Category Archives: NJ State Library

>Middletown Library Trustees Expected To Approve $500K Fund Transfer Report

>Still catching up on recent goings on that I wasn’t able to get to over the past two weeks is the latest news concerning the Middletown Library.

Back on June 2nd the Asbury Park Press ran a story about how at the next meeting of the Middletown Library’s Board of Trustees meeting on June 15th (this upcoming Wednesday), the trustees are expected to vote on a report that details the transfer of nearly $500K in surplus and reserved funds to the Township before it is sent on to the NJ State Librarian.
If the state librarian approves of the report, which could take up to 45 days and is not a given, the surplus and reserves library funds can be transferred according to state law to the township in order for it to be used in offsetting the municipal budget.

As stated in previous posts, the report has been the responsibility of Library Director Susan O’Neal to put together. The report needed to be rather complex and meet very specific standards, it will include demographic projections, a three-year technology plan and a three-year strategic plan for approval.
After having read the APP article about the report, I got the feeling that certain members of the Township Committee, namely Middletown’s appointed mayor, Tony Fiore, doesn’t trust the library trustees to do what’s expected of them based on the following excerpt:

“I don’t anticipate any potential negative portrayals,” said Fiore of the report. “I am confident they will do what is in their best interests and in that of the taxpayers of Middletown.”

It almost seems as if Fiore expects Director O’Neal to somehow sabotage the report by adding something to it that would prevent the trustees to support it or the state librarian not to approve it, which would either delay the transfer of funds or kill the transfer all together.
I you ask me, I think Fiore is a little paranoid and has a bit of a Napoleon complex. Whether it is this issue or some other, he always has to inject subtle or obnoxious and veiled threats to make his points.
It’s really arrogant and shows little class.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Board of Trustees, Middletown Library, NJ State Library, State Librarian, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal, Tony Fiore

>The Middletown Library "Unfinished Business": The latest on the $500K transfer, the lot construction, the Lincroft Branch, and other issues.

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

Mike mentioned in a 5/17/11 post that a number of ongoing issues were slated to be discussed at this Wednesday’s 5/18/11 meeting of the Middletown Library Board, which I attended.

One issue concerned the parking lot expansion project. As Mike said, the Board had been told by the town that T&M Engineering would be the engineer for this work. The Board was given no other option or opportunity to compare costs, but will be responsible for paying the bill for these services.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the trustees voiced concern about the use of T&M, pointing out that the Board had not been satisfied with T&M’s services on a prior project. They were told that T&M is the town’s engineer for capital projects for 2011, so to the extent that the lot construction is designated as one of the town’s capital projects this year, T&M will be the engineer. So says the town.

Maser Consulting had been hired by the Library to do initial design work for the lot prior to the town’s taking of funds. That work is complete except for coordination with the engineer of choice.

It wasn’t clear if a decision had been made about who would pay for the actual construction, the Town or the Library. While the lot expansion was “included” in the $500K transfer agreement between the Library and the Township, the question of who would pay was left unanswered. Committman Settembrino’s comment at Wednesday’s meeting that the library would be responsible for “soft costs” (such as the engineering costs) seemed to imply that the library would not be responsible for the “hard costs” for actual construction.

The Library Board is making no assumptions – they are more likely to be on the hook than not. In fact, they haven’t decided to go ahead with any of the work. The Board feels they may not have sufficient funds.

There are still a number of steps and hurdles before the $500K transfer can be made. First, focus groups must be completed and a strategic plan finalized, and a package of materials including those pieces submitted to the State Librarian for approval. Committeman Settembrino said that Town personnel were under the impression that the package would be submitted to the state by the end of May, but Ms. O’Neal pointed out that the Board couldn’t submit the package to the state until the Board passes a resolution that it has filled all the requirements, where 4 out of 5 pieces require the Board’s approval. A decision was made to finalize review of the strategic plan at the Board’s June 15th meeting, in line with Committeeman Settembrino’s request that discussion take place before the Town’s regular meeting on June 20th.

An important point is that there is no guarantee the State Library will give its approval. Ms. O’Neal commented that the State could take issue with the reserve figure in the Library’s audit, where the reserve includes funds from municipal and other sources.

Some other topics discussed at the meeting:

The Lincroft branch is believed to have lead-based paint and asbestos in the walls given the age of the structure. The paint isn’t peeling, and therefore poses no danger. A concern about the asbestos is that it may be in the walls of the front entryway, which has termite damage. So there are costs involved for the inspection and abatement plan in addition to the repair work. An architect will be presenting on this topic at the Board’s June 15th meeting.

There was discussion about the need for either curbs or reflectors or boulders to prevent people from parking on the grass in certain sections of the library’s lot. (I bet you didn’t know that the fancy boulders in the lot aren’t just there for looks. Nope, they’re there to assist you in stopping.) The Board concluded that posts with reflectors would get the job done at a reasonable cost.

Kudos to Eagle Scout Andrew Bloy, who will be allowed to place a collection jar at the Library’s front desk because he has demonstrated considerable community benefit. Allowing the collection effort represents an exception by the Board to Library policy. The Board was impressed with Mr. Bloy’s request letter and community involvement. In fact, they mentioned that after Mr. Bloy learned that planting a medicinal herb garden at a local medical office would not earn him scouting credit, he did it anyway.

The Board discussed a software donation offer by a local company called Comprise Technologies. The software, offered free for six months, is designed to process payments made by credit card. The Board noted that credit cards are being used with increasing frequency for the payment of library fines. Comprise Technologies will be presenting at the Library Board meeting on July 20th. There are ongoing expenditures to be considered, including fees for the software and service, and costs for integration with other library systems. There was also discussion of implementing a charge for credit card payments, but the Board instead opted to request a donation when credit cards are used. The thinking is that folks probably wouldn’t mind rounding up their payment to the next dollar, at least.

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Filed under audit, Board of Trustees, budget surplus, Eagle Scout, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, Susan O'Neal, transfer of funds, unfinished business

>Many Questions Remain; Middletown’s Library Surplus Issue Far From Settled And Could Be Derailed

>There was another Middletown Library Board meeting this past Wednesday night and if you weren’t there to witness the goings on you missed a lot. Evidently many questions arose over the the time table for which the Township Committee expects to be paid the $500,000 that it practically extorted form the library in order to fill a budget gap in it’s own 2011 budget, and what was required by the State Librarian before those dollars could be legally transferred.

If it weren’t for the lone member of the public who attended this meeting( that’s correct, no one else other that then Board members were in attendance), Linda Baum, no one would know that there is a problem brewing over these funds once again.

According to the NJ State Librarian, before surplus funds can be transferred from the Middletown Library to the Township Committee, a strategic plan must be prepared. The plan would need to include a number of focus group opinions, which would take time to complete. Only after this was all completed, could the plan to transfer funds from the library to the township be completed. Library Director Susan O’Neal estimated that it would take until August to complete.

Of course this did not sit very well with Township Commiteeman Kevin Settembrino, who was appointed to the Library Board by the mayor. Settembrino wanted the transfer of funds to take place with in four weeks so that the the Township’s budget could be finalized.

Ms. Baum took minutes of the meeting for herself and passed them along to me to share:

The library mtg ran three hours. Got heated in parts. The number of people in the audience including me: One. Here are the main points:

There are certain requirements the library must meet before the state librarian will approve the giveback. Formation of a strategic plan is required, and focus groups are a required part. Ms. O’Neal estimated an August 2011 completion date for both. Mr. Settembrino didn’t like that at all — he felt it would delay finalization of the town’s budget. They discussed hiring a professional to conduct the groups at a cost of $3K max. A resolution to that effect was voted down 3-2. Some felt it could be done by library staff, while others felt staff lacked the time and that focus group participants would not be comfortable with library staff leading the groups. A few didn’t want to spend money to give away money. Ms. Breen asked Kevin if the town would pay for it since they gain from it. He declined of course. Issues were cost, whether they could get community participation, and whether or not there was a need for new focus groups or if existing data could be used — a survey was done in 2004. Mr. Settembrino proposed using the 2004 survey results to produce the focus group report for inclusion in the new strategic plan. A resolution to do it internally was passed 3-2. Mr. Settembrino revisited the timeline and asked for completion in 4 weeks. Ms. O’Neal said the end of May would be more achievable. Mr. Milne questioned if, by doing the focus groups themselves and/or by utilizing data already in hand, the library would be at risk of not getting the approval from the state librarian. (Let’s hope so.) They don’t know how much leeway they have.

(I thought of a few good ideas to simplify and speed the process, but I realized whose side I was on and kept quiet.)

It got heated when Mr. Settembrino scoffed about library employees resistance to doing the extra work in light of their recent raises (you know, the one dollar per week). Wendy Latona let him have it. She brought up the $15,000 stipend.

The next issue was about the 2009 audit results. Discussion was specifically about around $88K in library money that was left on the table but not known about in February. Kevin asked if this would affect the decision on the giveback. The board felt the issue was handled and would not affect the giveback. Ms. O’Neal said she had not yet talked with Nick Trasente, and wanted to address 2009 as well as 2010 issues. I got a little confused here. I asked if the board’s concern about the audit related to just the $88k issue. Yes, they said. I said that I had reviewed the corrective action plan and felt much was not addressed. I asked them to consider revisiting the giveback decision as new information comes to light.

Mr. Settembrino asked when the preliminary 2012 budget comes out. Ms. O’Neal said the draft budget (in the range of $3.5M) is done in October when the official rateables comes out. Settembrino pushed to get it earlier, saying the rateables is out now. Susan said she is required to use the official figure released in October. Kevin said he felt leaving the initial release till October didn’t leave enough time to review or make changes as needed, or whatever. Ms. O’Neal replied, “Duly noted.” I don’t know if there was any offer to meet an earlier target. Ms. Breen complimented Susan on being a great director and told Kevin it seemed like he was scolding.

There were other topics discussed relating to library spending for travel and repairs. The Lincroft branch has termite damage in the entryway.

Coverage or lack thereof for underground storage tanks was touched upon. Property coverage for the library is included under the town’s policy, which is an excess policy. Kevin will check into coverage.

There was a resolution to allot more money to the library’s attorney, whose fees ran over due to the recent funding battle. It passed.

Minutes from the 2/16 and 3/16 mtgs were adopted. I have a printed copy of minutes from 2/16 – 19 pages. I didn’t get a copy of the 3/16 minutes, but will ask Wendy for it.

Feel free to distribute.

Linda

I’ll be posting more about this over the next couple of days.

Things here just don’t seem right to me and if Settmebrino or the rest of those on the Township Committee wanted their money right away, then I think they should have done their homework properly to find out if there would be potential problems. But like so much that those that run Middletown do, this attempt to wrestle funds from the Library was done haphazardly and with authoritarian zeal without knowing the consequences of their actions.

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Filed under Board of Trustees, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, reserved funds, State Librarian, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal

>Library Board Meeting Tonight; Update Issued For Library Supporters

>Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal has posted the following update on the Middletown Township Library’s website in advance of tonight’s Library Board meeting, where it is presumed that an answer will be forthcoming on how much, if any, reserved library funds will be transfered to the Township to help offset the Topwnship’s budget deficit:

The next meeting of the Library Board is Wednesday, March 16, at 7:00 p.m. This is, of course, a public meeting. The issues of the last two months, specifically the library making a contribution to the Township for the 2011 budget, and the terms of same, have been in negotiations since the last meeting. Last week, to our surprise, the Township Administrator and Attorney revealed to the press the amount of money they are asking for, $500,000. There are other terms which are still part of the negotiations. I can tell you that these are viewed as protections for the library from some of the threats that have been publically made. I cannot say, in truth, whether there is an agreement that will be struck by Wednesday night or not, but the Library is cautiously optimistic, and has given over much time and deliberation to the process.


If the Library transfers funds to the Township of Middletown, there are strict procedures stated in the law that must be followed, among these are the Library must prepare an Annual Report on the state of the library, it must submit a three year Technology Plan and a three year Strategic Plan. These last two plans are submitted to the NJ State Library for approval. Once these plans are approved, the Library can apply to the NJ State Library for the transfer to take place. The State Librarian has 45 days to approve or deny the transfer. These procedures were developed in tandem with the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees all municipal budgets in the State of New Jersey.

The intent of all this is to ensure that the library has sufficient funds remaining for current year operations and for the future plans it has adopted. In fact, an early version of the law was vetoed by Gov. Christie, because he saw that the safeguard provisions for the local libraries needed to be improved in the bills that were passed. If the Middletown Township Library Board of Trustees does decide to transfer monies to the Township, it is committed to following these procedures accurately and completely.

Once the terms have been negotiated and an agreement has been made, the Trustees desire is that a joint announcement of the terms will be made available to the public.

You are, of course, welcome to attend the upcoming Board Meeting when the agreement, if done, comes before the entire Board of Trustees for a vote.

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Filed under 2011 budget, Board of Trustees, Gov. Chris Christie, Library Reserves, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal

>Library Director Issues Update On Library Reserves Issue

>Middletown Library Director Susan O’Neal, earlier today posted the following update on the issue of Library Reserve funds on the main page of the Middletown Township Library’s website:

The Library “giveback” issue is now so full of rumors that it is difficult to know where to begin. One of the troubling issues is that some are casting the library as uncooperative. Not true.

So, I’ll start with last year, when members of the Township Committee, Pam Brightbill and Sean Byrnes came to library board meetings and asked the Trustees to consider giving some of its reserves to the town. The Trustees listened, and made a quick response to sponsor one of the summer concerts of the Parks & Recreation Department. We followed up with a letter to the Mayor [dated June 10,2010] indicating the Board’s willingness to provide some assistance, and asked four questions which were germane to the Board’s deliberations. There was no response to the letter [which we will post on this website] These questions were not answered by August, when Mayor Scharfenberger attended the library board meeting, and he was asked again for a response. None followed, and the library pressed on in memos and finally, in November, a meeting was held with Library Trustees, Mr. Mercantante and Mr. Trascente. But questions of the Board were not completely answered. In fact, the inability of the library to get any reconciliation of the small budget surplus of 2008 and 2009 kept our 2010 budget in flux for the entire year. And, without the information it asked for, the Trustees could not make an informed decision about making a contribution to help the Township.

So now we get to late 2010, and the law on libraries returning some surpluses changes from libraries “may” return surpluses to “must” return surpluses that are not restricted for capital projects, or are from per capita state aid funds. Immediately, the request turned into a demand, and for much much more than the law would allow. By the library’s calculations of the official “Proposed Transfer Form” of monies, the Middletown Library has $262,453 in funds which must be returned.

The Trustees of the Library are negotiating in good faith with the Township on this matter and will do what they are able to do legally.

Susan O’Neal, Director

p.s. By the way, the NJ State Library has informed us that ALL of the dozen or so libraries that have given back funds to their municipalities have followed the procedures outlined in the law. The MTPL will do the same.





26 Comments

Filed under budget deficit, Library Reserves, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, NJ State Library, surplus funds, Susan O'Neal