RESIDENTS SWEAT BUDGET DETAILS

rb-budget-042810Participants in last night’s Q&A on the Red Bank budget pick up info packets. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank officials held a marathon budget walk-through before a standing-room crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, laying out the rationale for a plan that calls for a property tax increase and the possibility of furloughs for government employees.

Over the course of three and a half hours in an increasingly stuffy council chambers, they also addressed every one of 90 suggestions put before them by former GOP council candidate Kim Senkeleski, who had gathered the ideas for submission.

Given their opportunity to speak, though, audience members most wanted to talk about wringing some tax money out of the borough’s outsized population of nonprofits.

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TAX HIKE, FURLOUGHS IN RED BANK BUDGET

stanley-sickelsBorough Administrator Stanley Sickels gave an overview of Red Bank’s budget Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In an effort to shrink its budget, Red Bank won’t pick up the cost of police overtime associated with the annual KaBoom! fireworks show this year, officials said Monday night.

They’re also looking at imposing 10-day furloughs for all borough government employees except crossing guards, leaving a vacant police captain’s job open and withholding raises from non-union employees.

Still, all that won’t enable them to hold the line on taxes.

As proposed Monday night, Red Bank’s $19.2 million spending plan will carry a 2.3 cent increase per $100 of assessed property value — from 46.2 cents in 2009 to 48.5 cents this year. The 2009 budget totaled $19.5 million.

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REPORT: RUMSON SCHOOLS TO CUT 16 JOBS

hot-topic rightWith no state aid coming from Trenton this year, the Rumson school district will eliminate 16 jobs and still ask voters to approve a 4-percent increase in taxes this month, according to today’s Asbury Park Press.

The district is faced with closing a $1.34 million budget gap that results from the loss of $666,000 in aid, increases in health insurance and benefit costs, and other, contractual obligations, the Press reports.

From the Press:

The district made $875,000 worth of cuts, including 16 full-time positions and reducing three full-time jobs to part time, said Scott Feder, superintendent of schools.

“The things we were looking to maintain were class size, which ranges from 20 to 26 (students per class),” Feder said.

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M’TOWN BUDGET TO GET ‘DECISIVE ACTION’

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In the wake of what Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger calls a “perfect storm” of financial woes, he’s proposing 12, and maybe more, “decisive actions” to make up for the town’s large revenue shortfall.

After checking to see if the ideas were feasible and legal, Scharfenberger delivered a communique Monday afternoon outlining his plan to mitigate a heavy burden on taxpayers.

Although “everything’s on the table,” his 12-step program calls for outsourcing, salary freezes, mandatory furloughs and a 10- to 15-percent decrease in operations and expenditures for all departments, including layoffs, he said.

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SCHOOL BOARD SAYS ‘NO’ TO PAY INCREASES

holcombe-hurdRed Bank Middle School music teacher Holcombe Hurd addressed the school board Tuesday in response to its decision not to approve union pay raises for 132 teachers. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

After a year of contract negotiations, the Red Bank Board of Education, citing an “unprecedented” reduction in state aid and a difficult budget season, voted 6 -2 against a pay increase for the district’s unionized employees Tuesday night.

Board members described the vote as one of many difficult decisions in an economic climate in which Gov. Chris Christie has slashed state aid and forced school districts to use budget surpluses to make up for a loss in revenue.

“All of this takes place in the context of the worst economic period in the United States since the Great Depression,” board member Ben Forest told an audience of about 125 residents and teachers.

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STATE AID CUT FORCES ‘SEVERE CHOICES’

dupontCouncilman Michael DuPont delivers the bad news Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Layoffs, furloughs and a reduction in services, once considered elements of a worst-case scenario, will now be a reality in Red Bank, officials said Monday.

“We’ve made some severe choices, we’re going to make severe choices, and you’re going to see them,” Councilman Michael DuPont, who chairs the finance committee, said at last night’s Borough Council meeting.

The grim news comes on the heels of word that the borough, already saddled with what officials have called the extraordinary burden of providing services to a large number of tax-exempt nonprofits, will see a drop of $517,144 in state aid this year. Traditionally the borough has received $2.5 million, DuPont said.

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COUNCIL PLANS WATER/SEWER RATE BOOST

toiletIt’ll cost more per flush if the proposed increase passes.

Seven months after Red Bank officials siphoned off $270,000 from the borough-owned water utility to keep a lid on municipal taxes, they’re planning to jack up water and sewer rates by 10 percent.

An ordinance changing the rate, which was quietly introduced at the last borough council meeting, is up for public hearing and possible adoption Monday night.

The increase follows a 10-percent increase in 2008 that was said to be necessary to offset the costs of infrastructure repairs. The pending boost was proposed by the council’s finance committee, says Mayor Pasquale Menna. The committee is headed by Councilman Mike DuPont, who was not immediately available for comment this morning.

What’s the rationale?

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BORGHI ADDS ‘CLERK’ TO DUTIES

borghiMayor Pasquale Menna swears in Pam Borghi as borough clerk as deputy clerk Bonnie Thomas holds the Bible.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Nearly 20 years ago she was on the other side of the dais, taking notes as a reporter. Now, Pam Borghi is Red Bank’s Borough Clerk.

The council made it official Monday night when Borghi was sworn in to take the job left vacant by Carol Vivona, who retired in August.

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HELP WANTED: CFO FOR MIDDLETOWN

middletown-town-hallMiddletown officials hope there’ll be a new addition at Town Hall soon: a chief financial officer. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger says he has a to-do list with three items on it.

First, hire a chief financial officer. Second, hire a chief financial officer. And the third? Yes, hire a chief financial officer. Soon.

“We have to get one before the budget,” he told redbankgreen. “We need one yesterday.”

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LONGEVITY PAY STAYS… FOR NOW

longevity-pay-crowdBorough employees turned out Monday night to voice their concerns over the council’s proposal to freeze longevity pay. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just when it appeared that the Red Bank Council was set to pass an ordinance freezing an incentive program for borough employees, those same employees banded together Monday night to try and get the council to buckle.

It worked.

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SO LONG, LONGEVITY PAY

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank employees won’t be getting any more financial pats on the back for staying on the job under a law change now pending before the borough council.

The governing body last week introduced an ordinance that would freeze a $500 bonus for every five years longevity that non-vested and non-union employees rack up. Future hires and current staffers who haven’t yet hit the five-year vesting mark won’t get the longevity bonuses at all, Mayor Pasquale Menna said.

Employees already receiving the pay will still get it, but it will be capped at its current amount, Menna says. For example, a 10-year employee would receive $1,000, but at their 15-year mark, will not get $1,500. Withholding the longevity pay already promised to those employees would be a violation of federal law, Menna added.

“It has been something which has been part of local government since anyone can remember,” Menna said. “Obviously those who are affected are not happy, but residents feel it’s time to look at everything, and we are.”

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FAIR HAVEN CUTS ADMINISTRATOR’S HOURS

mary-howellAdministrator Mary Howell at Monday’s council meeting, where her hours were cut and some of her duties were handed off to Clerk Allyson Cinquegrana, in background. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

[EDITOR’S NOTE: See update below]

Less than a year after giving a three-year contract with sweet annual raises to borough Administrator Mary Howell, Fair Haven officials have shaken things up at borough hall with what they call a cost-saving “experiment.”

The council yesterday cut Howell’s hours and salary in half.

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A ‘WHITE ELEPHANT’ NO MORE

rb-corporate-plazaRed Bank Corporate Plaza, showing off its backside along Wall Street. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Four months ago, when redbankgreen first reported on the impending pizza renaissance in Red Bank, we described the slated location of one of those pie joints, Pazzo’s Coal Fired Oven Restaurant, as a nearly-empty “white elephant.”

Boy, did we get an earful. Suzanne Macnow, who brokers the leases for  Red Bank Corporate Plaza at 141 West Front Street, took issue with the characterization, citing actual occupancy, signed leases and others that were nearing signature.

Whether our terminology was apt then was a matter of disagreement. No more. Today, we’re eating our words as if they were served atop an airy, coal-fired pizza crust.

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EMPLOYEES SCORCHED BY PIZZERIA CLOSING

dannysAfter more than 30 years in business, Danny’s is ending its run and owners from Long Branch will take over. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Danny’s Pizza & Subs, a Little Silver landmark for nearly 40 years, is shutting its doors after selling to buyers from Long Branch, employees told redbankgreen.

The eatery, which has looked out at the Little Silver Train Station since 1971, is expected to cease operations soon — employees haven’t quite gotten the firm details. And they’re angry over what they say has been mismanagement of the business.

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RUMSON DIRECTOR FILLING IN AT RED BANK

john-hirdJohn Hird at last night’s meeting of the parks & rec committee. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

If you were around Red Bank in 2003, seeing John Hird’s face at Borough Hall these days may seem like deja vu.

Hird is back, and in the same role he was the first time the Red Bank Parks and Recreation Committee was in a bind, as interim director of the department.

This time, the full-time Parks & Rec director for Rumson is stepping in for Bob Evans, who was told a couple weeks ago he wouldn’t be reappointed to the position he’s held since 2004, said Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels. Terms run from January 1 to December 31.

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BOROUGH SALARY INCREASES APPROVED

hot-topic rightWith a contingent of town employees looking on and only one, brief objection raised, the Red Bank Borough Council approved an annualized three-percent salary increase for most of its non-unionized workers Tuesday night.

Even Kim Senkeleski, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the governing body this year, expressed no misgivings about the size of the boost.

“Everyone’s entitled to a raise,” she said.

Only Bill Poku, of Bank Street, objected to the increase, and he did so parenthetically, in remarks that were otherwise focused on the reliability of property tax assessments.

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HOOKAHS ON WEST FRONT

paradise-hookahs
Yo, check it out: hookahs! And are those slippers? (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

No, you did not misread that headline, or imagine what you saw as you passed 16 West Front Street in Red Bank recently.

Those were hookahs in the window and lining the shop’s walls.

Joining a gym, an upscale clothing store, a puppy boutique and a modish restaurant/night club along the increasingly trendy West Front strip last month, the owners of Tobacco Paradise hope not only to buck the anti-smoking tide, but to do it with exotic devices associated with lazy afternoons in Middle Eastern cafés and bazaars — not to mention dorm rooms the world over.

“There’s nothing in Red Bank like this,” said Leo Santani, one of the owners. “It’s really a unique type of store.”

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TOMMY’S GETS READY TO FIRE UP THE COAL

tommy-logoOwners of Tommy’s Coal Fired Pizza say it’s likely the restaurant will be open in a week or two. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It looks like we have a leader in the race to bring coal-fired pizza to Red Bank.

Within a week or two, Tommy’s Coal Fired Pizza owner Tommy Bonfiglio says his family-style restaurant, located in the Galleria where 2Senza held residence for 15 years, will be ready to open its doors before the holidays, as promised.

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RED BANK TO BIZ OWNERS: STAY OPEN LATER

biz-closed11

Some merchants think too many downtown stores are closed at night. This photo was taken late Tuesday morning. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna has ramped up his campaign get downtown business owners to stay open later.

He says the effort did not begin with last week’s Broad Street debut of Urban Outfitters — a clothing and housewares store that’s open from 11a to 9p Monday through Saturday and 11a to 8p on Sundays. But Urban is doing business the right way, Menna says, and he’d like to see more merchants follow suit.

“Retailing has changed, our society has changed and Red Bank is changing,” he said.

Given Red Bank’s amenities, with its bevy of late-night hot spots like bars and entertainment venues, it has always made more sense that many businesses, especially retailers, keep the lights on and the doors open after dark and on Sundays, Menna says.

But examples of missed opportunities to hook visitors are plentiful, he says citing two from last summer, when the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival, and later the Taste of Red Bank, drew thousands of visitors who found limited shopping options because stores weren’t open later or on Sunday.

“The businesses that succeed are the ones who are available when people are on the street,” Menna said. “We don’t have the luxury of shoppers out at nine in the morning. It’s a change in our society and sometimes we have to change our business model to keep our competitive edge.”

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GOAL: URBAN EMPLOYMENT

img_4699102509Work continues on the planned Urban Outfitters store at 2 Broad Street in Red Bank.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Just a couple hours into Urban Outfitters‘ marathon job fair on Wednesday, there was certainly a deluge at the Oyster Point Hotel. Just not the one that may have been anticipated.

Sometimes in small bunches, but mostly one-by-one, young job seekers dressed in the cutting edge, kitschy fashion that Urban Outfitters specializes in trickled into the Red Bank hotel from a downpour outside.

Over the course of an hour, about a dozen people showed made their way to a second-floor ballroom to fill out applications and interview for positions at the clothing store, which is set to open sometime next month.

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URBAN OUTFITTERS PLANS 10-HOUR JOB FAIR

img_44361022091Windows and doors were installed recently on the store’s site at the corner of Broad and West Front Streets.

The scaffolding that encloses the sidewalk is still up, but bit by bit, the temporary plywood sheathing has been coming down, giving passersby a peak into what many regard as the best hope for an economic rebound in downtown Red Bank.

We’re talking about the big new Urban Outfitters clothing and household goods store scheduled to open sometime next month at 2 Broad Street.

Company officials did not respond to a messages seeking verification that the store will open November 19.

But the company’s website has some promising news for jobseekers in the retail sector.

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A QUIET LUNCH INTERRUPTED BY FAME

tfpw2_ir1

What’s the story here? There is none, really.

redbankgreen‘s accidental photographer came across this crew of Tinton Falls public works employees having lunch recently at the Mid-Monmouth Industrial Park, and we decided to make them famous just for the hell of it.

Hey, they keep the streets clean, right?

URBAN OUTFITTERS SHOPPING FOR MANAGER

2-10 BroadCan you manage it? The clothing and household-goods merchant is looking someone to run its Red Bank store when the wraps come off at 2 Broad.

Retailer Urban Outfitters, which has been mum on its plans to open a store in Red Bank, has finally acknowledged the move.

It comes in the form of a job posting for store manager at the emporium planned for 2 Broad Street, at the corner of West Front.

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GANNETT PAPERS LAY OFF 125 MORE

Appcupsmall

In the latest of a series of staff-shrinking moves, the parent company of the Asbury Park Press has laid off 125 employees at its six New Jersey newspapers.

Virginia-based Gannett Co., the media giant whose flagship is USA Today, did not detail how many workers from each of the satellites were let go beginning late Wednesday and continuing yesterday.

There’s no word yet about the impact on Red Bank-area coverage. The Press, which in decades past had fully-staffed news bureaus in Red Bank and, later, Middletown, has a single reporter, Larry Higgs, who divides his time covering Red Bank, Fair Haven and state transportation isssues.

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