Daily Archives: February 16, 2011

>Middletown Mayor Fiore Sends Out Defensive Message In Advance Of Tonight’s Library Meeting

>This just in – a very short while ago,Middletown’s Mayor Tony Fiore has issued a statement in advance of tonight’s meeting with the Board of Trustees of the Middeltown Library that attempts to defuse any misunderstandings that people may have developed over the past few days over the issue of whether or not the Township could or should take excess funds from the Library in order to help plug a $4M hole in the Township budget.

This letter sounds a little like revisionist history after his ill advised and hurried press release Fiore issued Sunday afternoon threatening the library that if surplus funds were not turned over to the township, the library would be responsiible for the laying off of 26 municipal employees, 10 of which would come from the ranks of the Middletown Police Department and 13 from the Departmment of Parks and Recreation.

This message was issued over the Township’s c3alert network.

Dear Township Residents:

I felt it was necessary for me to respond to the recent flurry of comments and emails regarding the Middletown Township Library. It is unfortunate that some have chosen to engage in the spread of completely false information with regard to the Township Committee’s request of the Middletown Library Board. So let me set the record straight.

First let me make it very clear that neither I nor any member of the Township Committee has ever suggested or proposed closing any library facility in the Township. We would simply not do such a thing.

The situation the Township finds itself in is not unlike that being faced by towns throughout New Jersey. With revenues sharply down due to the economic downturn we remain in and with state-mandated costs ever on the rise, we are now faced with an extraordinary fiscal challenge. This includes the potential for the layoff of a number of employees and even possibly police. Be assured that we do all we can to avoid layoffs and we take the matter very seriously.

The Library budget is different from the Township budget in that state law specifies how much must be allocated to the library each year, whether it is needed to operate the library or not. The result of this is that the library now has a surplus of $1.2 million. While some portion of this surplus is needed for ongoing support of library programs and initiatives, the vast majority is not needed for continued operations. I personally met about two weeks ago with the Library Director and the Board Chairman and asked that they bring back to the library board a request to transfer approximately $700,000.00 – $800,000.00 of their surplus to the Township’s budget. This would be used to offset layoffs and to help fund the continuation of many vital Township services and help to offset the impact of over $4 million in tax appeals.

The Township Committee is fully aware that the library board cannot be forced to do this. However we are asking that they work with us in a unified effort to help all of the residents and taxpayers of the Township. I would note that the Township Sewerage Authority dedicated a portion of its surplus to the Township last year and we anticipate them doing the same again this year.

Many people have expressed concern that the Township Committee is seeking to transfer operation of the library to the Monmouth County Library System. Let me be clear that the Township Committee has taken no action to do this. Such a move would be an absolute last resort, but without the transfer of some of the library surplus it may become a fiscal necessity. Not an option, a necessity. Should this action have to occur, the library would not close, it would simply move under the umbrella of the county and the staff would become county employees rather than be Township employees. Again, we do not want to make this move. We would like to see our library continue as the great Township facility it is. Our hope is that we can work with the Library Board as a team with the best interests of the Township as the goal.

Sincerely,
Anthony P. Fiore, Mayor

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget deficit, mayor's message, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, surplus funds, Tony Fiore

>Middletown Township Library Board of Trustees Meeting Tonight

>From what I have been hearing, tonight’s Middletown Library Board of Trustees meeting which will be held at the main Library on New Monmouth Rd. will be an event not to be missed.

I have heard from many people that they intend on being at the 7pm meeting in the Library’s Community room. They are hoping to get there opinions heard without being cut off during discussion time, which often happens during Township meetings.

At tonight’s meeting the discussion will focus on whether or not the Library will/should hand over to the Township surplus funds that the Township Committee could use to plug a whole in this years municipal budget.

This one-shot revenue grab by the Township is very controversial and possibly illegal based on State mandated law. It has the potential to cripple the operating of the Library long term which could lead to the library system being turned over to the County.

Regardless of your position on this issue, if you want a night out and wish to attend an interesting and free “show” tonight, I recommend that you stop by and add your two cents to the arguments.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee

>War Of Words Over Surplus Funds Between Middletown Library Director and Middletown Mayor

>I wish I had seen this earlier today, I would have posted this war of words between Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal and Mayor Tony Fiore sooner.

The following excerpt is from RedBankGreen.com article “M’TOWN LIBRARY CENTER OF BUDGET BATTLE” and explains that the Library’s surplus funds were not from the accumulation of tax dollars but from other means such as donations, grants and service fees saved over a number of years and is earmarked already for capital projects and improvements, therefore the Library need not turn the excess funds over to the Township:

…Library Director Susan O’Neill said most of the surplus money is restricted, so even if the board wanted to draw from it, legally it couldn’t. Plus, she said the surplus money was raised through donations, fines and copy fees over the last several years.

“There’s no municipal money in these reserves at all. They are not surplus from our budget,” O’Neill said. “(It) was built up by the trustees so it wouldn’t have to go to the township to finance any capital projects at the library.”

The money in the surplus is earmarked for future projects, O’Neill said, like a solar initiative, addressing a parking shortage at the main library, technology upgrades and a possible renovation at the Lincroft branch.

One large point at dispute between the board and the committee is payment on the library’s $8.5 million renovation in 2004, $7 million of which was bonded for by the township. Fiore said the library has made no payments on the bond, and it’s time for the board to ditch its “spend-it-before-we-have-to-give-it-back mentality.”

The $898,000 the township is asking for represents the annual $565,000 the town pays on the debt service for the bond and a $333,000 decrease in property value in 2012 due to a recent reassessment, officials say. Other entities, like the sewerage authority, which contributed about $360,000 from its surplus toward the town budget last year, will chip in to help this year.

“I don’t think the people of Middletown realize the library is sitting on a huge surplus,” Fiore said. “What we’re asking of them is to contribute that portion of the surplus.”

But O’Neill said the town agreed to bond for the renovations and therefore agreed to pick up the tab. And for the town to ask for nearly $900,000 in one shot, she said, is “just physically not possible,” and could cripple the library, which, with a myriad of programs and community events, serves as much a role as a educational and cultural center of the town as it does an information hub.

“I think we’re faced with something far more serious and far more grave,” O’Neill said, “and the library’s future is in doubt.”…”

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Filed under budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, RedBankGreen.com, surplus funds, Susan O'Neil, Tony Fiore