Category Archives: Middeltown Board of Education

Middletown Board Of Education Meeting Tonight – What You will Hear and Not Hear

Tonight’s Middletown Board of Education meeting that will take place at High School North @ 7pm will be interesting for a few of reasons that you will and won’t hear about.

To open up the meeting there will be a presentation by Birdsall Engineering to the Board by Birdsall on a proposed district solar project that will involve several school site. It should be interesting but don’t expect too much information if this presentation by Birdsall turns out to be anything like the one presented at Town Hall a few months a go. That presentation left a lot to be desired.
Attendees to the meeting will also hear that the resignation of BoE member John Macrae has also been accepted which should lead to in the not to distant future, an announcement on a new search (or appointment) for someone to fill his position on the board that he vacated.
What you won’t hear tonight are many details about the appointment of a new Superintendent to take over from interim superintendent Pat Houston, who resigned last month and will be allowed to leave as of September 26th, unless of course something is dropped into the agenda at the last minute.
Word out of Hazlet though is that Middletown offered the School Superintendent’s job to Hazlet’s Superintendent of Schools Bill George but he turned it down, possible due to the salary being offered, possible due to other reasons.
Seeing how the Middletown school district is nearly 3 times larger than Hazlet’s and Bill George is currently earning $192K salary (according to Data Universe) from Hazlet, a move to Middletown seems unlikely at this time but not out of the question totally.
Hazlet sources stated that Middletown BoE has applied to the State for some kind of waiver that would enable George to come to Middletown and take over the school system.
To sweeten the pot a little for Bill George did the Middletown BoE seek a waiver from the State that would have allowed the BoE to exceed the mandated cap on school superintendents salaries that Governor Christie put in place this year, in order to lure George away from Hazlet? Or was the waiver requested of the State something less extraordinary like asking for a waiver of rules that would enable the board to appoint a new superintendent without the usual guideline procedures?
Regardless, I was told by my Hazlet connections that the request for a waiver was turned down by the State and that Bill George will be staying put, where he is, in Hazlet for the time being.
Of course though anything can happen and the Hazlet people could be wrong, in the mean time, the search a for new Middletown School Superintendent go on.

Leave a comment

Filed under Birdsall Service Group, cap wavier, Hazlet NJ, Middeltown Board of Education, school superintendent, solar presentation, William George

>Audio From April 19th Middletown Board of Education Candidate Forum At Lincroft Inn

>On April 19th 2011, the Middletown Republican Party held a BOE Candidate Forum at the Lincroft Inn.

The first 11 minutes of the meeting consisted of Republican Club business followed by the Candidate Forum. After each candidate was give 2 minutes to introduce themselves the floor was open to questions and answers.

Candidates Leonora Caminitti, Barry Allen Travis and Richard Morrill did not attend but had statements read.

The meeting ran approx. 1.5 hours and can be heard in its entirety below, but I have to admit I haven’t listened to all of it as of yet. I have only gotten through the first hour, I will listen to more as time allows between now and the Board of Education election which will be held next week on April 27th.

My one thought on this meeting is that it wasn’t much different that the one I attended in person over at Harmony School on April 14th which was written about in this weeks edition of the Independent

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

4 Comments

Filed under Candidate Forum, Lincroft Inn, Lincroft NJ, Middeltown Board of Education, Middletown NJ, Middletown Republicans, the Independent

Comment of the Week

The following comment was posted yesterday by an anonymous person to the post titled “Middletown school board to vote on final spending plan”. I thought that it was good enough to be considered comment of the week thus far and shared here on the main page.

The county superintendent has said that any further administrative cuts will jeopardize the district’s ability to provide an adequate education and may put the safety of the students at risk. Karen has said the same thing. Who has more knowledge about educating our children, the mayor or the educators?

When Vinnie Brand heard the email from the county superintendent read at the meeting the other night he said that he disagreed with the county superintendent and that he didn’t care what other towns are doing that we should do it better.

This guy is a pretty fast study. Wednesday was the second BOE meeting he has attended in his entire life and he already knows more than our superintendent and the county superintendent about acceptable student to administrator ratios. He said that we should cut 3 administrators as the TC suggested, even though the TC numbers had no basis in reality due to their total lack of understanding regarding the way the district operates.

Middletown has gotten what it wished for. We now have 3 new members on the board who apparently are so concerned about doing the bidding of the Township Committee that they are willing to compromise the safety of the students in order to save the taxpayers a few dollars.

Because the TC did not realize that the tenured administrators will have to be employed somewhere in the district, they grossly overstated the savings to the taxpayers. Instead of the $390,000 that they claimed would be saved by eliminating 3 administrators, the actual savings would be more like $50,000. In other words, for less than $1 per person a year for every person living in Middletown, Vinnie and his friends are willing to ignore the warnings of professional educators and compromise the safety of our students.

We now have inexperienced, uninformed and misguided people deciding the future of the districts educational process. They are ignoring the code of ethics for BOE members which states that they are to make their decisions based on what is best for the children. They appear to be making decisions based on political affiliations and aspirations.

Leave a comment

Filed under budget cuts, Comment of the Week, Middeltown Board of Education, Middeltown Township, Superintendent Karen Bilbao, Vinnie Brand

How Many Emails Did Middletown Receive When It Requested Resident Input Into Defeated School Budget? Not Close To 700 That Scharfenberger Stated

Well it seems that Middletown’s sorry excuse for a Mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger, has been caught yet again in a gross exaggeration of facts, which leads to the impression that the additional $500K over and above the previously agreed to $1.6M worth of budget cuts that the Board of Education presented to the Middeltown Township Committee back on May 3rd and May 6th was politically motivated.

This latest example comes from the many emails that were sent to the township’s website, after Sharfenberger came up with the brilliant idea to fore go an open public meeting to discuss further budget cuts that should be made to the Middletown school budget which was defeated on April 20th.
Scharfenberger stated at the May 17th Township Committee meeting and was quoted by all of the local newspapers that cover Middletown, that some 700 emails were sent to him via the suggestion portal that was set up on the township website for residents to voice their opinion on what items should or should not be cut from the school budget. Three days later a press release was posted on the township website stating that thanks to the residents for their input and that only 600 emails were gathered. Now after obtaining a copy of all those emails from the Township, I come to find out that the really number of emails sent in by residents was 501.
That’s a pretty big difference if you ask me, more so if you consider that many of the emails seem to be duplicates or have nothing whatsoever to do with suggestions on how to trim the defeated school budget, like spam and self indulgent compliments on defeating the budget. After looking through them, it really looks as if only 300 or so could be considered as legitimate.
Which leaves the question of exactly how many residents sent suggestions to the portal? Were only 50, 100 or 501 residents responsible for sending them all of those emails? We’ll never know for sure because only a small percentage of residents decided to sign their names to them, which was after all their prerogative, considering that the Township suggested that comments be left anonymously.
For anyone interested in reading all those emails themselves you can do so by clicking >>> Here

Note: For those that thought that their comments and suggestions would be kept confidential I am sorry to inform you otherwise, your comments are part of the public record for all to see whether you supported further school budget cuts or requested that the budget should stand as was at the time of the April 20th vote. Anyone could submit an OPRA request and receive the same information that I have.


Leave a comment

Filed under emails, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middeltown Board of Education, Middletown Township, Middletown Township Committee, OPRA, OPRA requests, school budgets

$140 million Middletown school budget calls for tax hike, layoffs

Here is the latest news from last night’s Middletown Board of Education budget meeting, I couldn’t make it there so I have been waiting for word about what transpired:

BY JENNIFER BRADSHAW – The Asbury Park Press

MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education unanimously approved a proposed $140.3 million budget tonight that calls for a 3.9 percent tax increase and 124 layoffs to close a gap in the spending plan.

Superintendent Karen Bilbao said in order to make more than $9 million in cuts, all nontenured teachers in the district would have to receive notices of nonrenewal.

Supplemented by a $123.8 million tax levy, the budget had to be substantially trimmed after state aid was cut by $7.2 million for the 2010-11 school year. In addition, $2.8 million in state aid was cut from this year’s budget.

After the state announced its aid numbers for 2010-11, layoffs grew to 72 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 16 secretaries, eight facilities staff members and seven administrators for $4.1 million in savings.

At the crowded meeting, Bilbao asked the public not to think of the cuts as “people” but rather as “positions,” meaning that tenured teachers in those cut positions could be reassigned.

Bilbao announced at the meeting that she, in addition to several others in the central office, would be freezing their salaries for a year, in light of the cuts.

According to the district, the 3.9 percent total tax increase will add $183 a year in taxes to an average assessed home of $435,000.

If state aid cuts had not been so deep, the tax increase would have been 2.7 percent, the district said.

Tonight’s meeting was the first introduction of the district budget, originally scheduled to be unveiled at the March 18 workshop meeting. It was postponed after state aid numbers came out a day earlier.

Bilbao also said the district teachers union was asked for a salary freeze regarding the following school year, as well as a freeze on stipends for those teachers involved in extracurricular activities, but both requests were denied.

Linda McLaughlin, president of the teachers union, read from a prepared statement in defense of the union’s stance, stating that the existing contract between the union and the district was hard to come by, after hostile negotiations in previous years.

The teachers of the district are also taxpayers and not exempt from economic troubles, she said. A freeze would “(Make) our families even more vulnerable in a shaky economy,” she said.

Earlier in the month, it was announced that the district was already working with a $4.3 million budget hole, caused by increased district costs, and a loss of $2.8 million in surplus funds, through an executive order mandating all districts to use the money in their surplus accounts to cover expenses for the remainder of the 2009-10 school year.

Business administrator Bill Doering then said that the district’s surplus funds are often used as budgeted tax relief for the coming school year, with an absence of those funds causing a hole in the subsequent year’s budget.

To see the Final Budget Presentation and the Final 2010-2011 Proposed Budget from the Middletown Board of Education, you can go to the BOE’s website by clicking >>> Here to read them.

This is a bad job by the teachers union when so many in Middeltown and around the state are hurting, they should be ashamed of themselves! What about the families of the 124 people that will now lose their livelihoods in this vulnerable economy?
It’s just another case of I have mine to hell with you if you don’t have yours.
They should have accepted the wage freeze.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asbury Park Press, layoffs, Middeltown Board of Education, MTEA, NJEA, tax increase

Who is Behind The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee ?


Has anyone noticed the signs popping up all over Middletown like the one posted to the right?

The signs are from a group calling themselves the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee.
I wasn’t familiar with this group until I saw these signs spring up along the roadside and decided to ask around to see if anyone could enlighten me.
I was informed by a friend who just happens to know the Chairperson of the committee, that The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee is a group who supports the BOE with their budget plans. They try and get public support so the budget gets passed and the signs reflect what Trenton is doing by taking back the surplus money that the BOE wanted to use for tax relief and new programs.
My friend reached out to the Chairperson of the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee on my behalf for more information and I was sent the following statement:
The Middletown school budget has traditionally been built applying funds called Budgeted Tax Relief. These are funds that may be “left over” (surplus) from previous years’ budgets due to economies put in place during the school year. The funds that were squeezed out of that budget were returned to the taxpayers as tax relief to fund next year’s budget (hence the title “budgeted tax relief” and not surplus). So the “tax relief” funds arises from the District being able to save X amount of dollars of the previous budget by implementing cost-saving measures (such as a good year’s negotiations for medical coverage, installing efficient utility systems, etc.), and those savings are used when crafting the next year’s budget to “relieve – basically lower” the levy of local taxes to a level the taxpayers hopefully find acceptable.

Part of budgeting would also normally include allocating a portion of any remaining funds to the “capital reserve” fund to support future capital improvements (infrastructure, systems, fields). The state has taken .5M of Middletown’s accumulated capital reserves.

With the state taking the tax relief and reserves, the District has to rely on “real tax dollars” from this year, as well as pulling remaining capital reserve. Keep in mind that the State often imposes mandates on Districts without funding them. What this means is when the state says “you must have full-day kindergarten,” and there are specific regulations as to the physical structure of a kindergarten classroom, a district must fund that out of somewhere.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: 84% of the funds that the Governor authorized to withhold from Middletown are local taxpayer dollars. Senator J. Kyrillos, at the Middletown BOE Forum last week, admitted he had no idea the funds that were taken were predominantly funded by local taxpayer dollars. It appears he assumed that the funds were 100% state aid dollars held in reserve and therefore the state was still funding the approved budget by withholding committed funds and saying “keep the funds you already have from us.” For the 2009-2010 school budget year Middletown was supposed to receive only 16% in state aid (versus 41% average across the state). The checks have now stopped, and Middletown has been directed to use our $2.3 million tax relief and $.5 million capital reserves to cover the state’s shortfall. IF THE STATE IS WITHDRAWING STATE AID, THEY SHOULD ONLY BE TAKING 16% of $2.8 MILLION, NOT ALL OF IT. 84% OF THAT IS MIDDLETOWN DOLLARS RAISED FOR MIDDLETOWN CHILDREN!!

WE PAID OUR STATE TAXES. WE PAID OUR LOCAL TAXES SPECIFICALLY FOR MIDDLETOWN. NOW OUR STATE TAXES ARE GONE, SO OUR STATE AID IS GONE, AND THEY WANT OUR LOCAL REAL ESTATE TAXES TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE STATE!

So where does Middletown stand right now? Based on the funding the state has withdrawn, and assuming that the state aid of 16% from last year is not reduced (highly unlikely), and also assuming that the Middletown taxpayers vote to pass the current budget on April 20th, we can expect to lose 36 teachers (in addition to 28 other positions ranging from Administration to Facilities). That is the “best case scenario” as we stand right now. If the Middletown voters vote to not pass the budget, the budget is presented to the township committee who can vote to cut the budget further, resulting in even more cuts.

The worst-case scenario is that the state follows through on a full 15% cut to Middletown’s current funding, which would result in a potential loss of over 80 teachers, additional positions, and program cuts! If the Middletown voters will not pass even that budget, additional positions and programs will have to be cut to make up for a potential township cut.

Think about the impact of 80+ families in Middletown and the surrounding areas losing their income. This is not an issue just affecting Middletown; this situation is happening across over 600 districts in this state. Lost jobs equals loss of income tax and sales tax to the state. Lost jobs equals unemployment, and the state has said the unemployment system is bankrupt. Lost jobs equals loss of property tax when families leave NJ for a cheaper place to live.

The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee, Inc.

Relevant documentation:

BOE forum presentation and spread sheets @ http://www.middletownk12.org/superintendent/files/FINAL%20Presentation%20without%20NOTES.pdf.

The text of the speech given by President Laura Agin of the Middletown Board of Education @
http://www.dollarsandsense.bz/.

In my opinion, this is a fight that parents with school kids need to get involved with and support the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee and the Middeltown Board of Education. Not only will there be a lay-off of teachers and supporting school staff,l but there will be after school programs cut as well with little or no money for new books or other essential supplies available for the students use.

And if that wasn’t bad enough after all the $2.8 million in budget cuts are over with, the School Board will still have to raise the tax rate just to maintain what is left for next year.

Middletown needs this money to maintain what they have and hopefully the Christie Administration will come to their senses and realize that by taking surplus money away from
school districts across the state to plug his own budget gap is wrong and will return the portion of the surplus that was not directly due to aid payments from Trenton.

18 Comments

Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Kyrillos, Middeltown Board of Education, Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee, School cuts, Trenton

Budget Woes in Middletown

From Sean Byrnes’s Moblize Middletown Blog:

For anyone interested, the budgetary challenges that Middletown faces this year are formidable. A perfect storm of events makes tax increases almost inevitable. But the cycle of tax increases need not continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, apathy toward what’s happening in local government guarantees continued increases.

Local government is broken. Taxes take somewhere between $6,000 and $7,000 on average from every household in Middletown, but few pay attention to how that happens. Sure, schools are expensive, but that’s a lame excuse for high taxes. Our locally elected officials continue to follow a governance model that will ensure financial deficits for the foreseeable future. It’s time to trash that model. It’s time to think outside the box. It’s time to view the tax money collected as a resource that must be spent wisely with an eye toward the entire Township, not just one public entity’s corner of it.

What I mean by that is we need to consolidate our operations and thinking. The Board of Education maintains property and the Township Committee maintains property. The Board of Education buys supplies, the Township Committee buys supplies. We provide benefits to employees and so does the Board of Education. We support artistic and cultural activities and so does the Board of Education. We hire lawyers, engineers and other professionals, and so does the Board of Education. Are you seeing a theme here? These two public entities operate in the same town completely separately from one another. Worse than that, they barely get along. And anyone who tells you that they cooperate on certain issues and work together is missing the point. The weak efforts to meet occasionally and discuss some common areas of interest produce almost no savings for the taxpayer. And, oh, we also have a Township Sewerage Authority that has its own lawyers, auditors, engineer, etc. Last year that the Sewerage Authority spent approximately $800,000 on one engineering firm. If that sounds like alot of money, it is.

To be fair, state statutes make consolidation efforts challenging. These distinct public entities are governed by different statutes. But that’s really no excuse. Locally, we have the ability to work together and share services. The Sewerage Authority, which also pays salaries, health benefits and pension benefits to its very part-time Commissioners (all seven of them) could be assimilated by the Township. In a Township with vacant land and lots of new construction, a Sewerage Authority might be necessary to deal with the activity associated with new neighborhoods all connecting to a sewer system in quick succession. We’re beyond that in Middletown. Our Public Works could take over the operations of the Sewerage Authority and save hundreds of thousands of dollars just in the costs associated with professionals. It’s time to do this.

That’s just one example of consolidation. Here’s another. We have an Arts Center that cost somewhere around $7.0 million to purchase and build. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to keep it open. (We also spent tens if not over a hundred thousand dollars to clean up the property because it was contaminated when we purchased it — and we knew it). Did we really need to take on this expensive capital project? Did the Township Committee look into leasing space at other local theaters, or working with the County, which already has arts programming taking place in close proximity to Middletown? Nope. A small group of influential elected officials wanted it, and they got it. Almost $7.0 million borrowed to get it done. It has been running at a deficit ever since, even when you don’t count the yearly payment on the bonded debt. Meanwhile, our Library, which reports to its own Board of Trustees, offers arts programming. Check out the calendar on their website. Performances, readings, movie discussion groups, teen art, cooking classes, “cartooning in clay”. Do we need two separate groups running two very expensive buildings who have nothing to do with each other? It is insane. Consolidate them. The Art Center is underutilized. How about offering some daycare there for all the commuters who jump on trains right next door every working day. You can still do Arts programming, but how about generating some revenue.

Here’s a real crazy idea. How about we make engineering firms bid for the capital projects we do every year, like roads, flood remediation, etc.? What do we do? We appoint one engineering firm every January (it just so happens that the same firm gets appointed every year, if you like, you can see them every election night at Republican Headquarters celebrating another victory with local Republicans). For any of you that have been on this earth more than a few years, here’s a question. Do you think the Township will get its best price by guaranteeing one firm all the engineering work? Or do you think we might do a bit better by making 5 or 6 firms compete for every one of these projects? I proposed just that at our Reorganization Meeting in January, but could not get any of my four fellow Committee members to second my motion. (I also had the nerve to try and limit our Township attorney to $15,000 per month flat fee retainer [which is on top of the $50,000 he gets as a salary] and that too died for loss of a second to my motion — by the way, the $15,000 per month I proposed equates to almost 1800 hours of legal time per year, that’s our attorney working all year on nothing but Middletown’s work!).

But I’ve lost my way in this blizzard we’re having, we were discussing shared services and consolidation. If this State (and this Township) has any prayer of recovering from the budget disaster we are all facing, we need real change. In addition to the proposals outlined above, we should consider consolidating the police departments of Middletown, Keyport, Union Beach, Highlands, Atlantic Highlands and maybe even Keansburg. No good reason for all those separate departments, separate municipal courts, separate judges, prosecutors, public defenders, etc. Ditto on the school systems. Red Bank, Shrewsbury, Little Silver, Rumson, Fair Haven, Sea Bright should all be one school district. Ok, if that’s too radical, why not make the grade school districts match up with the high schools. The County should take control of all major parks. They have more resources, more people and a good track record for running parks.

These ideas are just for starters. We don’t really have a choice in my opinion. The wealthiest among us are changing residency or simply relocating, and they are taking the tax revenues with them. We have way too many public employees and all taxpayers are carrying their salaries, top of the line health care plans, both during their careers and during retirement. (Middletown currently owes approximately $106 million in accrued benefits to employees and retirees and we have no trust account or plan for how we pay for that — it’s pay as you go). In 2008, we should have set aside $10 million for these benefits, we paid $1.6 million. And that’s separate from our pension obligation. We only paid half of our required payment last year and face a staggering payment this year. Meanwhile large commercial tax appeals from prior years will drive down revenues as property values plummet.

It’s time to wake up. What has our Township Committee done in response to this? Layoffs? No. Shorter weeks? No. Forced professionals to take less money? No. Special meetings to discuss the looming financial crises? No. Consolidation? No. Reorganization? No. We haven’t even had a CFO for almost 8 months! Our 2008 audit found material problems. We ran out of money for health claims in 2008 to the tune of $1.4 million and had to push those payments into 2010. You can’t make this stuff up. We need to make hard choices and fast, or we will be facing substantial tax increases in 2010. I’ve proposed a finance committee at just about every meeting I’ve attended since my swearing in in January 2008. Large corporations have them, non-profits have them. It makes sense.

But I’m over that. I just want action. I don’t care what organizational structure produces that action. We need residents to swarm our meetings and demand change. I fully expect that the wave of conservative sentiment sweeping this Township and C0unty will escort me from my seat on the Township Committee this November. And my world will not end when that happens. But I will leave frustrated; frustrated that I could not effectively deliver my message to residents. Frustrated that I was unable to convince my fellow Committee members that our current system for delivering services is broken and that bold, courageous steps are necessary to protect our residents from additional taxes that they can ill afford.

13 Comments

Filed under budget deficit, consolidation of services, Cultural Arts Center, Middeltown Board of Education, Middletown, municipal tax rates, Sean F. Byrnes, Sewage Authority