Support the Future of the Watchung Library
Somerset County Library System pays for full staffing, materials, programs and technology in our building, the town pays nothing toward salaries, materials, etc. These are valued at well over $1 million in received value for the borough. That's a lot to give up, with nothing added in return and no reduction in county tax.
• 2012 - Watchung voters turned down a referendum for a larger library/community center. Following that vote, Borough Council pursued plans for a smaller library with community space to meet the needs of Watchung residents and keep a library in town.
• 2014 – The Watchung Borough Council passed a resolution earmarking $1.5 million toward renovating or reconstructing the library, and dedicated $600,000 from an existing bond ordinance toward the Watchung Library.
• In 2016, over 49,000 items were borrowed from Watchung Library. Collectively, the library held 412 programs attended by more than 6,100 people and hosted 393 meetings. Foot traffic is regularly 3,000 people per month. Watchung has the highest circulation rate per square foot of any Somerset County library!
• 2017 – The $125 million Bond Referendum to rebuild public libraries was passed by Watchung residents. The State of New Jersey is offering money for library construction matched dollar-for-dollar through a grant–reducing costs up to half; this is not a loan, it is free money. Berkeley Heights and Warren are similar towns applying for money through this same program, and are confident about receiving grants. Long Hill and Warren were awarded grants the last time the state offered such aid. These are towns very similar to Watchung; there's no reason to think Watchung wouldn't also receive a grant.
• Council hired architects who completed preliminary plans for Council to reconstruct Watchung Library on its current site, with different options costing $1.9 to $3.1 million. The ﬂexible space would be between 8,000 and 9,500 square feet and offer a community meeting space for community groups and storm shelter. The architect would seek HUD grants as well as the state library aid. Council should firm up building plans and apply for the state funds, which will be awarded beginning next month. Time is of the essence!
• Watchung Library reconstruction could cost the average homeowner approximately $58 per year, based on a $2 million bond, and could be much less with state funding.
• Watchung taxpayers currently pay $827,480 per year for access to the Somerset County Library System. We will continue to pay this library tax with OR without a library in our town. Watchung currently receives a rebate for hosting a library, and a portion of patrons' ﬁnes—without a library those monies will go to other towns.
Please consider signing the library petition, and also write to let Council members know that our families want a full-service library in Watchung