Other towns should take Montville's lead when it comes to property tax relief.
The Montville library board of trustees has secured state permission to give the municipality $237,022 in library surplus for property tax relief, and doing so willingly. This is called a short ceremony of transfer.
It's a shame more towns and their libraries can't try to solve this problem themselves. It's refreshing to see Montville working this out itself.
Many municipal libraries in New Jersey are funded through an ancient system in which they are guaranteed a steady stream of tax money. This is "one third of a mill" of the total assessed value of real estate. That amounts to $33 for every $100,000.
As assessments in many towns have increased over the years, predictably, money for libraries has kept increasing also. No one really saw anything wrong with any of that until recently. Then the recession came, which depressed all real estate values and fueled tax appeals. Then Gov. Chris Christie cut state aid to these towns and has now imposed an annual 2 percent cap on property tax increases.
Even when all this is going on, money for libraries has continued to pour in, especially in municipalities where property assessments have not been adjusted to reflect the new reality, which includes most towns. This creates an ironic situation: while these municipal governments were struggling, the local libraries were full of cash, relatively speaking.
Supporters of the move say the library is "hoarding" a surplus that exceeds $1 million. There is also legislation in Trenton that would require libraries to give the municipality its excess surplus, which is defined as exceeding 20 percent of its audited expenditures for the previous year.
This issue has seen a lot of movement in East Hanover where a campaign is forming to change the library's funding stream. There is a bill that has passed the legislature, but has not been signed by the governor.