By Randall Gabrielan
The proposed budget of the library is filled with excessive charges by the township that are the root of the library’s current fiscal problems, the consequence of efforts by the township committee to take library funds for their use. I focus on one issue where I have expertise, casualty insurance. The township is charging the library a greatly excessive share of its overall largely self-insured costs using a percentage that is much in excess of the library’s share of the risk. Take workers compensation, an insurance that is easily rated for its standard costs which are essentially relative to the type of employment covered. Office and library workers are rated lower because they generally incur fewer and less severe claims. Police and public works employees take higher rates to recognize their typical and greater incidence of claims. Calculating a standard cost to start the process would produce a much lower figure for the library. Later modifications from overall experience is a legitimate practice.
Liability insurance, probably not by coincidence, was charged the same percentage for a coverage where the library would likely have an even lower share of the total risk. Libraries, which have few accidents and claims, take low rates while a municipalitiy’s liability charges are greater for streets and police operations. Take automobiles for example and compare the library’s two vans with the great number of vehicles elsewhere in the township. The charge to the library is a typical example of the township seeking to take money for itself that belongs to library operations.
Branch closings would produce smaller savings than the township would imagine because higher paid branch employees would after returning to the main library could result in the termination of the lowest ranking employees in their class. However, much of what the township claims about library funding, when not false, is specious. Take the equalized valuations that are the start of library funding. While it is true that when values decline, statutory library funding declines. However, the township can adjust its tax rate, but the library can do nothing about valuations. Thus, the township is taking from the library funds governed by law to subsidize its own budget. The township committee lies by claiming the board previously “overspent,” this their excuse for not having started earlier its raid on library funds. The statutory, property values based appropriation is a minimum for libraries while municipalities that choose to provide adequate support have in the past appropriated more, a practice admittedly in decline in today’s fiscal environment. In addition, had the library retained its surplus, built largely from non-public funds, it would have been able to weather the present fiscal crises. In short, whereas the former board built a great library, with fine support from former township committees, support that was readily and publicly acknowledged, the present township committee seeks to dismantle that library system.
Correspondents to this site, typically anonymous cowards, will attempt to discredit my words in view of my departure from the board over a perceived trifling offense, one buried ambiguously in statute, one that requires a 17 page decision to understand fully, an offense comparable to driving a mile over the speed limit, a book sale practice with minor proceeds that was on-going for over 10 years without objection by the township’s purchasing department. Oddly, they seek to charge for purchasing activities that could be more effectively handled by the library. Well, effectiveness in township operations was never the issue.
Randell Gabrielan is the former president of the Middletown Library Board of Trustees