Category Archives: save our library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • • Reassessment will more accurately reflect market values

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

>The Middletown Library is no Sewerage Authority

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

So some think the Library should offer money to the Township because the Sewerage Authority did? Now let’s think about that.

First, let’s be clear that right now your sewer fees are not part of your property taxes – you pay them separately. Those fees go straight to the Sewerage Authority, bypassing the town budget. Now consider that if sewer services were housed under the Department of Public Works – where they should be – the town would save a bundle by the consolidation and those fees would be rolled into your property taxes. Then the surplus would flow back to the township anyway because the revenue would be part of the town’s budget.

Another line of thinking is that the Sewerage Authority should return surplus money to residents, not the town, because you pay these fees directly. And shouldn’t some part of the surplus go back to the other towns (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands) that pay to use our sewer services? The Sewerage Authority could argue that it has never been the practice to return monies, so therefore there is no need to now. They could also argue that they are an independent body and can do as they please, including continuing to operate on a for-profit basis.

And now one more point. The services that the Library provides cannot be compared to sewage treatment. The Library is the heart of the community. When you walk in, there is a feeling a warmth and family. There we can find the support we need for our personal and professional growth throughout our lives. And keep in mind, the library is funded in accordance with law. It is just that important.

Note:
Last year the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) donated $365,000 of surplus funds to Middletown Township to help offset last years budget deficit, it is expected that this year TOMSA will contribute a comparable sum to the Township.

The question that should be answered here is; Are residents and other municipalities being overcharged by TOMSA, if so than shouldn’t surplus funds be returned to those that have been overcharged in the first place, not given to the Township of Middletown to help fill in budget deficits?

As Ms. Baum pointed out the counter argument is that the surplus is being returned to the residents through local property tax relief, but again what about the towns of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands that already feel they are being overcharged and have no recourse and are indirectly providing property tax relief to Middletown? – MM

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Sewerage Authority, property taxes, save our library