A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Matawan Aberdeen Public Library - What's Up With the Board of Trustees?

Did you know that the Matawan Aberdeen Public Library has a Board of Trustees that meets at 7:30 pm on the first Wednesday of each month? The meetings are held at the library in the conference room downstairs and are open to the public. If you are a patron of the library, this Wednesday's meeting might be a good time to start attending. You may want to begin asking some questions.

Those who watched the shameful money grab by the two municipalities to reconcile their budgets last fall -- governments that are required by law to fund your library -- might be appalled, if not surprised, at what is happening now. The township and borough have grown attached to the library's building fund and may even see tax savings through a scheme to outsource our library services to the county.

On the library's website you'll see that the board's description now emphasizes that its members are appointed by the two mayors to oversee the library.  You'll also see that the two mayors have actually infiltrated the library board to manage things directly. Just take a look at the latest listings for the board. You'll see a reduction in the number of general trustees and the addition of mayoral representatives to those slots. The Mayor of Matawan is actually on the board, while the Mayor of Aberdeen has sent an envoy. And, wait a minute! I see former Aberdeen Mayor David Sobel among the "trustees." He played a major role in getting library building fund monies into township coffers last fall, so he isn't exactly a disinterested party in the library's affairs. And whose side will Superintendent of Schools O'Malley's representative be on -- O'Malley being the one who plans to keep taxes low by outsourcing the entire janitorial staff and laying off another three dozen district employees, including many teachers.

These people aren't friends of the library. Why are they suddenly on the board of this local institution? I hear rumors that some of them don't even like to read and don't see the point of carrying a library card. Now that's a message for your kids.

So what's going on with the board? You might want to ask them on Wednesday.


  1. Can you explain your comments on O'Malley? Are you saying that he wants to put a representative on to hurt the library? Why would he do that when the schools need the library? I can understand the municipalities looking at it as a way to get funds, but the schools?

    Regarding your remarks about the outsourcing, you need to look at O'Malleys budget presentation. The shortfalls are being caused by cuts in state funding. State law limits the school tax increase to 4% of the 45 million dollar local tax levy. That would be about 1.8 million dollars.

    What are your proposals to fill the 4.8 million gap that would be left. Are the school unions willing to take a pay freeze or make other concessions to help make up the difference? Even if O'Malley recommended a budget with the maximum increase there will still be a revenue shortfall. What employees and programs would you suggest get cut instead?

  2. Also just a word of advice to anyone who wants to attend and uses a wheelchair. The elevator has been broken for months due to the Board's inability to decide on who to hire to fix it, so at this point in time, they are not handicapped accessible!

  3. Even More Concerned ParentMarch 1, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    To Concerned: The Board of Education, and perhaps the township and borough frame their financial difficulties in only one way. Sure, they could cut the budget. Raising and lowering the budget and taxes are not all. We can reframe the problem. We can change our perspectives. We can open up our minds to better possibilities. The size of the pie can be changed. We can re-think the box.
    Isn't that what we want our children to be able to do? Be smarter, more collaborative, better public and corporate citizens. People that engage, not alienate, work WITH governing boards and bodies to solve problems, not just berate them. Municipalities can regionalize, outsource administrations, collaborate and seek council from state advisors.
    These types of ideas and many more, including the philosophy and history of problem solving are readily available at your local library. All it takes is the time to get a card, and to do the reading. Another lofty aspiration for our future good citizens.
    We have the option to take heart, and encourage our governmental leaders and school board members to try newer and better approaches. We are living with complex circumstances. But never have we had better educated people in governance. We need to exhort them to be braver and more chivalrous, wiser and more compassionate, and to remember that in community we can do much more than when we work alone. That goes more so for our leaders. And THAT should be the standard to which we hold them accountable. The highly compensated need to be held more highly accountable for having wisdom, not just being financial journeymen.
    And trustees, should be, in my opinion, well... trustworthy.

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  5. Concerned Parent, I am unaware of any state law that restricts school tax hikes to 4%. I recall a local commitment by the board to keep tax hikes to some small percentage, but our board members have decided to work for the taxpayers and are not strong advocates for education in the face of adversity. It would be unconstitutional for the state to cut school aid at a higher rate than state law will allow us to make up for in local taxes. Certainly one of the many news articles discussing this situation would have mentioned what you're saying. A Philadelphia paper refers to O'Malley's sort of solution to the problem as the Doomsday approach.

  6. To Even More Concerned:

    I did not see one concrete example of what cuts you would make. All you did is talk in vague generalities that people should work out of the box and fix it. Work with the state? It is the state that limited (for political purposes) our right as a community to raise taxes for funding the schools for our children. The state took away power from our local officials and every person who lives here. So how do you change the size of the pie? If you are talking about the county regional schools, it will not happen before this budget is voted on.

  7. Even More Concerned ParentMarch 2, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Concerned Parent: I sense your frustration. Especially since you are addressing what I would do "now" in light of all the mistakes that have been made in the past. Not sure whether you are talking about the library any more (which is the topic), or the taxes, or the school or borough or township budget. It's a bit of a dither.
    If you are asking what I would do as king of some hill (library, school board, council), I would not be in such a pickle because I would go to my many cross cultural, cross political, and cross community indivual and group allies that I would have forged over the past in order to avoid just such a problem.

    On the library topic, the municipalities have already demonstrated through past actions a predatory inclination to strip the library bare. The school board has likewise outsourced cafeteria workers, substitute teachers, and now is salivating over the prospect of mangling the pay and benefits of custodians and applying Trump like cuts to the “education division”… oops I forgot, these are children, not widgets. The municipalities have shown rampant proclivities toward dollar store approaches to our problems, myopic vision and tying up our attentions in trivial games of finger pointing to deter our attention from their ineffectual governance.

    If you are asking what I would do "now" assuming I'd put my own self in such a mess? I'd be performing many mea culpa acts, sitting down with parties that I'd offended, and properly begin a quick alliance against the "problems" instead of political party hackery or finger pointing. Assuming that I had any credibility left, that is. Otherwise I would still apologize, and step aside, helping those better qualified actually occupy the position.

    The state may tender decisions, and may have rules, but they cannot "take" our power unless we give it to them. If we cannot sit down with people of other parties or views, as elected officials we don't deserve our seats. If we are paid advisors and cannot provide insights or vision beyond the rote patterns of the past, we are not earning our keep.

    As voters, what we have enormous power. We hold our councils feet to the fire, we attend meetings, we exhort our leaders to do more than talk trash about other parties. We help our board leaders to stand up and be thoughtful instead of nit picky. We show up and coach our kids. We go to library and zoning board meetings. We can elect people that understand that every little decision can affect society at large, and who understand the ramifications throughout our community of decisions we make in the “now”.

    We have already seen how lots of broker state decisions have made those who govern seem greedy, predatory, mercenary and stuck without options. We have seen the effect on the people of the community and on the tax base, the caliber of our cultural institutions, and the motivations of our children. Are we ready for people of vision yet?

    "We are twice armed if we fight with faith." -- Plato

  8. Pat,

    There's a 4% state cap on how much we're allowed to raise property taxes. That's about $1.8 million. State funding is dropping about $2 million, not counting the excess funds they're taking, which would go to tax relief, and the million plus increase in premiums.

    By the way, if the union agreed to a one-year freeze on the salary guide and a different state benefits plan, we could save every teaching position.

    Even if we raised taxes to the max, we're still looking at a $4 million hole. How would you close it?