Issues regarding the Roselle Park Veteran’s Memorial Library’s purchasing of books for 30 days and water damage in the Children’s Department were discussed at the May 18, 2011 meeting of the Library Board of Trustees.
Board Treasurer Joseph DeIorio was not available for the meeting, with Board President Andrew Casais citing Mr. DeIorio’s attendance at a conference for New Jersey Chief Financial Officers as the reason. Nevertheless, the library’s budget – or lack thereof – was a topic which prompted Mr. Casais to request for an informal freeze on spending for the next 30 days, which included the purchase of new books, until the Board could come up with a budget that could be adopted in June.
“We will still be spending money on salaries, medical, social security, insurance, and any other statutory or otherwise required contractual [expense],” said the Board President.
Library Director Susan Calantone stated that orders had been put in six (6) months ago which have been on back order will be coming in soon and that there are books that will be needed for the Summer Reading Program for students.
“The summer reading program is one thing,” Mr. Casais clarified, “But what I’m going to propose now is that we don’t purchase within the next 30 days any more books or postage, stationary, supplies, DVDs. Those kind of things.”
“This is a library though,” Mrs. Calantone responded, “We have to have the new books. We have to have some new videos. It’s impossible not to buy what we need.”
She added that the purchases would not be excessive and that the library would stay within the budget. Mr. Casais stated that he understood the director’s position but that the library is running at a $50,000 shortfall.
Mayor Joseph Accardi interjected during the discussion, “I think part of the problem that Mr. Casais isn’t saying and that hopefully you understand is that we don’t have a budget yet at the library and I have some huge concerns about that.”
Mrs. Calantone stated that the reason for the increase in the expenses has to do with the library having to pay for the medical and health benefits of its employees from the $409,262.40 appropriation that the State mandates the municipality to provide to the Roselle Park Veterans Memorial Library.
Board President Casais concurred, “I think you’re absolutely right that we’re running into this problem because we’re paying into medical benefits now full time. But, be that as it may, we can’t go back and say we’re not paying into medical.”
“But this is summer,” Mrs. Calantone continued, “There’s a ton of summer reading out – not [only] summer reading for schools but that people want for summer. A lot of new books come out in the summer. We have to buy books… I could see supplies and stuff but we can’t not buy books.”
“Well, here’s the situation,” Mr. Casais retorted, “If we continue down the road that we are now, we continue spending the way we are now, and I’m not saying we’re overspending, but if we continue with the same numbers every single month, in the end we are going to have to spend $50,000 into our surplus.That’s what I’m telling you now and I’m not comfortable in doing that.”
The Board President suggested that if the library absolutely has to spend money on books, there is an capital ordinance with around $11,000 that can be used to purchase books. He stated, “All I’m proposing is that for 30 days we don’t spending money on books, supplies, and other non-essential things.”
“But books are essential for a library,” stated Mrs. Calantone. She then asked the Library Board President when the last time he used the library. He answered it was a week ago.
“Here?” she continued.
“At school,” he responded, “Because I pay a significant amount of money to go to Seton Hall University to go to library.”
He then asked the relevance of her question with respect to the conversation.
“Because I don’t think understand the average person that come to this library,” she stated, “They want a new book. They want the new fiction that’s out.”
“In an ideal situation, I wish I could spend $20,000 on books every month but we can’t do that,” Mr. Casais commented, “And the public would absolutely love that but the public would like it even less when we tell them we spent $50,000 into surplus and now to stay open next year I’m not sure what we’re going to do. All I’m trying to do is trying to plan for the future.”
“It’s your town,” said the Library Director in response. The idea of using capital monies for purchasing of books was revisited but Mrs. Calantone said that it is difficult to do that with capital money.
Mr. Casais proposed, “If it’s between spending out of the capital money or if it’s not buying books at all, my vote would be for spending out of capital.”
The discussion was then opened up to the other members on the Board. Mrs. Christiansen, the liaison for the schools, asked if a compromise could be reached and have the freeze take place in August. Board member Laura Hahn stated that the reason for doing it in May was to wait until the budget is in place to gauge spending. The mayor re-iterated the sentiment by stating that the problem would compound itself the longer the purchasing freeze occurs. He also asked the director where the library could make up the $50,000 that the Board thinks might be a problem. Mrs. Calantone suggested that perhaps the library could pay half of the medical benefits instead of all of it.
“That’s not an option,” Mr. Casais stated, “It has to be paid.”
After some further talks, it was decided that any books that have already been ordered would be paid for but no new books were to be purchased other than the ones approved for the Summer Reading Program.
The mayor provided the figure of $166,462.78 being spent by the library during the first four (4) months, which if multiplied by 3 would bring the library $90,000 over budget. He stated, “The longer we wait to do it, the more Draconian the cuts have to become.”
Mr. Casais finished his comments by saying to the Library Director, “If your concern is that somebody will come in and ask for a book and that you have to tell them no and it’s something that they wanted, you can tell them it’s because of me.”
The matter was closed with the Board and Director agreeing not to purchase anything additional over and above the current obligations for the next 30 days.
Previously in the meeting the cleanliness of the building was also discussed.
“I know we’re on a strict budget but the Children’s Room is filthy,” Mrs. Calantone said. She requested that the library be cleaned by a professional cleaner before the start of the Summer Reading Program.
Additionally, she mentioned that the wall in the Children’s room is crumbling. She spoke with DPW superintendent Vince Cahill who would inspect the situation.
Initially, years ago there was a problem in the Children’s Room with mildew and a remediation company came in and rebuilt the whole wall. Currently, according to Mrs. Calantone, it has started to look like it is crumbling again; there is no mildew but there is a lot of water damage and some of the books are getting damaged. The remediation company stated that the library should have an awning over the walkway because the water would seep in. The Board President stated that DPW will inform everyone involved of their findings.