>What You Missed at the Middletown Library Board’s June 15th Meeting

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

It was just me again Wednesday night, a little discouraged that more people didn’t show up to support the library. Anyway, here’s what you missed in those 3 hours.

First, an update on the $500K transfer. Scheduled for this meeting was final review of the strategic plan and annual report to be submitted to the State Librarian, plus a required second vote by the Board as to whether or not to proceed with the transfer.

The Board’s review of the budget forecast began with Ms. O’Neal pointing out the obvious, that library funding would be painfully low for years to come. Ms. Miloscia asked, since they would be giving up a lot, if the town would recognize that gesture in the future when the library needs assistance as well. Initially, this struck me as a silly question because I think the town committee has made it clear in which direction they expect money to flow. But it has since occurred to me the Board has a perfect right to know what the arrangement with the town will be. Committeeman Settembrino gave a well rehearsed response free of promises. He said that he didn’t see why not, but mentioned non-starters like the tax cap and the changing leadership on the committee (which will still be republican-controlled next year, by the way). And as evidence of the town’s concern for the library, he pointed out that the town’s 2012 capital improvement plan already includes them (under this plan, the town issues the debt and the library pays the debt service). Ms. O’Neal asked if the Board would be forced to proceed, and she may have meant proceed with the lot construction, the funding arrangement, or both. No to all. The Board has the option to pay cash outright for the work, which presumably would allow them to make their own arrangements except for having to use T&M as engineer. Ms. Miloscia asked, “What if we don’t have the money to pay for it?” Kevin replied, “[That] will be a discussion for next year’s committee, but at this point I would say it doesn’t get accomplished unless it’s funded in accordance with the resolution.” Translation: The Board has 2 options, to make payments on the debt or pay cash for the work, but they should not expect the town to pay for it. For now, the parking lot expansion is a dead issue.

If you read my last post, you know that at the May Board meeting, Ms. O’Neal mentioned that the Board had not been satisfied with prior work done by T&M, who has been sanctioned by the town committee as the one-and-only engineer for all library capital improvements. I asked about that – i.e., what work was done by T&M and when was it done? Only Ms. O’Neal and Mr. Gabrielan spoke and they declined to discuss it, saying it was long ago and they have been assured that T&M would do a fine job. Needless to say, everyone seemed acutely aware that Committeeman Settembrino was in the room. Susan glanced often in his direction as she spoke. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see what kind of looks were being exchanged because my view of Kevin was blocked by the sound equipment.

Review of the Board’s strategic goals led to a discussion about the library in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was at one time among the best funded professional-level libraries in the country, but which had to close branches following a loss of funding and the leadership of its long-time director.

The plight of the Charlotte Library demonstrates why improving library volunteerism is an important goal. Public advocacy – our time and our money – becomes increasingly important when political advocacy and funding fall short. Got some free time? Or college-bound and looking for community service credit? Contact your local library.

The strategic plan and annual report were unanimously adopted by a vote of 7-0 (Resolution 2011-32).

When it came time to vote on the transfer itself (Resolution 2011-33), only Board president Randy Gabrielan took the opportunity to condemn the self-serving, deceptive tactics used by the town committee and to voice his frustration with his fellow trustees. It deserves repeat here:

“We saw the evolving fiscal condition of the library in March and it is here in clear black and white in the strategic plan. We would be imperiling the fiscal well being of this library over the next couple of years if we gave this money away. As far as I personally am concerned, the giveaway is tantamount to the township committee declaring war on its own library. The whole process as I see it is one of the mayor seeking to fulfill his short term political goals, the mayor and the committee not having done what they could have done with respect to cap exceptions and an exemption to meet their budgetary requirements, and they are putting their obligations on us. They did it by various threats, including holding hostage police jobs. Then after we passed our preliminary resolution in March, they’re going to other meetings still holding the same jobs at risk. I was against this in March. I’m against it now. I would have strongly counseled that we rescind our prior passage and vote this down, but unfortunately on the advice of counsel, it seems that our hands are tied. …but I insist that if we as a body don’t recognize what this is doing to the financial well being of the library, that at least the record demonstrates that.”

There was a full 15 seconds of silence after that. It felt like a memorial.

“It’s too much water under the bridge at this point to undo what’s been done.…This Board made a commitment to the township to do this,” said Mr. Milne. There was tacit agreement, and a roomful of downcast eyes. After hearing from Ms. O’Neal that even the Board’s lawyers thought that the Board did not have good legal standing at this point to back off, it was clear that the pending vote was little more than a formality. Resolution 2011-33 passed 6-1, with only Mr. Gabrielan dissenting.

I have to wonder if the town committee knew early on that the effect of railroading the Library Board into what was initially billed as non-binding negotiation would be to obligate them legally. Think back to the February Board meeting when Committeeman Settembrino pressed for a resolution to arrive at a number. The Board passed that resolution because they thought there was no harm in talking….

So now the matter will be passed along to the State Librarian, Norma Blake, for review. I heard somewhere that it could take up to 45 days for her decision. That doesn’t jive with the town committee’s plan to finalize their 2011 budget in early July. I asked Committeeman Settembrino how they expected to do that if the State Librarian hadn’t yet approved the transfer. The Board agreed with his assessment that all the documents were in order and that a quick response was expected from the State. Unfortunately, in line with regulations, the State Librarian reviews only the current year’s finances. Thus it is expected that the library’s budget shortfall for subsequent years will be ignored.

I asked Mr. Settembrino how the town would plug the $500K budget hole in the unlikely event the transfer was disapproved. He replied that the library board meeting wasn’t the right forum for that discussion, but he did clarify that the 2.99% tax hike (he said 2.99, not 2.9) reflects the 2% maximum increase within the cap.

Other business discussed at the meeting is as follows:

There was a slideshow presented by Dennis Kowal Architects, who recently completed a feasibility study for the renovation of the Lincroft branch, originally a 2-room schoolhouse built in 1906. The presentation was so packed with photos and sketches that if you’ve never been to the Lincroft branch, you’ll feel like you have. You can view the slideshow by clicking HERE

The good news is that the original structure is sound and can therefore be renovated. There is also ample parking since an overflow lot was added not long back. The renovation would include lots of energy efficiency upgrades while retaining existing wood floors and original hardware. A drawing of the architect’s proposed design is attached to this post. It includes a charming outdoor plaza-lounge created by sandwiching the front walkway between an existing structure and a new addition that would house new ADA-compliant bathrooms and an entry foyer. There is also a magazine lounge, a quiet study area, a contained children’s room (draft-free and no more runaways), and a fireside reading area complete with a gas-burning fireplace. If you live in Lincroft, you are probably filled with a sense of longing right now.

The project would cost roughly $650,000, not including new furniture, security and communication systems, architectural fees, or renovation to the basement storage area (filled with old municipal and police records). Add it all up, and the project budget would need to be in the range of $800 to $900K. And a caveat that the final design could change based on location of underground lines (the architect could not obtain a copy of the property survey).

The renovation probably won’t happen anytime soon because library funds are low for reasons we are all well aware of. The project might qualify for a matching New Jersey Historic Trust grant, but there is stiff competition for these grants, and Mr. Gabrielan, who is town historian in addition to being Library Board president, feels that the chance of getting the grant is slim. No decision has been made yet about how to proceed. The topic is slated for further discussion next month.

Ms. Cavalier asked if they knew how much financial support could be expected from the community. Susan said that $713K was donated for the 2004 renovation of the main branch, but only a small part of that was from Lincroft residents, who may be much more inclined to help fund their local branch. So be on the lookout for fundraisers!

If you are concerned about donating for fear your dollars will end up in the hands of the town, don’t worry. The Board was very clear that Library Foundation money is protected and is not part of the $500K transfer.

You may recall from a prior post that the Lincroft branch has termite damage in the entryway and is believed to have asbestos in the walls as well as lead-based paint. The architect didn’t test for hazardous materials and cautioned the board that if testing for hazmats is done, there is a legal requirement to remediate in line with test results. Susan advised that all paintable surfaces in the Lincroft branch were painted with latex paint in the last decade, so the lead-based paint poses no immediate concern. As for the termites, damage is supposedly concentrated in trim moulding rather than structural beams. The Board opted to wait and address these issues as part of the renovation.

Congratulations to Library Director Susan O’Neal, who is the NJ Library Association’s president-elect for coming fiscal year. “This is both a high honor and an awesome responsibility,” to quote Mr. Gabrielan. Susan’s name will be engraved on one of the silver-toned pages of a book-shaped locket to mark her achievement. The locket, a heavy piece made of gold and faience (tin-glazed ceramic), is the badge of office for NJLA presidents. Susan noted that the locket is actually too heavy to comfortably wear and reasoned that it was designed for a time when ladies wore much heavier clothing. A picture and history of the locket may soon appear on the library’s website.

In accordance with the Conover Whitol Scholarship guidelines, two graduate students enrolled in Rutgers’ library science program will receive $900 each toward the September term. Congratulations to recipients Debra Bodofsky and Elizabeth Edwards. (Resolution 2011-34, 7-0)

The Library welcomes back college student Stephanie Chadwick, who worked at the library last summer and is being re-hired part time for this year’s busy summer season. As a trained page, she is a valuable addition who can “hit the ground running”. (Resolution 2011-31, 7-0)

There was a first-time-ever theft of petty cash recently from the library’s Bayshore branch. The thief scored a negligible amount, and a lock-box will be added to deter future attempts. Yet another sign of the times.

Another topic concerned bill payments that have been held up by town administrator Tony Mercantante. In one instance, the requisition was for the payment of registration fees for a June conference that would provide training for five library assistants at a cost of $100 per person. The payment delay resulted in the registration deadline being missed, so the individuals couldn’t attend and will have to wait a year for the next conference. In another case, payment was denied for food expenses as part of conference attendance by a member of the library’s IT staff. Tony said the town doesn’t reimburse for food. However, the Library does. The Board felt this was unwarranted interference with Library operations. Mr. Gabrielan pointed out that the costs in question are normal outlays for staff development, benefit the library, and have been approved and budgeted for by the Board. Ms. Cavalier wondered if the problem was just ignorance (her word, not mine) on the part of the administrator.

In an effort to address the delays, Susan has contacted Mr. Mercantante, who feels he is within his authority. About a year ago, per Susan, Tony began asking for a written explanation for requisitions over $1000, but Susan said that the voucher, which is attached to the requisition, already lists that information, so to write it again is a duplication of effort for her. She said, “Anything over $1000 he sits on.” Part of the problem, Susan said, is that no one from the town contacts her when there is a question about an expense, so it doesn’t get addressed until she calls the town after there has already been a long delay. She’s wondered if maybe the slowness has to do with cash flow……

This was all news to Kevin, who said he’d look into it.


Filed under ADA compliance, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Lincroft branch, Lincroft NJ, Linda Baum, Middletown Library Feasibility study, Middletown NJ, restricted funds, slideshow, Susan O'Neal

41 responses to “>What You Missed at the Middletown Library Board’s June 15th Meeting

  1. >Sometimes the "enemy of" your "enemy" is NOT your friend, Linda.In your zeal to defend the Library Board at all costs because a minority of them oppose the Township Committee, you align yourself against the taxpayers of Middletown. Is that your intention?The Township does not pay for meals consumed at training conferences. The Library Board does. The taxpayer pays for Susan O'Neal's filet mignon – and you're okay with that? What would you say if it were the DPW Director?Library employees are township employees, yet they have received 6% raises in the latest contract (2010). The rest of the Township has seen layoffs. Department Heads and other managers have not seen pay increases since 2008. How much have the salaries for Ms. O'Neal and the senior people at the Library gone up since then? And you support this?The same taxpayer you think you speak for is paying for that extra helping of dessert (and possibly first class tickets)for Library employees while your leaf and brush collection gets cut back. Yet you whole heartedly endorse the reckless disregard for reality represented by the members of the Library Board?Did you notice that the Library is filled more and more with videos and CDs? Is it a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars to allow someone to watch "Jackass III" for free? To listen to Lady Gaga?The Library Board will likely see many changes next year, a changing of the guard, despite your support for their wasting of taxpayer dollars, the right thing has and will continue to be done.You sure pick your friends oddly Linda…

  2. >"Is it a wise expenditure of taxpayer dollars to allow someone to watch "Jackass III" for free? To listen to Lady Gaga?Seems like a little power has gone to some people's heads-now township cronies want to censor what is on library shelves. Is it OK if the library replaces that old copy of Money magazine? Yes people are "allowed" access to all sorts of media for FREE- that's what a public library system is all about.

  3. >First off, the food tab in question was nominal, under $50 in total, the cost was budgeted for (so the money should be there to pay it), and many organizations pay these costs because employees are travelling for the benefit of their employer.And if the board was squandering money as you suggest, they probably wouldn't have been able to save up that half million the town just took.I don't know about the 6% raises you refer to. As far as I know, only minimum wage staff received raises recently, and those were for about a dollar a week. Further, as most library employees are low-wage staff, 6% wouldn't amount to much of a raise dollar-wise. If you are earning $7.25 an hour, a 6% raise would be just 44 extra cents an hour.As for what the library stocks, they serve the community, so part of what they offer is what the public wants. If you want to watch "Jackass III", that's up to you. Note they also just purchased 864 books.You might want to attend the library board meetings if you have concerns about their spending. From what I've seen, they are very prudent with your money. I can't say the same for the town committee. I've spent a great deal of time reviewing the town's spending habits, particularly their bonding, and I can tell you this. If that debt had been structured more responsibly, they could have saved a fortune in interest, and that money would be available now to pay salaries. Further if the town committee's only response to cutting costs is to cut jobs, then we are going to be in this same position next year.In the future, feel free to identify yourself.

  4. >Does anyone really think that 500K is going to provide tax relief? That money was meant for the lot construction. If the town bonds for it and then bills the library, as taxpayers we are paying twice. Plus interest.

  5. >To anon, 8:26,This is not about aligning with one side or another. Trustees are supposed to do what is in the best interest of the entity they oversee. How is the public going to feel if a library branch they visit has to close for lack of money? That affects that persons quality of life. And when it happens, they will complain to the town, and will get nowhere.

  6. >So, Linda…As long as it's budgeted for, you're okay with however they spend taxpayer dollars? Really? You give the Library Board a pass because they rake in tax bucks without having to decide to raise taxes or face the voters?Paying for meals for Township employees is not something the taxpayer should be doing – period. That is especially true since the Taxpayer is already paying for the "conference" that the employee is attending anyway, which probably does nothing to improve either the employee's work performance or the Library's. Those conferences are a "perk" for highly paid employees, and I think most people know it.But you're okay with that, huh? You even want to pay for them to be generous to the waitress at the restaurant?I feel sorry for the other Township employees. Thsy are regularly castigated as "lazy, money grubbers." If they worked for the Library the DHB would be pushing for them to get raises, trips at taxpayer expense and meals paid for. IAre you SURE that's what you want Linda?Anon at 12:38 – How will the taxpayer feel if that branch Library is closed while Library administration takes first class airfare to national conferences, eating out on the taxpayer dime?just because the Library Board has a minority that is against the TC doesn't make them a Township Democrat's friend, not even close. Especially when they are anti-taxpayer.

  7. >Anon at 10:28I do NOT favor censorship. I object to tax dollars being spent on things that are not books. Bookstores are dying off and the Library keeps giving raises – what's wrong with that picture?Anon at 12:20I think your math is a little off. If the Town bonds for it but the Library pays the debt service, the debt service is only paid once.And as far as the $500K not providing tax relief, are you saying you're okay with the TC spending $500K more without regard to the tax rate?

  8. >To the first commenter, you have a lot of bad things to say about the library, but offer little opinion of the town. …so then do you think the town committee has been managing our money well?? If they are beyond reproach, why resist the oversight of a finance committee??? The answer is that they could be doing a whole lot better and would rather we cant prove it. If they were doing everything they should be, the finance committee would confirm it and they would look all the better! So the town committee has accountability in all this. The library is at fault also – there mistake was giving away funds they need. Two wrongs dont make a right.

  9. >anon 8:26, i think you forget that linda baum is a taxpayer too. sounds like she just wants money to be spent more wisely all around.

  10. >If you object to a modern public library offering media other than books, then you truly need to take a step into the 21st century. Bookstores are dying off because those who purchase books now prefer to purchase them online- like everything else, some thrive, some don't. If anything, the economic meltdown makes it such that those who can no longer afford to purchase movies and music can rely on their public library to fill the void. Since you make it a point to single out certain movies or music YOU find distasteful, you certainly lay yourself open to the censorship charge. I'm sure it's been a long time since you were a teenager but they too are patrons of the public library. Most parents are happy to have their kids watching a dumb movie at home as opposed to causing trouble in the streets. So yes, those movies do belong in the library. By the way, who appointed YOU spokesperson for the taxpayers of Middletown? Or do we have to search on the internet for that patronage appointment announcement too?

  11. >As for policies about travel and training expenses, library employees likely require more- specialized training than is required for many other jobs with the township, including those at the DPW. Travel and conference attendance costs for these employees are not unreasonable or excessive, and therefore I see no reason to scrutinize them. I do however have an issue with the $680,000 no-bid contract awarded to T&M last year. Your comment that conferences are a just a perk for highly paid employees doesn’t hold water. The library employees that missed out on the June conference are assistant-level, and I doubt they are that highly paid. Further I’m sure that most anyone who has ever attended a business conference can attest to how much can be learned by doing so. Think about that the next time you need the help of the person at the library’s reference desk and she knows precisely how to access the information you need. The fact that the Library Board can’t raise taxes is reason they must be careful how they spend. It's also reason they should hold onto funds they have. And, unlike the town, which can maintain its revenue level by offsetting a decline in assessments with an increase in the tax rate, the library’s revenue drops with assessments. That's what they are faced with now, on top of the $500K taken. And let me point out that the town has done more than just maintain its revenue over the years -– our taxes have gone up and up and up and up. And they are going up again this year. Where has all that money gone? And after so many increases and so many millions raised, how is it the town finds itself in such dire circumstances? These are the questions we should be asking. Sure, we got a lot of snow, but that doesn’t explain everything.And again, feel free to state your name. You know mine well enough. I welcome a debate. Live.

  12. >ANON 8:26 Why are suggesting there are enemies here? This is about being fiscally prudent for the tax payers. Who has shown better management of their funds, the library or the TC? I think you know the answer.Why don't you show the same criticism for your TC who has squander millions over the years and continues to bond to cover our debt?The library's so called waste compared to the TC's is miniscule.I'd like to see you go after your own elected officials the same way you've gone after the library.Or is this all about politics?

  13. >Anon 8:26,Alignment with the Library Board is not logically alignment "against the taxpayers of Middletown". Being for something doesn't mean that you are against something else. Alignment with the Library Board could mean that someone is aligned with the taxpayers more than the Township Committee is. This is a tit-for-tat kind of post. Any chance Anon 8:26 is Mr. Sentembrino, possibly Mr. Nelson?

  14. >Anon 1:23,So is the library responsible for bookstores closing now, too? First jobs, now bookstores?!! Lets tar and feather the bunch!!!If the town borrows money for something that there was cash for, then we have a debt we shouldn’t have and the extra costs that go with it. Even if the library pays it, that’s still tax dollars being misspent.If the town had to raise the extra $500K, that would be about 23 dollars per household, like 50 cents per week. And this has been a bad year, right, so the money might only need to be raised once, and it could be either rolled back next year (in theory) or, more likely, reduce what’s needed then. So then instead of 3 percent, the tax increase would be around 3.5 percent. What if sewer fees were rolled into property taxes at the same time? Most of us itemize deductions on our income tax returns. Maybe people wouldn’t mind paying the extra $23 if they got back an extra $56 annually from the feds.You'd have an even bigger income tax write-off if your garbage collection fees were included in your property taxes. For some of us they already are. Perhaps if we all did, the ecomomies of scale would result in a better price for everyone — yet another benefit.

  15. >Let me state several things…First, I support the formation of a Finance Committee, but I understand the reluctance to do so.If the TC appoints a committee and the committee agrees with them, the DHB will be ranting about "cronyism." On the other hand, can anyone reasonably expect the TC to form a committee and then appoint people like Ms. Baum – people who contort and twist every which way just to find fault? Maybe they should appoint Randy Gabriellen?You all can form your own Finance Committee if you'd like. OPRA laws require that almost every document the Township has can be asked for. No one is stopping you.By the way Linda, you'd better ask Susan about who goes on these junkets at taxpayer expense before you continue to make statements without all of the facts. While you're at it, maybe you'd better reveal how many of these trips YOU get to go on each year and at who's expense.Finally, I have to laugh at Anon 3:58's last comment: "Or is it all about politics?" LOLTo come here, to this Fox News like blog, commenting on a post like Ms. Baum's…Yes. For the owner of this blog and for Ms. Baum – it IS "all about politics." They find fault with anything the Township Committee (coincidentally Republican) does (THEY are coincidentally Democrats).That is PRECISELY why I held Ms. Baum's feet to the fire on this. Because she is playing politics, she has aligned herself with the Library Board and against the taxpayers of Middletown. Ask her about "all about politics…"By the way, when is the Library Board going to begin televising their meetings?

  16. >The previous poster's feigned outrage is the only thing that should make her "LOL" Looks like the "dead horse beaters" the lady refers to have so much clout that the TC does or does not take action based upon their reactions. What a bunch of bull- the backward "black is white" world of local Middletown hacks- why do we tolerate such second rate intellects determining Middletown's future?

  17. >Some continue to pretend that the tax dollars the Library has come from some other source then the taxpayers of Middletown.Here's a clue – it all comes from the same place.I don't think that anybody (except maybe Ms. Baum and a couple of members of the Library Board) believe that the Library is running as tight a budget as they could or should be.I find it hard to believe that the same crowd that comes out to TC meetings wanting to cut leaf and brush collection also go to Library Board meetings to cheer them on as they hire more people than they need, give them higher and higher salaries, and want the taxpayers to pay for their meals.There is a cognitive dissonance there that can only be explained by one word: politics.When Sean Byrnes suggested that the Library Board give money back to the taxpayers it was called "inspired." When Kevin Settimbrino got it done it is being called "extortion." The only thing more laughable than the blind partisanship served up here is the electoral record of those that engage in it…By the way Linda, I've adopted a "nom de blogging" to make you feel better.I am Legion.

  18. >Trust me, Anon 8:16, the DHB have no clout at all in this town. On this blog, maybe, but anywhere else?It's too bad, because we need bi-partisanship now during these tough times. It would be good if we could work together, but at least there are enough of us who have it straight.

  19. >Yes Madame Legion we know what you think of the so-called DHBs which is why your citing their reactions as a reason for not assembling a finance committee was utterly bizarre. But then you do and say alot of bizarre things on a blog you profess to dislike. There is something very odd about being a sore winner. You remind me of someone who peeps in another's window and then complains about the view. Perhaps it's time to draw your shades and enjoy all the great things you feel your patrons have accomplished.

  20. >Played like a cheap piano. Only Mr. Gabrielan saw it coming and never wavered. Others so naïve, still don’t understand the game that is being played…… come closer little lambs. FOOLS!!

  21. >Take a look at the bill we as taxpayers foot to send members of the TC and department heads to the League of Municipalities conference every year. Hotel rooms, meals, registration fees, etc. Of course they will say it is important but the "League" as they like to call it, is run by a non-government employee who is enrolled in a state pension system. Another money grab for their cronies these politicians have created. Personally I think the residents benefit more from trained library personnel than from our elected officials going to AC on our dime and partaking in the "hospitality rooms" (cover term for free booze, food and ?) of the businesses that make money off of us, ie, T&M and others. I recall the Operation Bid Rig scandal just a few years ago. The APP reported several envelopes of cash were handed out to politicians at the "League" conference. Bet that does not happen when you are training library staff. BTW the FBI put those politicians in jail.

  22. >Dislike this blog? Surely you jest!I LOVE this blog because it's so much fun to post here.I guess you had some comprehension problem reading what I wrote about the potential Finance Committee.No one could reasonably expect the TC to appoint members of the DHB to this committee, and, if they did not, the DHB would decry the findings of the Finance committee they have demanded and move on to another demand.Go ahead and form one yourselves – there is no reason not to.While you might not believe it, the Township has adequate financial expertise available, even without a Finance Committee, though I think having one would be a good thing.When you guys run the TC you can appoint a Finance Committee right after you start televising meetings…

  23. >Thank you Linda for your intelligent reporting. It's refreshing to get another insight other than the usual rosy picture from the propaganda machine who has had complete autonomy in controlling the message for years.You must be striking a nerve with Legion who obviously wants to protect those on the inside including himself.Keep up the good work.Many of us don't care what party you belong to as long as someone challenges those in charge who have sorely been lacking in honesty and integrity.It's all about control in this town and when they don't have it, they attack. Just like they did with the BOE. They influenced the elections by supporting incompetent people. Now look at the mess we're in now. No leadership.They will do the same with the library. You can already see the handwriting on the wall.

  24. >Linda Baum is not aligning herself against the tax payer. From what I read she is trying to protect the tax payer from the hypocrisy and incompetence of the leadership in this town.We need more people like her who show guts and challenge those in charge. They are obviously threatened by her, because now people like Legend are attacking her.She should run for office.We need more like her whose agenda is to do what is right and not to further their career.

  25. >to Legion:What makes you think the library is hiring more people than they need? Have you done a needs analysis, or even reviewed one? It takes people to put books back on shelves. And just so you know, the young woman who was just hired for the summer will be earning minimum wage or near it, and that’s for someone with job experience no less.Re the name, I get the joke. I guess you are offended that I questioned your judgment. Now get a real name, like Napoleon.to anon 6:19 and Legion:Sure, residents can form a finance committee anytime they want, but if it is not sanctioned by the town as an official board with an official purpose, then it has no authority and wouldn’t even be recognized by the town committee in an advisory capacity. It is ridiculous to suggest a finance committee could operate efficiently, or at all, by having to OPRA documents. I don’t view the role of a finance committee as agreeing or disagreeing with the town committee, as you suggest. The role of the finance committeee, as I see it, is to do fiscal oversight, catch mistakes early, and come up with creative ideas to reduce expenses and generate revenue. The town committee members are part-timers, so there is no way they can thoroughly review all the documents that come before them. Nor do they all have the right educational background to understand financial information or know how it can be improved. The finance committee can provide that service, which would benefit everyone.Since having a finance committee is considered a best practice for municipalities, it is hard to understand why you, or the township, would not support it. Many of the surrounding towns have a finance committee, and I’m not hearing reports of the political sabotage you’re suggesting.If the township has adequate financial expertise available to it, as you say, well then it is insufficient based on the town’s audit results and financial difficulties. What’s more, how wise is it to leave the details to the discretion of those “experts”? Would you sign mortgage papers unless you felt sure you were getting the best deal possible and not just a reasonable one? Often the savings is in the details. Even if a document or analysis is prepared accurately and in compliance with regulations, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way to do it. If there was a finance committee, I would certainly like to participate on it and believe I would be a valuable addition. Hopefully it would be a large diversified, non-partisan group. People’s minds work differently — the more input the better.So you think I misrepresent the facts? Is that what really concerns you, or is it that I’m getting too close to the truth? It’s not true that we critics find fault with everything the town committee does, just certain things, like the lies by omission, the wordsmithing, the huge no-bid contracts, and the clear conflicts such as having the TC’s party head as bond counsel. If you want to have a real discussion about the misdirection of taxpayer funds, these are the big costs we should be talking about, not nitpicking over a fifty dollar food tab.Re the library board televising their meetings, I don’t think they’d object one bit. However I doubt there’s any money left in their budget for it now… If you want to show up next month with a camera, you are welcome. In fact, if you’re not there — whoever you are — I’ll ask about it for you. Frankly, it can only benefit the board to have residents watch their deliberations.My support of the library is not about politics. It’s about managing money properly. I don’t see this as a choice between supporting the library or supporting taxpayers. I see it as doing what’s best for both. I want to provide relief to my fellow residents as much as you do, I just think there are much better ways to do it. Like what I suggested in my 6/21, 5:59 comment. What do you think about my idea?

  26. >Well said Linda. We all know why the TC doesn't agree to a FC. They simply don't want anyone looking at the books. They don't want to explain, they just want control.A town this size needs all the expertise it can get and not having a FC is plain stupid. All the excuses out there are ridiculous and shows our leaders are more concerned with staying in power than doing what would ultimately benefit the taxpayer.They've shown when they want something like the MAC or a sports complex they will do it even when that costs us millions. Yet when it comes to try and save the tax payer money, they're against it.It's why they're also against televising meetings. Keep the public in the dark, and they can just do whatever they want.

  27. >Linda -I'm not sure your idea about raising the money this year works because I don't think that the 2% cap allows for an exception for paving parking lots. And I don't believe that the Sewerage Authority is going to be abolished either.I do want to say that you are always thinking, which is a good things, and admirable.More later…

  28. >Legion:Thank you for the compliment.Re the 2% cap, if we are assuming the town needed to raise the $500K itself, then the money is not coming from the library budget. So then the library and the lot expansion are out of the picture, and it’s just about the town’s budget. I have to admit I don’t know what information is required on a municipality’s cap waiver application to the local finance board. If the town has to list a purpose for the waiver, they might say it’s to pay tax appeals. Not sure.Re the Sewerage Authority, I am not suggesting it be abolished. I am just suggesting the fees be collected as part of our property taxes so that we can take the write-off.Have a good night.

  29. >Not a bad idea on the sewerage fees so they could be written off, but I don't know if that could be done legally either.See, when you offer ideas instead of sniping it makes it easier to communicate. The members of the TC are people just like you and me. They have lives and work and families – and they basically volunteer lots of their time to the town.For some to imbue their actions with evil intentions, to accuse them of being corrupt, to accuse them of, oh, you know all what else they are routinely scourged with, is it that hard to understand their defensiveness?If a Finance Committee is going to have "oversight," do you really think people who make those accusations have a chance in hell of getting on the committee?I was only being partially sarcastic when I suggested Randy G.You have a good head on your shoulders Linda, and a will for community service. You'll catch more flies with honey… If you know what I mean.

  30. >What a crock- the queen of mean and inaccurate petitions and letters lecturing about getting more flies with honey! Priceless.

  31. >Maybe the TC should try to catch more flies with honey instead of arrogance.

  32. >Legion,I think I’m less guilty of sniping than most, including you. I guess we’ll have to ask a lawyer if sewer fees can be included as a separate line item on property tax bills. For many towns, sewer charges are already part of property taxes, so it may not be an issue. Any lawyers care to comment?I agree that public service is admirable, but you are suggesting that the criticism of the town committee is undeserved. C’mon. None of it? And it sounds like you’re saying the TC’s resistance to reasonable changes – like a finance committee or televising – is the fault of accusers. It’s a chicken/egg argument. Unreasonableness leads to criticism, which leads to unreasonableness, which leads to criticism, which leads to…. Re flies and honey, perhaps you should provide that advice to the town committee as well. Maybe then they would spend less time defending their actions and more time correcting them. I really don’t understand your “oversight” comment. I’m not proposing a shift in authority, and advice is not accusation. Whether you view something as criticism or advice depends which side you’re sitting on. The guidance that a finance committee can provide is a good thing. The TC will just have to get a tougher skin.

  33. >why should the tc mind having a finance committee? The president doesnt seem to mind having a cabinet. maybe then problems would get fixed before the auditor finds them.

  34. >I just read the instructions for federal Schedule A (itemized deductions), and unfortunately neither sewer fees nor garbage fees appear deductible on line 6 (real estate taxes). Bummer.Here’s another thought. The town earns revenue on recycled materials. Recycling is mandatory, but I think compliance is only at around 50%. If the town could increase that to 85% of residents, that would bring in an extra $100,000 in recycling revenue annually. So how do you increase compliance? Well, fines. But it’s easy to avoid getting one since all you have to do is recycle, which is the point of issuing the fines in the first place. The fines are another source of revenue, but temporary because fines will drop off as compliance increases. We might need to hire temporary enforcement personnel, but the program would still pay for itself I think.I recall having a brief conversation with assistant administrator Jim VanNest about this. I ran the idea by him, and he said the township was already planning to do this. That was March 2011. Anybody get a fine yet for not recycling, or see scary enforcement types walking around?

  35. >2.99% ?????? That looks fishy to me, like they aimed for it. People will see 2.99 and think 2 not 3. And I never heard them say 2.99 before – I bet that was a slip! More lies by omission. Its not like an extra tenth of a percent is something to make a fuss about, but if not then neither is an extra 5 tenths to raise the money they need. Buy Middletown. Only $2.99

  36. >Why should they enforce the new recycling requirements when they don't even enforce the old requirement that leaves and brush not be put out to the street till 10 days before pickup? Anyone who looks around can see lawn services and homeowners putting out the material months in advance. By the way the recycling requirement is blatantly ignored- I see tons of cardboard boxes out for garbage pickup every day.

  37. >Why should they enforce recycling? Because it generates income. That's not the case for leaves and brush. And cardboard is the biggest moneymaker.

  38. >Fining offenders who put their leaves in the street would generate money for the township as well. It is never enforced. The only way to get it enforced is for a neighbor to file a complaint and this puts the burden on the citizen to report their neighbors. The citizens should not be put in that position- enforcement officers should be out there ticketing- it's not like it's so hard to to see mountains of leaves and brush in the streets. The wealthier parts of the township are where the worst offenders are which is why I suspect it is tolerated.

  39. >Fines for leaves & brush would generate income, but issuing those fines might trigger costs that more than offset it, specifically costs related to push-back from angry residents who feel they have been unjustly fined. How can the township prove that a particular person put materials in a particular place when that place is in the street, not on private property? This is more of an issue for neighborhoods with small homes and congested on-street parking where there are few places to put materials for pick-up. But it could be an issue in neighborhoods with large properties, too. It seems the town would be on poor legal footing. Fines might then have to be waived. So then the town would have the extra costs for enforcement personnel, extra administrative and legal costs, and less fine revenue than expected. The town could improve enforcement by just giving out warning notices, but then you don't have the fine income, just the extra cost for enforcement personnel.While enforcing recycling might have some of the same issues, it also generates the additional recycling income. Even if you issue more warnings and fewer fines, the numbers may work.

  40. >Linda -I didn't mean sniping on here — that's what blogs are for!I meant sniping at the TC.Funny how some people are now calling for INCREASED taxes, huh? The cap only allows for certain things to be "excluded," in other words, to allow going over the 2%. Like I said before, I don't think paving a parking lot would be one of those, but I could be wrong. We'll find out in 2012.Hey, this is becoming a reasonable, civil discussion. We can't have that…

  41. >I thought bonding was one thing that is outsife of the 2% cap? If it is then you could bond and pave the whole Township and still be within the cap.

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