Thursday, July 13, 2006

Trouble in the Garden State

The Annoyed Librarian doesn't think she'd like to live in New Jersey.

This is the state, after all, where the government shut down for several days recently over a budget impasse because apparently no one in the state government can do basic math or understand politics. Turns out if a government spends more money than it takes from its citizens, it has to take more money, because governments can't reduce spending. That's a proven impossibility.

According to the papers, the governor promised he wouldn't raise any taxes if elected, and a bunch of idiots in New Jersey voted for him. And then he raised the budget and wanted to raise taxes to pay for it. Apparently even his fellow Democrats balked. Probably most of those New Jersey folks just like really high taxes, though. Takes all kinds to make a world, as my mama used to say. [Update: this is the same governor who later spent 2 weeks in the hospital after his SUV crashed at 91mph while he wasn't wearing his seat belt.]

Which brings me to the subject of New Jersey and tax money shenanigans. This one has got to be a new low, at least for libraries. (Well, people could probably suggest some lower lows, but this is pretty low, if you ask me.) And this time it's not something being done by librarians, my usual topic of discussion, but something being done to them.

Upper Saddle River, NJ, funds a public library, of course. Upper Saddle River also owns the building the library inhabits. Now, though, the town council is going to charge rent to the library. $15,000/month! Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul!

Apparently Upper Saddle River's priority is to spend, spend, spend, and they're fresh out of other people's money. There are certainly things more important than the public library--police protection and garbage collection spring to mind--but I'm betting the money is just going to cover the many unnecessary expenses the government undoubtedly has, and probably a lot of stuff that's considerably less important than library services. Maybe the money is going to that Soprano guy. Who knows? Anyway, now they have to engage in a little fiscal legerdemain.

And how are they going to collect this "rent"? They're just going to deduct if from the money already mandated for the library. Wait, how can they do that? Doesn't "mandated" mean they have to give the money to the library? Turns out it does, so they can't just, say, lower the amount of money they give to the library budget. See, that would be illegal. And those Upper Saddle River council buffoons don't want to do anything illegal. Public officials in New Jersey just don't do illegal things!

So they have to give the money to the library before taking it back, sort of, or at least claim to give it to them before taking it back, or make it look like they might be giving them some money except for the money they would give them if they were going to give them more money than they wanted to. Or something like that. (Reminds me of the old joke about asking an accountant "what is 2+2." "What do you want it to be?") See, they have to lower the library budget without calling it lowering the library budget. That would be too honest, or in this case, dishonest. It would be too honest about their dishonesty. That's what I mean. Now the library funded by USRNJ will be charged "rent" on a building owned by USRNJ. That makes a lot more sense. Very clever solution, boys!

The library system director has promised a fight. I think it's a fight he's going to lose, based on the latest news from New Jersey.


Angel, librarian and educator said...

OK, making the library pay rent because the residents are whining about their tax burden is indeed a new low. Before you know, they will want librarians to pay them for actually working in the library. Don't get me wrong, I am as much for low taxes as the next guy, but if you want services, you have to pay for them. Schools, roads, libraries, don't pay for themselves. They are services everyone uses, so buck up and pay the taxes for them, if you want them. Sounds easy, except when the government takes the money, wastes it, then comes back asking for more. If it was a teenage kid with daddy's credit card, you would take the credit card away. Wish it were that simple. Like you point out, sadly, the library director is set to lose this fight. Then again, what else is new in a state (and a nation) that simply just does not value providing services for the common good? Ooh, did that sound socialist? Would not want to scare the children or anything, hahaha. Best, and keep on blogging.

miriam said...

This happens all the time in New Jersey. I thought the State Library had put a stop to it.

You see, state law mandates that a municipality must appropriate .03 percent of its assessed valuation to the library. USR is a wealthy community, so it has to appropriate lots of money to the library. This is the clever politicians' way of taking some of it back.

Annoyed Librarian said...

Miriam, you obviously know more about the specifics of New Jersey politics than I do.

And, by the way, I'm all for government services that are actually for the common good, and I consider public libraries to be such a service. And I'm definitely not a socialist. I wonder, though, how many of the services they're paying for in that town really are for the common good. I just don't know.

Greg said...

wow, just wow

P.B.I. Librarian said...

I have lived there, and in a fairly nice area (Somerset County)...and I believe I'd hammer a six inch spike I'd live there again.

Bunny Watson said...

All those NJers who escape are just moving down to Delaware and turning it into a blue state though. The population's all in the north (commuters into Philly and NJ), but all the sense is in the south.

miriam said...

Bunny--Delaware is already a blue state--exhibit A, Senator Biden.

But I am as red as red can be.

In defense of the folks in USR, the average home is assessed at $700,000, give or take a few thousands. They fertilize their lawns with dollar bills.

Their library board is a bunch of jerks. One of the best librarians I know resigned from his job as director after going through a building program, which is hell on wheels. He resigned because of the stupidity of the board.

They have a hundred of everything in the library.

Anonymous said...

USR council rapes the funding of the library syetem now, what will be next. The mandated funding for the system is through taxation, directly for the use as library funds for the upkeep and maintenance of the library. It appears that the council has misspent the funds they are in control of, and now want the library to pay for their mismanagement. The library and it's staff provide an environment for enriching the minds of the people of USR, enhancing the value of living in USR. Why punish them for living within their means.

Brent said...

The ex-governor is going to be a gay minister. Nothing wrong with that, I guess. Well, except the part of the infidelities, lying, and corruption. The New York Post picture of him as a minister was pretty funny.

But the New Jersey politik is messed up. Corzine, speeds on his way home from the hospital. I love it.

I do believe it is the armpit of the United States.