents identify as important in their daily lives.

Dramatically increase lifelong learning opportunities for Mahwah residents.  In the recent Strategic Planning survey, residents asked for programs for all ages with wide-ranging topics from author talks to health and wellness, from arts and crafts to technology training to name just a few. 

Additionally, the Library will continue to invest in its future with targeted long-term improvements in the facilities. 

The proposed millage increase will allow the Library to meet these goals and dramatically improve the quality of life for Mahwah residents.

What Happens if Additional Funding Is Not Secured?

Reduced Books Reduced access to eBooks, streaming media and online resources Reduced Programs
Funding for collections – the cornerstone of what the library does – may be cut by up to 10% per year, resulting in a 50% decrease in new items by 2025.
eBooks and other eContent is particularly expensive, often two to three times the cost of printed books.  Reductions in funding mean fewer copies of popular eBooks, audiobooks and streaming media, resulting in longer wait times for popular items.
Funding for programs may be cut by up to 10% per year, resulting in half as many programs and events by 2025.  Many programs Mahwah residents value most – early literacy for children, after-school activates for teens, lectures for adults and concerts for the whole family will be decimated and some will simply cease to exist.
Reduced staff Reduced hours Reduced maintenance and repairs
A balanced budget would require either reducing staffing of shrinking collections, programs and other services. Staffing levels were trimmed several times over the past seven years so any further reductions in this area will translate into longer lines and reductions of service.

A reduction in hours is likely. 

Based on feedback from our Strategic Planning survey, residents would like the Library to be open more, but cutting evening or weekend hours is a very real possibility.

The Library would need to curtail or eliminate funding capital projects. While this may not seem important at first glance, careful budgeting and saving for major repairs has allowed the Library to maintain and enhance its facilities and services at no additional cost to the township.

What is the Impact on Taxes?

Understanding the impact on the Township and ratepayers is an important part of the process. 

Impact on Homeowners

Based on information from the Township’s 2019 “User-Friendly Budget” published on the Township’s website, the proposed increase would raise the average homeowner’s property by less than $21/year.

The proposed millage rate would raise the overall municipal taxes by less than one quarter of one percent.  The increased millage rate would sunset after 10 years unless a new rate is approved at a future general election.

Voter Resources

Remember to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, November 5!

Voter Resources
  1. Check your voter registration status
  2. Download a voter registration form or register to vote online
  3. Find your voting location or vote by mail



100 Ridge Road, Mahwah, NJ, 07430 201.529.READ
info@mahwahlibrary.org