Library Construction Bond Referendum

NJ Library Bond Act Infographic

Question 1 on the November 7th general election ballot will let voters decide on the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act, which would provide matching grants for renovation and construction projects for public libraries.

What is a bond referendum?

A bond referendum is a vote that would authorize the state to issue bonds, generating revenue for a specific project.

What would this bond referendum do?

If passed, the state will issue $125 million in bonds. Revenue from bond sales will be used to provide grants to public libraries that will cover half of cost of library construction and renovation projects. The state will repay the bonds out of state revenues, not through local property taxes.

What types of library improvements will these grants fund?

  • New construction
  • Building repair and renovation
  • Bringing buildings to ADA compliance
  • Technology infrastructure upgrades that will increase internet access

How would this bond referendum benefit my community?

  • By helping libraries meet high-priority needs relating to accessibility, infrastructure, and innovation
  • By creating opportunities to invest in the New Jersey workforce and local businesses through jobs, construction, and substantial economic development
  • By providing communities across the state with enhanced, state-of-the-art public libraries

Why is this funding needed now?

New Jersey has not funded capital projects for its public libraries in nearly twenty years. During that time, public libraries have become more crucial to their communities than ever. Libraries need the ability to make investments in their facilities to continue service and plan for future needs.

Are libraries still necessary in the age of eBooks and the internet?

Yes! On average, over 120,000 people visit New Jersey libraries every day. Libraries provide internet access, foster early literacy, provide job-search assistance, computer instruction, English as a Second Language classes, and more.

New Jersey’s public libraries are a vital community resource. Often they are the only source of quality information and technology that many residents have. As access to government services, banking, and job-seeking shift online, libraries are a mainstay for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.

What is the tax impact?

The issuance of bonds by the state will not raise property taxes. By bonding for construction funds, the state will be able to provide a 50% match on enhancement projects, making essential improvements possible by cutting costs for local governments.

How will this question appear on the ballot?

Voters will have the option of choosing Yes or No to this question:
Do you approve of the “New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act”? This bond act authorizes the State to issue bonds in the aggregate principal amount of $125 million. The proceeds of the bonds will be used to provide grants to public libraries. The grants will be used to build, equip, and expand public libraries to increase capacity and serve the public.

INTERPRETIVE STATEMENT: Approval of this bond act will allow the state to sell $125 million in State general obligation bonds. Proceeds from the bonds will be used to provide grants to construct, expand, and equip public libraries. Municipalities or counties that fund public libraries will match that grant amount. The municipality or county may solicit private funding to support its match. The State Librarian, in consultation with the President of Thomas Edison State University, will set eligibility criteria for grants.

What are the pros and cons of this vote?

This following was written by the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan civics education organization.

Reasons to vote yes:
  • The additional funding could improve access to public libraries for many vulnerable residents.
  • The additional funding could help keep public libraries abreast of increasing technology needs.
  • The construction and equipment purchases involved would provide an economic stimulus to our New Jersey economy.
Reasons to vote no:
  • New Jersey already has an extremely high debt burden. This bond issue would add to it.
  • The amount is very restricted in purpose, and does not allow libraries to apply grants to their greatest needs, which may be personnel rather than space-related.
  • The criteria for distributing funds have not been developed.

What can I do to help?

Let your friends and neighbors know about the referendum and the benefits of public libraries in communities. Share this information on social media. Write letters to your local paper about this issue. Most importantly, don’t forget to vote on Question 1 on November 7th!