Background Paper for Blyshak Gutwirth Youngkin for Council 2013 Campaign
The Pinelands Branch Library and Its Place In the Burlington County Library System
Written by David L. Crawford, PhD* June 12, 2013
This background paper is preliminary. Readers who become aware of errors, misleading statements, or omitted relevant issues are encouraged to advise the author via [email protected]
*Dr. Crawford is the President of Econsult Corporation and an Adjunct Professor of Management in the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the Burlington County Democratic Committeeman for Medford Township District 7, Treasurer of the Medford NJ Democratic Club, and Co-Manager of the 2013 Blyshak-Gutwirth-Youngkin Campaign for Medford Township Council. Dr. Crawford acknowledges helpful input from Lisa Bakanas, Brett Maria Blyshak, Paul Chenier, Robert Farr, Sander Friedman, Becca Stein Gutwirth, Denise Williams, and George and Nancy Youngkin, and the reference department of the Westampton Branch of the BCLS; none of the errors or views expressed herein should be attributed to them. Dr. Crawford thanks Susan Ribinsky for her expert editorial input.
Table of Contents
2. The Burlington County Library System (BCLS)
3. The Pinelands and Other Branches of the BCLS
3.A. Land and Improvements
3.B. Sharing of Operating Costs
3.C. Indirect Costs
3.D. Withdrawal from a County Library System
4. The Medford Library Association
5. The May 16, 2011 Agreement
6. The July 10, 2012 Meeting of the Medford Township Council
7. The July 17, 2012 Meeting of the Medford Township Council
8. Township Council Meetings from August 2012 to January 8, 2013 14 9. The Pinelands Branch Volunteer Initiative
10. Recent Days
11. Important Questions
12. Related Documents
13. Final Note
1. Introduction Much has been said and written in recent months about the Pinelands Branch Library of the Burlington County Library System (BCLS). In 2012, its 40th year, the financial terms of the relationship between Medford Township, owner of the Pinelands Branch property, and the BCLS were questioned. Medford Township Council sought to modify those terms. Since then, the discussion has expanded to include broader questions about the long-term library needs of Medford residents and others who currently use the Pinelands Library. The discussion has further expanded to include concerns regarding the working relationship between Medford Township Council members and Burlington County Freeholders. Public statements by Council members indicate that they are motivated by general fiscal pressures on Medford Township, and concerns that Medford taxpayers be treated fairly. Freeholder public statements have included concerns about a different concept of fairness to taxpayers in all of the townships that host BCLS branches and some townships that do not. It is potentially confusing to observers that both Medford Township Council and Burlington Board of Freeholders members are basing their positions on fairness concerns and sometimes on the same historical precedents. Other individuals and the press have expressed the view that the differing positions are due, in part, to philosophical differences of opinion about the proper role of government and/or ongoing political disagreements among some current Medford Council members and Republican Burlington County Freeholders. Any citizen who seeks to form his or her own opinion based on facts encounters considerable difficulty determining exactly what the facts are. To my knowledge, no one has attempted to pull those facts together in one place. The goal of this background paper is to identify a set of incontrovertible facts in the hope of facilitating a prompt and sensible resolution to the current controversy, creating the opportunity for a fact-based discussion of the future of the BCLS and the long-term needs of Medford residents for library services.
This paper is divided into 11 sections. Section 2 describes the organizational structure and financing of the BCLS. Section 3 focuses on the relationships of the BCLS with each of the 7 branch libraries, including the Pinelands Branch, which is located in Medford. Section 4 is a brief discussion of the Medford Library Association. The May 18, 2011 agreement among Medford Township, the Medford Library Association, and the BCLS (the most recent such agreement that was in effect for a period of time) is described in Section 5. Sections 6-10 recount the history of public statements about the relationship between the BCLS and the Pinelands Branch Library. Section 11 lists short-term and long-term questions that remain to be resolved. Section 12 lists documents that I think should be considered in answering the questions in Section 11. I have many of these documents in hand and will be posting them soon on the website of Blyshak, Gutwirth, and Youngkin campaign for Medford Township Council (MedfordDems2013.com). As I obtain additional documents, I will post them as well.
2. The Burlington County Library System (BCLS) The first county library in New Jersey, the Burlington County Library, was established in 1921 when “the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders appointed a Library Commission of five members to administer library affairs.”1 That Library Commission is still in place today, and the BCLS now consists of 19 locations: the main county library in Westampton; the Pinelands Branch in Medford; six other branch libraries in Bordentown, Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Riverton; nine independently controlled “member” libraries; and two Burlington County Community College Libraries.2 The principal funding source of the BCLS is the Burlington County library tax on taxable land and improvements.3 Thirty-seven of the 40 Burlington County 1
http://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/history http://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/libraries 3 Revenues from the Burlington County Library Tax equaled $10,785,588 (90% of operating expenses) in 2011 and $10,646,309 (83% of operating expenses) in 2012. The decrease in the percentage from 2011 to 2012 was due largely to the use of funds accumulated over past years to cover the combination of an increase of approximately $814,000 in expenditures and a 2
townships (all but Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro) participate in the BCLS and pay that tax. Selected tax revenue data for 2012 is described in Table 1 below. The $960,191 in taxes from Medford Township (shown in Table 1) corresponds to the $1 million figure that Medford Township Council members and others have discussed publicly in recent months. It should be noted that Medford’s share of the library tax is almost equal to its share of the taxable land and improvements in the 37 participating townships. The county library tax is not progressive as has been stated in recent months.4
Table 1 2012 County Library Tax Bases and Taxes Taxable Land & Improvements
County Library Taxes
All Burlington County Minus Moorestown Minus Mount Laurel Minus Willingboro
$42,568,835,840 ($4,592,646,000) ($3,419,639,100) ($1,898,023,000)
$10,646,309 $0 $0 $0
Burlco Less 3 Towns
Medford as Percentage of Burlco Less 3 Towns
Tax Rate per $1000
Source: Burlington County Board of Taxation, 2012 Abstract of Ratables
All Burlington County residents (except for Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro) have free access to all branches and services of the BCLS, and can obtain free access to the Atlantic and Ocean County Libraries through reciprocal agreements. Residents of Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro
decrease of approximately $139,000 in tax revenue. The corresponding percentages for 2009 and 2010 were 97% and 95%, respectively. (Figures are based on 2012 Burlington County Library Budget; except for the 2012 revenue figure taken from the 2012 Burlington County Board of Taxation Abstract of Ratables.) 4 A progressive tax would apply a higher tax rate to residents of wealthier townships like Medford.
must pay $50 per family annually to have access to the BCLS since the residents of those townships do not pay the Burlington County library tax. According to the 2010 Census, there were 130,446 households in the participating townships. Their 2012 county library taxes of $10.65 million imply an average tax of approximately $82 per household, about 64% larger than the $50 usage fee.5 This rough calculation suggests that the $50 fee should be increased. It should be noted that the current fees for non-residents using the Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Willingboro municipal libraries are $50, $90, and $35, respectively.6
3. The Pinelands and Other Branches of the BCLS
3.A. Land and Improvements The land and improvements used by 5 of the 7 branch libraries (Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Pinelands) of the BCLS are owned by the townships in which those branch libraries are located and are provided to the BCLS on a rent-free basis. The Riverton Branch, which has always been owned by the Riverton Free Library Association, is provided to the BCLS on a rent-free basis by the Association. The Bordentown Branch has been a Burlington County facility since 2001. The Bordentown Branch facility was deeded to the BCLS by the Bordentown Library Association concurrent with the execution of a cost-share agreement under which the Association provided the county $941,000 to upgrade and enlarge the facility.7
It would be better to use estimates of the numbers of households in 2012 as the divisor for 2012 County Library Tax revenues, but 2012 counts of households are not currently available for individual towns in Burlington County. If one assumes the number of households in 2012 to be 95% to 105% of the 2010 value, the implied tax per household is $78 to $86, both larger than the $50 usage fee. 6 http://www.moorestown.lib.nj.us/borrowing.html, http://www.mtlaurel.lib.nj.us/services/index.html, http://www.willingboro.org/index.php/what-we-offer-leftmenu-76/-circulation-department-leftmenu217/646 7 June 7, 2013 email response of Burlington County Custodian of Records Joseph Threston to OPRA request filed by Sander Friedman, Chairman of the Burlington County Democratic Committee
The Pinelands Branch was opened on February 14, 1972 at its current location, 39 Allen Avenue in Medford.8
The property, which is owned by
Medford Township, has a 2013 assessed value of $738,300 (the sum of $682,200 for the 0.37 acre of land and $56,100 for the improvements, i.e., the building and the parking lot) according to the Burlington County Property List.9 These and other available assessment data for BCLS branch libraries are displayed in Table 2.
Table 2 BCLS County and Branch Library Assessments
Location County Bordentown Cinnaminson Evesham Maple Shade Pemberton Pinelands Riverton
Land Area (Acres) 5.510
Land Assessment $688,800
Improvements Assessment $2,943,000
Total Assessment $3,631,800
0.344 ** ** ** 4.675 0.370 0.140
$1,500,000 ** ** ** $528,300 $682,200 $93,600
$118,500 ** ** ** $2,236,600 $56,100 $202,600
$1,618,500 ** ** ** $2,764,900 $738,300 $296,200
** Separate listing for library property is not available. Source: Burlington County Board of Taxation, Tax Records,http://co.burlington.nj.us/Pages/viewdepartment.aspx?did=16
Some have argued that a township’s provision of a branch library property, such as Medford’s provision of the Pinelands Branch property, amounts to “double taxation” because residents and businesses in Medford Township also pay the Burlington County Library Tax discussed in the previous section of this paper. Others have argued that it is appropriate for a township to provide a branch library property in return for the benefits of having a branch library located in the 8
http://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/friends/medford.shtml Burlington County Board of Taxation, Tax Records, http://co.burlington.nj.us/Pages/viewdepartment.aspx?did=16 9
township. The disagreement is a matter of opinion, not fact, and its resolution is beyond the scope of this paper.
3.B. Sharing of Operating Costs The BCLS pays the salaries, wages, and benefits of employees who work in the county and branch libraries. In the 2012 budget, those costs were $9,413,125, 73% of total operating expenditures.10 The BCLS also pays all of the non-personnel operating expenses of the county library and the non-personnel operating expenses of the seven branch libraries except for maintenance, cleaning, and utility costs of the five branch libraries that are owned by the townships in which they are located (Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Pinelands) and the Riverton branch that is owned by the Riverton Free Library Association. The most recent fully executed contract addressing cost-sharing by Medford Township and the BCLS is discussed in Section 5 below. In response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to Medford Township, George Youngkin obtained two Excel spreadsheets, which state that the Medford Township expenses related to the Pinelands Branch Library were $24,495 in 2011 and $24,886 in 2012.11 These two figures may be the basis of the $30,000 that the Township has sought from the Burlington County Freeholders, and that the Freeholders have offered on a one-time basis for Pinelands Branch expenses. The largest component of each year’s reported Medford Township expenses for the Pinelands Library is “Utilities” (South Jersey Gas, PSE&G, Verizon, and a pay phone that was disconnected as of January 2012). The total Medford Township expenditures for Pinelands Branch utilities were reported to be $15,304 in 2011 and $15,000 in 2012, slightly more than 60% of the expenses reported in those years. In both years, reported non-utility expenditures were for maintenance, supplies, cleaning, and security.
2012 Burlington County Library Budget They are titled “2011 LIBRARY EXPENSES.xls” and “2012 LIBRARY EXPENSES.xls.”
Historically, townships like Medford in which the branches are located have paid the costs of maintenance, cleaning, and utilities for the library buildings. The one exception to that rule has been the Bordentown Branch, for which the BCLS has paid utility costs ($49,600 in 2008, $56,700 in 2009, $54,000 in 2010, $59,000 in 2011, and $61,000 in 2012)12. As stated previously, the Bordentown property was given to the BCLS by the Bordentown Library Association. A recent article in the Burlington County Times reported that the combined value of the property and the cash was $1.5 million.13 According to the June 7, 2013 email response of Burlington County Custodian of Records Joseph Threston to an OPRA request filed by Sander Friedman, Chairman of the Burlington County Democratic Committee, the amount of cash transferred was $941,000. I have been unable to obtain any documents describing the terms of that transfer, but Mr. Threston’s recent email reports that $941,000 in cash was transferred To my knowledge, the Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Pinelands Branches, have always belonged to the townships in which they are located. The Riverton Branch has always belonged to the Riverton Free Library. Freeholder Arter has said that the BCLS contracts related to the six branches are very similar. In response to Sander Friedman’s OPRA request, Mr. Threston provided the contracts for Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Riverton. My review of the five contracts verified Freeholder Arter’s characterization. The Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Riverton contracts contain very similar provisions regarding the obligations of townships (or in the case of Riverton, the obligations of the Board of Trustees of the Riverton Free Library) and the obligations of the BCLS. Those provisions are also very similar to the analogous provisions in the May 18, 2011 agreement among Medford Township, the Medford Library Association, and the BCLS.
Burlington County Library Budgets for 2009-2012 “Pinelands Library Dispute Heats Up,” Burlington County Times, February 8, 2013, http://www.phillyburbs.com/my_town/medford/pinelands-library-dispute-heatsup/article_54db50fd-74fa-5f54-a793-c3df291a5c61.html
A shared understanding of the transaction between the Bordentown Library Association and the BCLS could help speed the resolution of the current disagreement between the Medford Township Council and the Burlington County Board of Freeholders because much of the disagreement has focused on Medford’s request that the BCLS reimburse Medford for its costs of maintenance, cleaning, and utilities for the Pinelands Branch building. The townships of Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Medford, and Pemberton, and the Riverton Free Library Association pay the costs of maintenance, cleaning, and utilities for their branch libraries. Medford Council members have called attention to payments from the BCLS to the Bordentown Branch Library for its utility costs, saying that fairness requires similar payments to the Pinelands Branch. The situation of the Pinelands Branch vis-à-vis the BCLS appears to be different from that of the Bordentown Branch and similar to those of the Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Riverton Branches, none of which currently receive funds for utilities from the BCLS. The public release of those contracts, concurrent with the release of this paper should provide answers to anyone’s remaining questions about the relationships of the BCLS with its Bordentown, Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, and Riverton Branches.
3.C. Indirect Costs Some Medford Township Council members have called for the BCLS to cover the maintenance costs of the Pinelands Branch Library with what they see as excess county library tax revenues. It has been said that the Burlington County Freeholders have been using surplus county library tax funds to meet unrelated county needs. It has been claimed that this redirection of funds is accomplished by the BCLS through payments to Burlington County for overhead costs associated with legitimate library operating costs.
The 2011 and 2012 BCLS budgets include $725,000 for “Indirect Costs,” which are not broken down or explained in any way in the budget document.14 The only place I have found any written statement of a breakdown of these indirect costs is in a March 27, 2013 posting by Councilman Pace on Facebook®, which says: The Burlington County Freeholders provided a list of ancillary costs for operating the BCLS as justification for taking $725,000.00 each year from the BCLS. They take $79,953.00 for Human Services (Payroll services). In 2012 Medford Township had 109 full and part time employees. The cost for those same services was less than $25,000.00. They also take $67,478.00 for Treasurer (General Purchasing), $67,265.00 for Insurance, $39,796 for Admin/Legal, $443,262.00 Buildings & Grounds/Custodial/Security/Utilities and $36,918.00 for Admin. Ironically, in 2011 the BCLS budget allowed for 9.2 Million in salary wages and benefits, $551,800.00 for Purchasing, $117,200.00 for Insurance, $299,515.00 for Maintenance and Utilities, and $122,616 for Admin (print/postage etc.)15. I have been unable to locate any documentation of the $79,953, $67,478, $67,265, $39,796, $443,262, and $36,918 figures reported by Councilman Pace.16 The 2011 BLCS budget does report $9,200,000 for “Salaries, Wages, and Benefits;” $551,800 for “Centralized Purchasing (Adult and Juvenile Books);” $117,200 for “Insurance;” and $299,515 for “Equipment Maintenance and Repair,” “Utilities,” and “Renovations.” I have been unable to tie the reported figure of $122,616 for “Admin (print/postage etc.)” to the 2011 BCLS budget.
The 2008, 2009, and 2010 BCLS budgets include “Indirect Costs” of $125,000, $125,000, and $0, respectively. 15 March 27, 2013 Facebook® posting by Randy Pace at 10:31a.m. 16 As of this writing, there is an outstanding OPRA requests to Burlington County for any documents describing components of the $725,000 overhead paid by BCLS to Burlington County in 2011 and 2012.
3.D. Withdrawal from a County Library System It has been suggested that Medford Township withdraw from the BCLS and either fund its own municipal library or have no library at all. State law would allow the former, but not the latter. Any New Jersey municipality that does not participate in a county library system is required to allocate at least 33 cents per $1000 of assessed value of property in the municipality to its municipal library or to a joint library formed with one or more other municipalities.17 Based on 2013 assessments, the required minimum allocation for Medford Township would be approximately $993,000; very close to the amount currently collected from Medford residents and businesses through the Burlington County Library Tax. A municipality could choose to allocate more than 33 cents per $1000 assessed value of property. Moorestown and Willingboro made the minimum allocation in 2012, which yielded $1,473,068 in Moorestown and $651,635 in Willingboro. Mount Laurel chose a rate nearly twice as large in 2012, which yielded $2,152,501. The question of the size of the allocation that would be required to meet the library needs of Medford Township is beyond the scope of this paper, but that question would have to be addressed as part of any consideration of the withdrawal of Medford Township from the BLCS.
4. The Medford Library Association (aka Friends of the Pinelands Library) Regarding the Medford Library Association (MLA)18, the BCLS website says: The Friends of the Pinelands Library are residents of Medford and surrounding towns who voluntarily support quality library service in our area. The Medford Library Association was incorporated on January 27, 1969. This group was instrumental in refurbishing a bus garage to establish the Pinelands Branch of the Burlington County Library.19
N.J.S.A. 40:54-8, http://lss.njstatelib.org/library_law/library_law_page_10 The BCLS website refers to the Medford Library Association as The Friends of the Medford Library. 19 http://www.bcls.lib.nj.us/friends/medford.shtml 18
According to news reports and proposed agreements that have been released, the Burlington County Freeholders have sought a three-way agreement among Medford Township, the BCLS, and the MLA. I am unaware of any explanation that has been given regarding the Freeholders’ desire to include the MLA as a party to the agreement. Much has been said and written about the current status of the Medford Library Association in the last few months. Questions have been raised as to whether the MLA is active and if it is currently properly certified as a non-profit charity. The Medford Township Council has taken the public position that the MLA is not properly certified at this time and that the Medford Township Council will not enter into a contract in which the MLA is a party unless and until the latter is properly certified.
5. The May 16, 2011 Agreement The last fully executed contract among Medford Township, the BCLS, and the MLA was put in place on May 16, 2011 with an effective date of April 1, 2011. In that contract, Medford Township agreed to make the Pinelands Branch building available to the BCLS and “provide all the expenses involved in the operation of said building including HVAC, light, power, water, janitorial service, repairs, replacements, or improvements, telephone, insurance, office furniture and shelving.”20 The Agreement was to automatically renew annually unless one of the parties gave notice of its intention to terminate the agreement 90 days before the anniversary date. At the January 23, 2013 meeting of the Burlington County Freeholders, Medford Councilman Buoni reported that the Council had taken the necessary steps to terminate the contract and that it was no longer in force. In his February 28, 2013 letter to Township Solicitor Norman, Burlington County Solicitor Nelson said that the County had not received written notice of the termination.
May 16, 2001 Branch Agreement among Medford Township, BCLS, and MLA, par. 1.(c)
6. The July 10, 2012 Meeting of the Medford Township Council The July 10, 2012 Medford Township Council Minutes of the Public Comment portion of the meeting read in part: … Ms. Chong also commented on the condition of the Pinelands Library Building and parking lot for same. Ms. Chong stated there were several lights not working in the library and the bathroom was closed on a recent visit. Mayor Pace stated the County collects a separate library tax and encouraged Ms. Chong to contact the County Library and the Burlington County Freeholders. Mayor Pace stated the Township owns the building and the County Library system uses the building rent free and has the responsibility to maintain the building.21 The statement by Mayor Pace was inconsistent with the May 16, 2011 Agreement but consistent with the position that Township Council members may have advocated in non-public discussions with the Burlington County Freeholders.
7. The July 17, 2012 Meeting of the Medford Township Council The July 17, 2012 Medford Township Council Minutes of the Communications portion of the meeting include the following: Mayor Pace stated there is an item listed on the agenda for Executive Session as “Contract Matters Relating to the Burlington County Library Agreement [10:4-12b(7)]. The Mayor informed the public that the Township has been paying for utilities and maintenance of the Pinelands Branch Library. The county collects a minimum of one million dollars from the tax payers of Medford in the form of a dedicated library tax. The county library has a surplus of $3.4 million surplus in 2010 and the Township had a deficit. As of July 17, 2012 a letter from Freeholder Garganio stated an agreement will be formally signed and forwarded to Township Manager Christopher Schultz tomorrow. Letter attached. The Mayor read from the County Library’s Executive Summary. Deputy Mayor Czekay asked what happens to the county library surplus. 21
Minutes of the Medford Township Council Meeting, July 10, 2012
Mayor Pace commented that his understanding is that the county has the county library pay for maintenance. Mayor Pace does not believe that the county takes library funds for the county budget. Mr. Schultz stated there is State Statute that specifies how the money may be used. Mr. Buoni asked if Mount Laurel is part of the county library system and if they pay a dedicated County Library Tax. Mr. Norman asked if Mr. Buoni was suggesting that the Township have its own library system. Mr. Buoni stated yes. Mr. Schultz cautioned Council on this idea, since he has worked in a town that had its own library. Mr. Schultz stated there is a formula for how much money must be interjected into the municipal budget. Mr. Beenstock stated he reached out to Freeholder O’Brien this afternoon. The Library Commission was indicating if the Township Council did not act on the agreement, they would close the library. Freeholder O’Brien got Mr. Beenstock in touch with Freeholder Garganio, Director of Library, and stated the Freeholders were unaware of the letter from the Library Commission. Freeholder Garganio then sent the letter that is attached and referenced above to Mr. Beenstock. Mayor Pace stated the Freeholders have a meeting next week and he is sure that the governing body can get together with them before that date. It was never the intention of the governing body to close the library but have the library run in the most efficient manner. Mr. Watson thanked Mr. Beenstock for having conversation with the county and the county for working with the township.22 To my knowledge, this meeting was the first occasion in which any Medford Council Member publicly advocated Medford’s withdrawal from BCLS.
Minutes of the Medford Township Council Meeting, July 17, 2012
The July 17, 2012 Medford Township Council Minutes also list several items under the heading of “Executive Session” including “Contract Matters Relating to the Burlington County Library Agreement [10:4-12b.(7)]”. The content of that portion of the Executive Session discussion has never been disclosed.
8. Township Council Meetings from August 2012 to January 8, 2013 There is no mention of the BCLS or of the Pinelands Branch Library in the Township Council Minutes for August 1, 2012; August 7, 2012; September 4, 2012; September 18, 2012; October 25, 2012; November 7, 2012; November 20, 2012; December 4, 2012; December 18, 2012; December 21, 2012; or January 1, 2013. To my knowledge, minutes for August 21, 2012 have never been published. The October 2, 2012 and October 16, 2012 Medford Township Council Minutes list several items under the heading of “Executive Session” including “Contract Matters Relating to the Burlington County Library Agreement [10:412b.(7)].” The content of those discussions has never been disclosed. The only mention of the library in the minutes of the January 8, 2013 meeting was the identification of “Reviewing library agreement with Burlington County” as the first of the 2013 Medford Township Goals.
9. The Pinelands Branch Volunteer Initiative After several years of neglect, the Pinelands (Medford) Branch of the Burlington County Library System (BCLS) was much in need of maintenance and several minor repairs. On January 18, 2013 George Youngkin and others visited the Pinelands Library. With the help of Wie-Jie Cui, the Pinelands Branch Manager, they made a list of outside tasks (repairing gutters and downspouts, repainting lines in the parking lot, cleaning up landscaping, cleaning windows, etc.) and inside tasks (replacing carpet squares, fluorescent light bulbs, molding, and soap, paper towel, and toilet paper dispensers, straightening, and cleaning) that needed to be performed.
Next, George Youngkin assembled a group of volunteers, mostly from the Medford NJ Democratic Committee, the Medford Education Association, and the Shawnee High School chapter of the National Honor Society, who offered to perform the needed tasks. At the January 22, 2013 meeting of the Medford Township Council, George Youngkin asked the Medford Township Council to allow the volunteers to do the listed work. The Council said that George Youngkin should address his question to the Burlington County Freeholders because the county was responsible for maintenance of the Pinelands Branch Library building. That position was inconsistent with the May 16, 2011 Agreement but consistent with the position that Medford Township Council members had advocated in non-public discussions with Burlington County Freeholders. The next night (January 23, 2013) Mr. Youngkin, former Mayor Pace, Councilman Buoni, and other Medford residents attended the regularly scheduled meeting of the Burlington County Freeholders. Comments made by Freeholder Arter and Freeholder Director Donnelly revealed that the county had been meeting with members of the Medford Town Council to discuss a new contract to cover the Pinelands Branch Library; that the maintenance of the library was, in the Freeholders’ view, the responsibility of Medford Township; and that, because of Medford Township’s financial difficulty, the freeholders were willing to reimburse the township for up to $30,000 of 2013 maintenance costs on a onetime basis.
10. Recent Days Soon after January 23, 2013, upon the resolution of some relatively minor concerns about the possibility of injuries to the volunteers, Medford Township allowed the volunteer initiative to proceed. On Sunday, March 10, 2013, volunteers, mostly from the Medford Democratic Club, the Medford Education Association, and the Shawnee High School Chapter of the National Honor Society, performed the repairs and cleaning tasks that they had proposed on January 22, 2013.
Since January 22, 2013, George Youngkin’s request that Medford Township allow a group of volunteers to spruce up the Pinelands Branch Library has inadvertently revealed a disagreement that had been ongoing since before July 17, 2012 between the Medford Township Council and the Burlington County Freeholders. In my view, the disagreement, which continues as of this writing, is no longer about the minor repairs that the volunteers sought to perform; is instead about: •
The future of the Pinelands Branch property that Medford owns and currently provides to the BCLS on a rent-free basis;
The responsibility for ongoing costs of utilities for the Pinelands Branch building;
The responsibility for ongoing costs of cleaning and maintaining the Pinelands Branch property;
Appropriate uses of revenues from the Burlington County Library Tax;
The role of the Medford Library Association;
The freeholders’ suggestion of a possible need for a new library building in or near Medford; and
The possibility of Medford Township’s withdrawal from the BCLS and operating its own municipal library similar to Moorestown, Mt. Laurel, and Willingboro. To my knowledge, as of the time of this writing, none of the above issues
has been resolved. The one-time payment of $30,000 proposed by the Burlington County Freeholders has not been made, apparently because the freeholders and the Medford Township Council have so far been unable to reach agreement on a new contract covering the relationships among Medford Township, the BCLS, and perhaps the Medford Library Association. Public comments from freeholders and township council members as well as media reports suggest two major sticking points in the discussion: First, the financial responsibility for utility, cleaning, and maintenance costs of the Pinelands Branch Library property
beyond 2013; Second, the inclusion of the Medford Library Association as a party to the contract. Possibilities of other long-term changes have been mentioned as well. Freeholders have mentioned the possibility of moving the Pinelands Branch to some other township near Medford. There has also been a renewal of a long dormant discussion of whether a new, larger Pinelands Branch Library might be built in or near Medford.23 In response to a public comment at the May 7, 2013 meeting of Medford Township Council, Mayor Czekay reported that he and Councilman Beenstock had recently met with Freeholder Arter and others and agreed to further discussions of the Freeholders’ ideas regarding the design, cost, and costsharing of a new or modified Pinelands Branch facility. Mayor Czekay said that it was not clear where those further discussions might lead but that it was clear that the Pinelands Branch was not going to stay in its current form. The Mayor and Councilman Beenstock discussed a general need to adapt to technological changes since it was designed. In response to a follow-up question about an agreement for the rest of this year, Mayor Czekay said, “We have an agreement in place – some of us would dispute that – but they are going to reimburse the costs for this year. They have agreed to do that.”24 The mayor did not address the terms of the agreement he mentioned. Medford Township and the BCLS have not yet publicly executed a contract regarding the reimbursement of 2013 costs or any other issue.
11. Important Questions Several questions have come to light as a result of the debate over this issue: 1. Do Medford residents and businesses want to continue to have a Pinelands Branch of the BCLS located in Medford Township? If so, how much are they willing to pay to keep it there? 23
In November 2002 Medford voters authorized Medford Township to issue $5,500,000 worth of bonds to fund construction of a new library. (“Library Is Not on List of Medford Priorities,” Burlington County Times, January 13, 2005) The authorized bonds were never issued. 24 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmjPfqkBSo, at approximately 1 hour and 4 minutes
2. Are the current financial arrangements between the BCLS and each of the townships hosting branch libraries fair, or should they be altered in some way? 3. What should be the role of the Medford Library Association? 4. Should Medford Township or a partnership of townships near Medford accept financial responsibility for utility, cleaning, and maintenance costs of the Pinelands Branch Library property beyond 2013? 5. If Medford Township were to leave the BCLS and create a municipal library as Moorestown, Mt. Laurel, and Willingboro Townships have, or form a joint library with a few nearby townships; how large of a budget would be required in order to meet Medford’s needs for library services? 6. Should Medford Township leave the BCLS so that Medford property owners can stop paying the Burlington County Library Tax and instead pay a municipal library tax as Moorestown, Mt. Laurel, and Willingboro Townships do, or should it form a joint library with a few nearby Townships? 7. If Medford stays in the BCLS or operates its own township library, will the Pinelands property meet Medford’s needs or should a new library be built in Medford? 8. If a new library is to be built, who should pay for its construction and operation? 9. If a new library is to be built, how should it be designed to meet Medford’s future needs?
In my opinion the best answers to these questions would be based on a shared, public compilation of the best available information. My research for this paper has shown me that much of the important information is not currently shared among the parties and is not currently available in the public domain. I cannot imagine a legitimate reason for restricting access to this important information.
12. Related Documents Answers to these questions would proceed much more quickly and reach a better outcome if the following information were made publicly available in one place:
A. The May 16, 2011 contract among Medford Township, the BCLS, and the Medford Library Association; B. Current contracts between the BCLS and the Townships of Cinnaminson, Evesham, Maple Shade, Pemberton, Riverton, and Medford (when executed); C. Detailed information on Bordentown City’s contribution of property and cash to the BCLS in the mid-1990s; D. 2009-2012 BCLS Budgets and 2013 BCLS Budget (when available); E. Detailed information on the application of 2011 and 2012 BLCS overhead expenditures of $750,000 beyond the data presented in a March 27, 2013 posting by Councilman Pace on Facebook® (Details are not included in the 2011 and 2012 BCLS Budgets.); F. 2011 and 2012 Burlington County Board of Taxation Abstracts of Ratables; G. 2011 and 2012 Budgets of Burlington County; H. 2011 and 2012 Budgets of Medford Township; I. Excel spreadsheets 2011 LIBRARY EXPENSES.xls and 2012 LIBRARY EXPENSES.xls, which report Medford Township expenditures on the Pinelands Branch Library; J. 2011 and 2012 Budgets of Moorestown Township; K. 2011 and 2012 Budgets of Mount Laurel Township; L. 2011 and 2012 Budgets of Willingboro Township; M. Information on recent activity (e.g., circulation, registrations) in the county library and each of the seven branch libraries; N. All currently missing Minutes of Medford Township Council Meetings since July 2012; O. All Minutes of Medford Township Council discussions of BCLS and the Pinelands Branch in Executive Sessions; P. 2010 Census Data for Burlington County and Townships of Medford, Moorestown, Mt. Laurel, and Willingboro; and
Q. NJ State Library Law - NJSA 40; 33; 1-13.2c and NJSA 40; 54; 1-18.
I already have items A, B (except for the current Medford contract, which has not been executed), C, D (except for 2013, which has not been passed as of the writing of this paper), F-J, K (except for 2011), and P-Q, and will post them soon on
(MedfordDems2013.com). I am in the process of trying to obtain the remaining items through OPRA requests and other means; I will post them on the same website once they become available.
13. Final Note It is almost inevitable that a preliminary paper like this one will have problems. Readers who notice errors, misleading statements, or omitted relevant issues are encouraged to advise the author via [email protected]