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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PARKS AND REC JOBS LOST; TOP COPS SPARED

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In a last-minute deal Friday, one of the Middletown’s two police unions came to an agreement that will save four department jobs, while the other got an extension through the weekend to decide whether to accept a deal to preserve six positions.

Meanwhile, a handful of parks and recreation employees retired and nine others were laid off after their bargaining unit failed to strike an agreement with the township, said Mayor Tony Fiore.

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MIDDLETOWN: AVERAGE TAX TO RISE $60

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore promised an on-time budget. Check.

He said it’d be significantly smaller than 2010’s budget. Check.

He also promised it would be within the state’s new two-percent property tax cap. Technically a check — although the tax levy will be raised 2.99 percent over the current year’s.

“We are under the two-percent cap but there are a few exemptions,” he said. “Really, the pension costs and the snowstorms took us .99 percent over the cap, but that’s allowed.”

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LIBRARY OKS $500K TO TOWNSHIP

mtownThe library approved transferring nearly $500,000 to the township committee Wednesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In order to help the township balance its budget and avoid further layoffs, the Middletown Library Board of Trustees swallowed a “bitter pill” Wednesday night and agreed to release nearly $500,000 in surplus funds over to the municipal budget.

The resolution, by a vote of 5 to 2, also includes stipulations that the library will be part of the township’s alternative energy initiative, will get its much-needed parking lot expansion and won’t be considered for transfer to the county library system — an option that was never possible anyway, said board president Randall Gabrielan, who voted against the agreement that stemmed from weeks’ worth of negotiations, which he called “dictatoral.”

“I’m sad to say the result of the negotiations was extremely disappointing,” he said.

Yet, after more discussion among the board, and some tweaking to the agreement, Gabrielan, who earlier made a failed proposal to transfer just $250,000 to the town, was joined by only one other board member, vice president Greg Milne, in opposition to transferring $499,974 from the library’s $1.2 million surplus to the township.

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M’TOWN LIBRARY DEBATE GETS PERSONAL

gabrielan-settembrinoKevin Settembrino, left, and Randall Gabrielan, far right, got into a tiff within the open minutes of Wednesday night’s library board meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The line of cars backing up in both directions on New Monmouth Road Wednesday night was the first sign that the Middletown library board meeting starting in a few minutes was going to be a departure from the humdrum of the trustees’ typical monthly session.

“Good evening, everybody, and welcome to the combat zone,” board president Randall Gabrielan quipped at the opening, and he wasn’t far off.  Before it was over, one citizen had invoked invoked the name of the world’s foremost terrorist in challenging an elected official’s suitability to even sit on the board, and Garbrielan himself had been accused of lying.

But after more than three hours of heated debate, finger-pointing, name-calling and innuendo, the issue of whether the library board would grant a request by the township committee for $898,000 of the library’s $1.2 million surplus to help balance the town budget moved toward a possible resolution.

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LOOKING FOR SAVINGS IN GARBAGE

fh-trash-canFair Haven and Rumson are looking into privatizing its garbage pickup. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven and Rumson are looking at ways to save money, starting with the trash.

And in one town, the savings would cost jobs.

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FURLOUGH FRIDAYS IN RED BANK

furlough-signBorough hall visitors are being notified by a sign taped to the door that offices will be closed while workers are furloughed. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Now that the borough’s budget is in effect, Red Bank employees will, beginning Friday, find out the full meaning of the f-word.

That is to say, they’re getting their workweeks trimmed three times this summer, part of a borough-wide furlough program dictated by the $19.2 million budget, which was approved at a special meeting on Friday.

The temporary layoffs get started this Friday, and all borough offices, except for the police department, will be closed.

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AMID BUDGET CONCERNS, AX FALLS IN M’TOWN

mtown-workshopMayor Gerard Scharfenberger listens to administrator Anthony Mercantante at Monday night’s workshop meeting. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The budget ax has made its first swing through Middletown, claiming 16 employees last week as township officials continue to struggle with a plunge in revenues and a continual rise in expenses.

Layoff notices were sent out to 38 township employees earlier this year, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said, as a result of a cut in state aid and purse-punishing weather that put the town nearly $1 million over budget, among other things.

Many of those employees either quit, retired, or were reassigned after receiving the notices. Sixteen people, however, involuntarily ended their employment with Middletown on Friday.

The layoffs are the first round this year, Scharfenberger said, though he doesn’t anticipate more.

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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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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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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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GANNETT PAPERS LAY OFF 125 MORE

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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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