>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.
Anthony P. Fiore, Mayor