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Legal Opinion Saves Job-Seekers Group from Library Cuts

River Edge-based Neighbors Helping Neighbors was potentially facing losing their meeting location

Over the weekend, the River Edge Mayor and Council were inundated at Borough Hall during their budget discussion by members of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) job-seekers and networking group. The governing body and its citizen budget committee discussed a to the 's budget based on moving the building's utilities and employee insurance under the state mandated formula of a third of a mil.

The final decision was pending on Borough Attorney Saverio Cereste's legal opinion on whether the libraries utilities and insurance costs should be included in the state mandated formula of a third of a mil. The borough's contribution to the library is 33 cents on each $1000 of assessed value per residence. By state law, a library can not be funded under the third of a mil.

"Including the utilities and insurance in the third of a mil would be similar to when Saddle River attempted to charge rent to its own library and was deemed illegal," Cereste said.

According to Sam’s opinion, the utilities/insurance could not be included in the 3rd of a mil as it would be the same as Saddle River attempting to charge rent to its own library and hence illegal.

Following Cereste's opinion, no council member moved to go forward with the proposed cuts to the library budget.

Library Director Daragh O'Connor had previously stated that if the cuts were made, the library would be faced with losing seven operating hours going from being open 54 hours a week Monday through Saturday to 47 hours a week. If that had happened, it would have potentially resulted in the elimination of the weekly Neighbors Helping Neighbors meeting.

"Daragh opened up his heart and his meeting room on Thursday nights to a small group of people from River Edge, desperately in need of a place to meet and help each other out of a depression and the most difficult job market in the history of our country," Fugazzie said. "River Edge gets credit because the group started here."

In the one year that the job-seekers group has existed, it has expanded to 15 additional locations throughout Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Morris counties. NHN has grown to 370 members and helped 58 members locate new employment with 24 of those success stories from River Edge.

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