>Meeting Minutes From Library Board’s January 19th Meeting Contradicts What Was Said By Township Committee Members At Last Wednesday Night’s Meeting

>Over the weekend I took the time to read through the January 19th minutes of the Middletown Library Board of Trustees meeting which are posted on the Middletown Library’s website.

Having sat through most of last Wednesday night’s Trustees meeting and now subsequently reading through the minutes of the January 19th meeting, it is extremely hard for me to believe that Middletown’s acting mayor, Tony Fiore and the rest of the Township Committee members that were in attendance, including Kevin Settembrino who is now sitting on the Library’s Board of Trustees as the Mayor’s representative, weren’t being honest or sincere about Middletown’s budget situation, the amount of money that the Township expected the Library to hand over, the threat to make the library pay market value rent to the Township for the 3 township owned builds that house the Library system or the future of the library.
In his comments to the Board of Trustees, Tony Fiore stated the Township wasn’t asking for specific amounts of cash from the Library’s perceived surplus and that their were no plans to make the library pay rent or turn over it’s operations of the library to the County. However, based on the minutes from January 19th, Kevin Settembrino made it very clear to other members of the Library’s Board of Trustees that this wasn’t the case.
At one point during the meeting Board President Randall Gabrielan, felt it necessary to “reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.“, when arrogantly told that Library Trustees were appointed by the Township Committee and that the Library should be working toward township goals.

Below are the excerpts from the January 19th meeting minutes that pertain to what Committeeman Settembrino stated to the Board of Trustees that night. I highlighted the passages that I see as contradicting from what we heard at the February 16th (last Wednesday night) meeting:

…Ms. O’Neal handed out the 2011 organizational chart as well as a cost analysis for Sunday operation at the library that had been requested by Ms. Miloscia.

Ms. O’Neal mentioned the newly revised “Budget Reduction Worksheet” had now about $160,000 in potential savings to be applied to the 2011 budget and beyond.

Ms. O’Neal reported that her 2001 Budget meeting with the Township Administrator, Asst. Administrator and CFO went well. She said that she and Mr. Trasente had a productive meeting and that she was confident that they could reconcile some of the budget issues.

Mr. Settembrino spoke candidly to the Board and told the Trustees that it is the Township Committee elected officials that have appointed them and that the Library Trustees should be working together with the Township to achieve the Township’s goals. Mr. Gabrielan reminded Mr. Settembrino that the Library is a separate board and that it has been so designated for 130+ years to specifically keep libraries out of politics. He also mentioned that the first and utmost role of a Library Trustee is to be advocate of the library.

Mr. Settembrino told the Board that the Township sent a letter of appeal to DCA in regards to the rate-ables for Middletown. Settembrino said that the Township Committee wants the Library Board agree to take a $333,000 cut in its budget before the reassessments are completed. He said that the impact is inevitable in 2012 and that they would like to see the Library buy into this reduction to help contribute to reducing the budget deficit. He will come to February 16th meeting and reopen this issue for a vote from the Board of Trustees so that the Township can introduce its budget for the March 15, 2011 Township Committee meeting. Mr. Settembrino detailed the situation.

  • • Tax appeals in 2010 cost the Township 1 million dollars

  • • The revals were done near market peak so tax appeals were expected to continue to be high in number

  • • Reassessment will more accurately reflect market values

  • • The 2011 Township Budget will not exceed 2% cap

Ms. O’Neal replied that since DCA hadn’t yet agreed to the lower evaluation amount it stands currently that the library will receive approximately 3.7 million dollars for its budget. Mr. Gabrielan said that the library will operate under the State’s formula. Mr. Settembrino replied that even if the formula doesn’t change for 2011, the Township would like the library to send those funds back to the municipality and that there is no restriction on the amount of money the board votes to provide to the municipality. Ms. Cavalier said that if the 1/3 of a mil goes down considerably the library board is going to have to study what its options are and the procedures. Mr. Milne said that the board needs to know the outcome of the appeal on the published October equalized valuation or the new numbers before any decision can be made. Mr. Milne added that he needed to review all the material before making comments on a budget reduction or giveback of that magnitude.

Ms. O’Neal said that $333,000 is a large sum of money to add to the already known 4.5% reduction for 2011 and that the lower rateables in 2012 will make it very difficult for the library.

Ms. Breen asked if this completed Mr. Settembrino’s agenda with the Library Board and he said “No”.

Mr. Settembrino brought up the debt service payments of Main. He said that the library was bonded for 7.243 million dollars and that 3.1 million dollars is the balance that has to be paid by 2022. Mr. Settembrino said he speaks for the entire Township Committee that the Township expects the library to start paying for the debt and expects a payment of $543,000 per year from the library. Ms. Miloscia asked if any other Township buildings are paying their own debt for Township buildings specifically the Arts Center. Mr. Settembrino responded “No” and that the Arts Center is generating revenue to offset its operational cost. Mr. Gabrielan said that this is a significant impact to the library.

Mr. Settembrino also informed the Board that the library should be paying market value rent for the three town-owned buildings in which it occupies. Mr. Gabrielan and Ms. O’Neal said that NJ Administrative Code specifically prohibits libraries from paying rent. Mr. Settembrino said that he would forward the payment schedule and all information that he was discussing with the Board for them to further review and help them make a voting decision during the February meeting when he expects to re-introduce these issues. [See document attached]

Ms. Cavalier said that the library board would have to explain to the community why library services have been cut. Mr. Settembrino said however you decide to communicate that to the community is up to the Board. Ms. Cavalier asked if the Township Committee will accept the responsibility for these cuts. Mr. Settembrino didn’t answer her question. He restated that it is the Board’s decision on how they chose to inform the community of such cuts should they take place. Ms. Miloscia asked Mr. Settembrino if he used the library; does he had a library card? His response was no.

Mr. Settembrino informed the Board that he will be meeting with County Freeholder Lillian Burry to gather information about the County Library system. He said that his intention was to have the library stay as a municipal library. Ms. Breen said that she was glad to hear him state that. Ms. O’Neal asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend the meeting as well and Mr. Settembrino said “No”. Ms. Miloscia then asked if it would be appropriate for her to attend and he responded “No”. Ms. O’Neal informed that board that she had a meeting scheduled with Ken Sheinbaum, Director of the Monmouth County Library system.
Ms. Breen said she would like to see this done in the spirit of cooperation for what is good for everyone, what is good for the library and for the Township. Mr. Gabrielan reiterated that the duties of the Board are to be accountable and informed and that the number one job of a library board member is to be a library advocate.

Before Maser Consulting came to do their presentation, Mr. Settembrino criticized the library for undertaking studies that the Township didn’t know about, and for which it was planning similar action, citing the solar project for which the library contracted for a structural assessment of the roof and also the parking study. He said that such expenses/studies should be approved and communicated with the Township before any action is taken by the library. Ms. O’Neal responded saying that the library was moving faster than the Township following the energy audit and didn’t proceed with hiring a solar engineering firm once it was known that the Township was soliciting similar proposals, and that the parking study was well known to the Township Administrator and two members of the committee more than a year ago….

Based on this minutes, I think the Township Committee’s agenda is clear. They want money and they don’t care how they get from the library, even if it is illegal to ask for and would have potential crippling effect on the functioning of the daily activities that the Library provides. It is also very clear that if the Township does get what it wants, it will hand over the Library to the County to run, even though the County Library system is considered by many to be wasteful and the personal, political patronage, dumping ground for Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian Burry.


Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Kevin Settembrino, Meeting Minutes, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, save our library, Tony Fiore

20 responses to “>Meeting Minutes From Library Board’s January 19th Meeting Contradicts What Was Said By Township Committee Members At Last Wednesday Night’s Meeting

  1. >How come this blog has all of a sudden switched over and is now in favor of out of control spending and higher taxes?It wouldn't be because of trying to find something – anything – to create a partisan issue would it?Check out the Library budget, the raises in the midst of the recession, the attendance at out of state conferences on the taxpayer dime… Yeah, this is a "well managed" budget.Come on, tell us why you now favor this kind of spending of your tax dollars!

  2. >There are tax dollars that are wisely spent and tax dollars that are squandered.The Township Committee squanders money it is given while from estimation dollars are deliberately spent for the betterment of other and the further education of our children by the Library.That's the difference.BTW – check out the township's budget and see how well your tax dollars are being spent.

  3. >Don't dodge the question. By favoring the Library board and their easy going spending of taxpayer dollars, this blog has turned 180 degrees and now favors uncontrolled spending and thus, higher taxes.Leave the TC out of this – why do you favor this exorbitant spending and higher taxes?Have you even looked at the budget you support so vociferously?

  4. >From my perspective the Library doesn't waste taxpayers dollars and more or less than the Township Committee does. From what I have seen the TC wastes much much more than the Library ever has.It is also a state mandate on how the Library gets its funds and the formula is set baed on property values. Next year the funding for the library will go down based on that formula.Why would I have the Library give funds over to a TC that has shown that it can't manage it's own budget and squanders money on pet projects and vanity items to make themselves look better to voters?Prove to me that you can first manage your own house before you ask others to bail you out of your own mess.The library has been very prudent over the years spending there funds whether you believe it or not.The TC spends taxpayer money sending Tony Mercantante and others to conferences and seminars just as the library spends on sending it's members to. It is a moot point and continuing education is mandatory for many professions.

  5. >The arrogance displayed by Kevin Settembrino was a disgusting display by a man who has only lived in this township about three years.It is hardly possible he even knows his way around the forty plus square miles that comprise this town nor is he qualified to dictate to the people who do know this town and have lived here decades.This is politics at it's worst and maybe what Middletown really needs is a new form of local government because what we have doesn't work for the residents and taxpayers in this community any longer. There was a time Middletown's residents could respect those who served on the TC,that's not possible any longer either. The conduct of the current members shows little regard for the law and the legal help forgets who pays him and who he is supposed to work for and protect.Administration in this township leaves much to be desired !!!

  6. >BTW…maybe it's about time Anthony Merchantante ,as township administrator also acted on behalf of the residents who pay him instead of bending over backwards to please these inept individuals serving in this township. We pay for professional services that should not be biased by politics. That goes for the CFO and any other professional paid to protect the RESIDENTS of this community.

  7. >Freehholder Lilian Burry is no longer the Director and is up for re election. I'll be watching this very closely.

  8. >It looks like this blog is interested in putting out what is happening and how it is taking place. This method of obtainig library funds is disgraceful. If the TC went to the library with the newly passed law and asked for the overage, I'm sure the library wouldn't have resisted and this whole issue would not have come up. The TC's methods of operation show that they only know how to bully thier way through an issue. There are no management skills between the 5 of them. If this is what we voted for then this is what we deserve.

  9. >Mike -I guess you haven't looked at the Library budget, and don't know much about the town's budget.Maybe you should ask to see the information in both budgets as they relate to attendance at conferences and travel in general.Seeing as you are avoiding the question, I have to conclude that you ARE just being partisan and are willing to support spending by the Library Board that you would decry being done by the town.Yes, the amount set by the state for the Library is more than they spend even with their out of control spending – see, that's why the TC is asking for some of that money back for the taxpayers…Pretty hard to admit to partisanship, huh?Even harder to get called on it?

  10. >anon 4:16 You sound like you know a lot about the library budget.You've expressed your anger at the wasteful spending in their $4mil budget, but they've managed to save and now have a surplus.Why aren't you more outraged by the years of wasteful spending of the TC with their nearly $50mil budget? They've been robbing Peter to pay Paul for years.At least the library knows how to balance a budget. This is not about partisanship.The Republicans do not accept responsibility. Their agenda is to remain in total control and take care of their own.They've made fortunes off of this town. Just look at the bond attorney who happens to be the Republican Party Chairman.So be honest for a change, it would be refreshing.

  11. >Why is it that only the Democrats are in favor of televising Township meetings? Do the Republicans have something to hide? What better way to have an educated electorate than to give them access, in their own homes, to the workings of their local government?If Republicans feel that the citizens are being hoodwinked and lied to in emails, than what better way to counter that than giving the taxpayers easy access to the meetings? If it's just a question of being camera-shy, I'm sure Governor Christie can provide a dose of "mentoring" in that department.

  12. >Anonymous 4:16 p.m. sounds like the lady who can't see the forest for the trees and can never see both sides of any issue….only the republican side.The public will chew her up and spit her out with that attitude in her patronage appointment. Get real for a change as we have real need for a finance committee of professional volunteers willing to try and help this town. The TC lacks the knowledge and the skills and display ignorance in even acknowledging their shortcomings.Stupidity might be a word to describe their behavior.Arrogant and stupid…..and that has noting to do with party affiliation. It's a personal and despicable character flaw. Nothing worse than a know it all who really knows nothing.

  13. >"Nothing worse than a know it all who really knows nothing."Aptly put Anon 5:39But that applies to the DHB and NOT our elected officials.They answer to the taxpayers who put their faith in them time and time again, and in the people they hire.Seriously, if the former Mayor and Mr. Settembrino were elected after the budget mess that the town faced last year, can you REALLY believe that a tax increase of 2% (with perhaps a little bit more outside the cap, but not much likely) will somehow lead to the DHB favored candidates getting elected?Really?

  14. >anon 7:42 Don't count on the people in this town to be blind,deaf and dumb forever.

  15. >Methinks Anon 7:42 is a lady who doth protest too much!If the voters will re-elect this gang to office no matter their actions- then just who is beating the dead horse here?

  16. >More delirium from the 7:42 anonymous poster. When do you finally realize what this TC is guilty of is malfeasance ? When do you finally realize everyone who reads this blog knows exactly who you are ? When do you realize what an idiot you portray yourself as ?Exactly what one poster referred to as a know it all who knows nothing at all.

  17. >Me thinks 7:42 that the current TC is a disgrace to themselves and to Middletown.

  18. >Kevin Settembrino is Lillian Burry's golden boy, thus his arrogant behavior. If Settembrino wants to take the Christie tough guy approach he picked the wrong department to pick on. He doesn't have the experience or longevity in this town to pull it off. Republicans also use the library, and if he stopped by once in a while he would know that.

  19. >Maybe Lillian Burry should be more discerning in who she picks for her "golden boy"…Maybe she should remember she stands for re-election this fall and is considered "vulnerable'. Team up with the nitwits from this township and she's surely in trouble.So long Lilly !

  20. >Send the carpetbagger back to Bergen County….or maybe they threw him out too !!The republican chair is scratching the bottom of the barrel.His conduct at the LVGA candidates night and the library doen't speak well of him !

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