ORANGE, NJ — The Orange City Council voted 6-0, with one member absent, to pass the amended Calendar Year 2018 city budget at the last meeting of the summer on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
“They voted to pass the budget as amended,” said Orange city clerk Joyce Lanier on Tuesday, Aug. 28. “Everybody voted ‘Yes.’ South Ward Councilwoman Jamie Summers-Johnson was absent.”
The passage of the budget ensures funding for the Orange Public Library, which some council members worried would not be able to remain open past October, due to $500,000 cut from the $1.2 million request in the proposed budget.
“The administration proposed an amendment to the municipal budget that the City Council agreed to, which allocates the additional amount of $325,000 for municipal library purposes,” said Keith Royster, the city spokesman and information technologies director, Tuesday, Aug. 14. “This will bring the library’s total 2018 budget $1,258,350. The library is not closing and will remain a safe space, where residents can continue to take advantage of the library’s educational and cultural resources. The additional $325,000 from the city cannot be spent without authorization from the administration and City Council.”
Former West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul-Rasheed on Monday, Aug. 13, praised council and the administration’s working together to find the money the Orange Public Library, but added that, “The administration and the City Council needs to appropriate more money” to the library.
The Rev. Anthony Johnson agreed, but also opined that the library needs a board of trustees that will raise much needed funds for the institution.
“I believe the Orange Public Library is a key institution in the city and applaud the council for working to continue the funding to keep it open,” said Johnson on Monday, Aug. 13. “In my opinion, the library needs a new board of trustees, a board that will raise the funds the library needs, above and beyond its funding by city taxpayers.”
On Wednesday, July 25, Orange Public Library Board of Trustees President Esney Sharpe officially responded to City Council cutting $500,000 from the library’s budget in the amended budget. Sharpe gave an abbreviated history of the library’s funding and reiterated the institution’s role in Orange.
“Prior to 2012, the library received higher levels of funding from the township to support programming and the library administration. In fact, most municipalities provide funding above the statutory requirements because they recognize the importance of the library for the community, residents and its children,” Sharpe said.
“Our library is a center of learning and opportunity, and we must all double our efforts to keep it that way. The hope is that Orange continues to have a centrally located, safe space where children, seniors and residents can continue their intellectual and cultural pursuits within the confines of their own community.”
Current West Ward Councilman Harold Johnson agreed that the Orange Public Library is an important part of the community, and said council is trying to cut costs and fill the $7.1 million deficit in the mayor’s budget. He said council was forced to cut the library’s funding, although none of the members wanted to do so.
“We don’t have the $1.3 million to give them, period,” Johnson said. “We gave them everything the administration allotted them this year in the mayor’s proposed budget. How much money have they raised since 2012? They have not given the City Council audits for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and they have no library director. They never raised the match for the $700K grant the mayor had Gov. Chris Christie re-issue to the library.”