Tuesday, February 15, 2011

War Of Words Over Surplus Funds Between Middletown Library Director and Middletown Mayor

I wish I had seen this earlier today, I would have posted this war of words between Middletown Library Director Susan O'Neal and Mayor Tony Fiore sooner.

The following excerpt is from RedBankGreen.com article "M’TOWN LIBRARY CENTER OF BUDGET BATTLE" and explains that the Library's surplus funds were not from the accumulation of tax dollars but from other means such as donations, grants and service fees saved over a number of years and is earmarked already for capital projects and improvements, therefore the Library need not turn the excess funds over to the Township:

"...Library Director Susan O’Neill said most of the surplus money is restricted, so even if the board wanted to draw from it, legally it couldn’t. Plus, she said the surplus money was raised through donations, fines and copy fees over the last several years.

“There’s no municipal money in these reserves at all. They are not surplus from our budget,” O’Neill said. “(It) was built up by the trustees so it wouldn’t have to go to the township to finance any capital projects at the library.”

The money in the surplus is earmarked for future projects, O’Neill said, like a solar initiative, addressing a parking shortage at the main library, technology upgrades and a possible renovation at the Lincroft branch.

One large point at dispute between the board and the committee is payment on the library’s $8.5 million renovation in 2004, $7 million of which was bonded for by the township. Fiore said the library has made no payments on the bond, and it’s time for the board to ditch its “spend-it-before-we-have-to-give-it-back mentality.”

The $898,000 the township is asking for represents the annual $565,000 the town pays on the debt service for the bond and a $333,000 decrease in property value in 2012 due to a recent reassessment, officials say. Other entities, like the sewerage authority, which contributed about $360,000 from its surplus toward the town budget last year, will chip in to help this year.

“I don’t think the people of Middletown realize the library is sitting on a huge surplus,” Fiore said. “What we’re asking of them is to contribute that portion of the surplus.”

But O’Neill said the town agreed to bond for the renovations and therefore agreed to pick up the tab. And for the town to ask for nearly $900,000 in one shot, she said, is “just physically not possible,” and could cripple the library, which, with a myriad of programs and community events, serves as much a role as a educational and cultural center of the town as it does an information hub.

“I think we’re faced with something far more serious and far more grave,” O’Neill said, “and the library’s future is in doubt.

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