RED BANK: BOROUGH HIRES NEW CFO

peter oreilly cfo red bank njAlmost five months after his predecessor was hastily dumped, a new chief financial officer for the borough of Red Bank was slated to start work Monday.

Peter O’Reilly, right, who literally wrote the book on municipal finance, steps into the post after five years as Jersey City’s treasurer.

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FAIR HAVEN: TAXES ON THE TABLE

The February sale of a vacant borough-owned lot on Fisk Street helped keep a lid on property taxes this year, said Administrator Theresa Casagrande.   (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Taxes dominated the Fair Haven council’s semimonthly meeting Monday night, with a borough budget up for adoption and presentations on spending plans by two school districts on the agenda.

Bottom line(s): a drop in the borough levy, a drop in the local school tax, and an increase in the one that funds the regional high school.

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RED BANK: TRUSTEES PAN BOROUGH BUDGET

barbara withers 032714Barbara Withers, a resident of the Atrium at Navesink senior complex, implores the board to preserve a book-delivery service for its residents. Below, board president John Grandits, left, with Mayor Pasquale Menna outside the library meeting room. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

grandits menna 032714A plan by the Menna administration to rewrite the proposed Red Bank Public Library budget and undo the recent layoff of half its staff got a cold reception from the library trustees Thursday night.

One or two of the suggested changes, such as leaving the soon-to-be-vacated job of the library director unfunded, appear to be “illegal,” trustee Brigid McCarthy told a packed meeting of library supporters.

Still, Mayor Pasquale Menna, displaying obvious frustration with what he called “drama” surrounding the borough’s recommendations, said the standoff can and will be quickly resolved, even if he has to take unilateral action.

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RED BANK: LIBRARY LAYOFFS MAY BE REVERSED

rbpl sale 2 020213The fate of jobs for three full-time librarians is still up in the air. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank officials said they are working toward a budget fix that might undo the layoff of half the staff at the borough library two weeks ago.

At Wednesday night’s borough council meeting, administrator Stanley Sickels said he and borough CFO Eugenia Poulos had developed an alternative to the library’s budget that might “maintain the full-time staff.”

Now, attention turns to the eight-member library board of trustees, which gathers Thursday night in what may be its best-attended meeting in history.

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RED BANK: BOARD DEFENDS LIBRARY LAYOFFS

rbpl board 022714 1The library board of the trustees at a meeting in February. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Responding to “misinformation” and “half-truths… stretched beyond their limits” surrounding layoffs of half the staff at the Red Bank Public Library last week, the library’s board of trustees is pushing back.

In a question-and-answer document prepared by six of eight board members and obtained by redbankgreen, the trustees say that personnel costs accounted for 95 percent of the library budget before the layoffs, which affected six of the 11 staff members.

The layoffs were part of a library “reorganization” that “eliminates our deficit, allows us to right-size the Library for the budget, and sustains the Library for the future,” the trustees say in the Q&A. “The solution implemented [at a board meeting following the layoffs] on March 13 was just one step in a much larger process that began in 2013 when it became clear that even with stringent cuts in expenditures last year, the Library was living beyond its means.”

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RED BANK: LIBRARY LAYOFFS SPARK OUTRAGE

sira williams 031214Laid-off children’s librarian Sira Williams embraces colleague Jane Eigenrauch after Wednesday night’s council meeting. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02Hours after more than half the staff of the Red Bank Public Library was laid off, supporters packed a borough council meeting Wednesday night demanding a financial fix that would maintain the 77-year-old institution’s hours, programming and jobs.

Taking turns at a microphone to recall their own childhood days at the library or of watching their children learn to read there, a string of speakers pressed the council on how the library could find itself facing an estimated $131,000 operating deficit this year, and what the governing body planned to do about it.

“I can’t believe a town as wonderful as ours is facing this crisis,” said Sally Gordon or Windward Way, noting that Red Bank’s cultural assets led to its selection by Smithsonian Magazine as the third-best town in America in 2012. “I urge you, because you have the knowledge and the power, to figure out how we can get past this crisis.”

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RED BANK: LIBRARY PUTS STAFF ON NOTICE

rbpl board 022714 2A meeting of the Red Bank library board in the former living room of the Eisner family last month. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rbpl 2 102113The Red Bank Public Library has put its entire staff on notice of possible layoffs in the face of a looming budget shortfall.

Library director Virginia Papandrea confirmed to redbankgreen Tuesday morning that all 10 staffers, including three part-timers, were advised by letter dated Friday that they could be laid off unless the facility can fill an operating budget shortfall estimated at $131,000.

The move comes as the library faces a whopping payout of more than $70,000 in unused sick time to a retiring employee and a drop in the sum that the borough is obligated under state statute to pay into the facility from property tax collections.

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FAIR HAVEN: NO TAX HIKE FOR SIXTH YEAR

“It’s not just about saving money,” says council President Jon Peters, below. “It’s keeping the town in good shape.”   (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

On the agenda at Fair Haven’s borough council meeting Monday night: a budget that doesn’t raise taxes for the sixth consecutive year.

Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande says her research shows only three of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities can claim such a record in recent history.

Jon Peters, the council president and head of the governing body’s finance committee, says the six-year string is the result of hawk-like attention to costs.

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SENKELESKI READY FOR SUMMIT OF SORTS

CodecarAmong the suggestions: share vehicles among departments. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

On Monday, Red Bank’s borough council plans to roll out its 2010-11 budget.

Two days later, the public will have its first chance to kick the tires and ask how it was designed and built.

Kim Senkeleski will be there. But the one-time GOP council candidate will be armed with some blueprints of her own, in the form of several dozen specific suggestions she’s gathered from taxpayers about how to cut costs and bring taxes down.

Though in format the event isn’t exactly the taxpayer summit she had sought, Senkeleski suggests you make the meeting, too.

“We want as many people as possible,” she said.

The more people involved, she says, the better the chances at making a difference to the digits on your tax bill.

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FAIR HAVEN REDUCES TAXES… AGAIN

halfacre-1Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre, shown here at a December council meeting, introduced a  smaller 2010 budget that shrinks taxes on Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven has accomplished an improbable feat in today’s fiscal climate.

While most towns, including Red Bank, are jumping on the panic button to balance budgets over cuts in state aid and a dormant economy, borough officials on Monday night introduced a 2010 budget that reduces taxes.

Mayor Mike Halfacre, who’s vying for the Republican nomination to challenge 12th-district Congressman Rush Holt in November, was quick to tout the achievement as evidence of his GOP tax-cutting credentials.

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