Monthly Archives: March 2011

SLH School Budget Presentation Available

At the Monday, March 28 SLH Board of Education meeting, the 2011 budget was introduced. Presentation of the budget was made by Peg Hom, the school’s business administrator who is shared with Manasquan and by School Superintendent/Principal Ruth Ziznewski.

The proposed $7.4 million budget, 90% of which represents contractually fixed or mandated costs, is 2% over last year’s zero-increase budget, or a rise of approximately .02 cents per hundred dollars of valuation. This means that a home valued at the average SLH assessment of $457,160 would experience only a $91.43 per year tax increase for education costs.

Residents wanting additional and accurate information are encouraged to call Ms. Hom at Manasquan Schools for costs and number confirmations or Ms. Ziznewski at the SLH Elementary School for facts on programming and education.

The school election is Wednesday, April 27th.

A copy of the budget presention is available for download here:Budget_Presentation_1112FINAL3282011

To view the SLH Elementary School Budget Presentation, you will need Microsoft PowerPoint. If you do not have PowerPoint on your computer, you may download a free PowerPoint Viewer from the Microsoft Web site here.

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SLH Elementary School Introduces 2011 Budget

The Spring Lake Heights Elementary School Board introduced the 2011 budget at the Monday, March 28 meeting.

Part One of Budget Presentation

Part Two of the Budget Presentation

Public Comments

Public Comments

Please note that due to the size of the auditorium, the sound tracks may be diluted. Please use the red slider under the video to raise the sound, or adjust your computer’s sound accordingly.

Heightsonline will be posting a copy of the Powerpoint presentation shown at the meeting. Please watch this site for updates.

March 14 SLH Council Meeting Videos Available

The video recordings of the Monday, March 14 SLH Borough Council meeting are now available for viewing. Please visit our YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/heightsonline

This meeting is presented in 5 sections, due to the time constrictions with YouTube. Issues discussed during the meeting include an attempt to introduce another ordinance for the creation of a new Recreation Commission. Also, the 2011 Municipal Budget is introduced.

These issues will be covered in more detail in upcoming posts.

Roy Walker Memorial Scholarship Applications Available

Applications are now available for the Roy Walker Memorial Scholarship. This college scholarship is made available through the Independent Fire Company #1 of Spring Lake Heights and will be awarded through a competitive application process. It is named in honor of long-time resident and fire company member, Roy Walker.

Applications have been mailed to the high school guidance offices. They can be obtained through them, or by contacting SLHFD Chief Casey Willms directly. He may be reached via e-mail at: caseywillms@slhfd.org.

Funds for this scholarship are raised through a gift auction night held annually. This year, the event will be held at the Manor on Highway 71 in Spring Lake Heights on April 27th.. Tickets are available.

The fire company thanks everyone for their support, and wishes good luck to all those applying for the scholarship.

March 7 Budget Workshop Videos Available

Heightsonline has posted the video recordings of the Monday, March 7 Budget Worshop to our YouTube channel. You may view them at:

www.youtube.com/heightsonline

Findings from the 2008 Borough Audit, Part 1

Using the transcripts of the Borough Council meetings, heightsonline has reported the ongoing discussions by the Council as to whether or not a Recreation Commission should be reformed. The issue appears to have been drawn on party lines, with the members of the SLH Democrats supporting the reconstitution of a Recreation Commission, and the members of the SLH Republicans supporting instead a simple Council Committee on Parks & Recreation.

Creation of a commission with statutory powers should not be entered into lightly. Any group, whatever it is named, formed under NJSA 40:12-1-14 has the powers and rights established in that law. Regardless of contentions that the Council would still “hold the purse strings,” any body created under the Recreation Commission statute would, in fact, hold the purse strings. In addition to financial supervision, the statute also grants that any body formed under it has the power to hire its own staff, to acquire lands under right of Eminent Domain, and even to “have all the power and authority of police officers” (NJSA 40:12-6). The municipality cannot pass an ordinance to supercede these powers.

Much has been said by the Democrats in support of a volunteer-run Recreation Commission. They point to the commission that was formed under NJSA 40:12-1-14 and operated for many years to the enjoyment of the residents.

However, heightsonline has obtained copies of Finance Committee meeting minutes from July and August 2008. In these meetings, the Borough Auditor, Robert Allison, brought to light many troubling instances of poor management and a lack of judgement on the part of some involved with the Commission at that time. Due to these findings, the Commission was dissolved in 2009, briefly reformed and then dissolved again in favor of a Council Committee on Parks & Recreation.

Mr. Allison made it clear, and heightsonline would like to repeat, that absolutely no charges of fraud or criminal intent were being made. However, the historic lack of documentation and accounting on the part of the Commission required a complete overall of Borough recreation.

For one thing, under the Open Public Meeting Act, any board or commission is required to have its annual schedule advertised to the public. This was never done and the meetings were held in the upstairs conference room of the Borough Hall to which the general public had no access. In fact, members of the public who attempted to attend the meetings were told they could not. Additionally, no meeting agendas or minutes were kept, no business was performed under resolutions, and fees were not set by ordinance, as is required. The Commission set salaries and hired individuals outright, without gaining Council approval although the Council appropriated money in the Annual Salary and Wage Ordinance for Recreation salaries.

For a number of years prior to the Commission’s dissolution, the group was chaired by Bart McInerney. McInerney stepped down from that position in December 2007. At an August 2008 meeting, then-Recreation chair Jay Gilligan noted that he had missed one Recreation Commission meeting, only to come back and find McInerney was gone and he, Gilligan, had been made chairman in his stead.

At approximately the same time in early 2008, the Borough’s annual audit began to undercover the lack of controls in Recreation. By July 2008, it was clear that something needed to be done.

One main issue was that few, if any, of those involved in recreation were actually volunteers. Individuals who ran special programs and clinics were permitted to keep all the fees they collected. Indeed, the auditor pointed out that what recreation largely amounted to was a network of individuals running their private businesses through the Borough.

The arrangements worked something like this: hypothetically, Individual A wanted to run a lacrosse camp for the summer. Individual A set the program fees, circulated and collected registrations, and held the camp. In return, Individual A kept all the money collected while using Borough property and being covered under the Borough’s liability insurance.

Additionally, the auditor found no trace of either W-2 forms or 1044 Contractor forms. When asked, individuals running programs did not even know if they were considered employees or contractors, only volunteers.

All of this was in violation of both IRS standards and Local Finance Laws for governments. Any contractor is required to present proof of insurance prior to being contracted with. Anyone receiving money for a service rendered would need to fill out IRS forms. The Recreation Commission had not required this information. Fees needed to set by the Recreation Commission and any checks, by law, had to be made payable to the Borough. All money collected must be deposited within 48 hours.

The auditor found also that individuals who were not even connected to the Recreation Commission were running programs, collecting and keeping fees, but promoting their activities as sanctioned by Recreation. This created another layer of confusion because these individuals had people working for them; these ’employees’ were unsure whether they were being paid by the individual running the camp or by the Borough but one thing was clear — few, if any, were volunteers.

Next: More on what the auditor found.

BREAKING NEWS: Council Discusses 2011 Budget

The SLH Borough Council held a budget workshop for the proposed 2011 budget. Councilwoman Patricia Cindea noted that there is currently a $174,000 shortfall that the Council should look at reducing. If the budget was to be passed with the current shortfall, it would amount to approximately a $72.50 tax increase for every household. By the end of the meeting, the Council had come up with several ideas to off-set the shortfall.

For more in-depth news, keep an eye on heightsonline. Video of the meeting will be available soon.

BREAKING NEWS: 3/7 Budget Workshop To Be Held at 6:30 PM

Heightsonline has learned that a budget workshop to discuss the Spring Lake Heights 2011 budget has been advertised for Monday, March 7 beginning at 6:30 PM. Notification of the meeting is not mentioned on the Borough’s Web site. This is an open public meeting and all are invited to attend.

Public Hearing Held for Unintroduced Ordinance Creating a Recreation Commission

The February 28, 2011 Council Meeting Agenda carried an item under the “New Business” heading. This was:

Ordinance 05-2011

An ordinance of the Borough of Spring Lake Heights amending and supplementing Chapter XVI of the Revised General Ordinances of the Borough of Spring Lake Heights, County of Monmouth, State of New Jersey (1987) entitled “Administration.”

. Clerk to read ordinance by title

.Mayor to open the public hearing

Motion to close the public hearing

Motion to adopt and advertise in accordance with the law

There were several things incorrect about this agenda item. In the first place, as noted in a previous heightsonline post, Chapter 16 of the Borough Code is Personnel; Chapter 2 is Administration. This had not been corrected from the February 14 agenda.

However, what had been changed was the insertion of text regarding a public hearing.

Any ordinance must have two readings at public meetings: one reading is at the introduction and the second is at the public hearing. No ordinance may have a public hearing if it has not first been introduced.

At the February 14 meeting, the Council discussed a proposed ordinance to create a new Recreation Commission and then voted against introducing it. Yet even without the legally required introduction period, the proposed ordinance was now being presented for adoption.

The agenda should be reviewed by the Municipal Clerk and the Borough Attorney for correctness but, clearly, this had not been done in this case.

During the February 28 meeting, Mayor H. Frances Enright asked the clerk to read the title. Acting Municipal Clerk Janine Gillis did so. The mayor then asked for a motion to open the public hearing; Councilman Thomas Vorbach made that motion and it was seconded by Councilwoman Patricia Cindea.

“Would anyone like to speak to this,” Mayor Enright asked. “It deals with Recreation.”

Atlantic Avenue resident and former councilwoman Kathleen Crippen rose to speak. “This is a question … my first question, I guess, is a question for the acting clerk. This is supplementing Chapter 16 entitled Administration when, in truth, Chapter 16 is Personnel. Chapter 2 is Administration. So, which is this, Chapter 16 or Chapter 2?”

Dead silence ensued for several seconds.

After a few moments, Councilman Brennan began, “Chapter 16 … Chapter 16, I think, Ms. Crippen, is the same chapter that contains all the various board and commissions including the Environmental Commission.”

“I think it is Chapter 2 actually. I think they are under Administration,” Ms. Crippen corrected. “And I think the Borough Attorney may have a code book with him.”

There was a flurry of page turning on the dais, and Mr. Brennan said, “It says Chapter 2 Administration.” He conferred briefly with the Borough Attorney, who nodded.

“It says Chapter 2 Administration,” Mr. Brennan said, holding up a paper.

“This says Chapter 16 Administration,” Ms. Crippen continued, holding up the copy of the agenda distributed to audience members shortly before the meeting began.

“Oh, yes, the title says Chapter 16 Administation,” Councilman Brennan suddenly noted. “Paragraph One says Chapter 2.”

As a copy of the proposed ordinance had not been given to the audience, there was no way for attendees to know what was in the text.

“I think you want to make the change in the title to get that correct,” said Ms. Crippen.

“Thank you, Kat,” said Mayor Enright.

Ms. Crippen then continued. “Is this the same recreation ordinance that was tabled after last meeting?”

“No, that was voted down, this is revised,” stated Councilman Vorbach.

“Okay, so this is not a public hearing to adopt, this is a hearing to introduce? So, this needs to be amended on the agenda because you can’t have a motion to adopt and advertise because this has never been introduced. Thank you,” concluded Ms. Crippen.

The Council members looked to the Borough Attorney, John Lane. “Yes, we’re just wondering at this end of the dais, too,” said Mr. Lane. “In fact, once it was voted and lost, that’s the end. You have to go back from scratch to the beginning, be reintroduced.”

“So this is an introduction?” the Mayor asked.

“They’ll be no vote today, they’ll be no public hearing, this won’t be introduced tonight, and you certainly found one thing we’d like to change which is, I would agree,” said the attorney, “It looks like all the boards are in Chapter 2, so it is an ordinance amending and supplementing Chapter 2 of the revised general ordinances and I’m just trying to …” he continued, flipping through a copy of the code book, “Administration seems to end … right now, the Recreation Committee in this book starts at 2-17, which this one would, and Recreation Commission which …”

“We have to bring it back anyway,” said the Mayor.

“Yes, it looks like … correct the title. It seems to me that the first paragraph is correct. If we just fix that and then it really should just be for introduction tonight,” the attorney advised.

“One of the problems, I think, John,” the Mayor addressed the attorney, “Is that Janine got hit with a lot of things on Friday and it is very difficult …”

“The last minute is always hard,” the attorney agreed, although the agenda information had been incorrect in the previous agenda two weeks before.

“I know,” the Mayor agreed, “And this is something that could have been in earlier.”

The Mayor then went on to the next agenda item. The proposed ordinance was never voted on to be introduced at the next meeting.

However, later in the agenda, the Council introduced a Resolution #47-2011 to establish a Council Committe on Parks & Recreation. This is the same structure that handled recreation during 2010. The committee is to be made up of Councilman Rich Diver as the Chair and Councilman Butch Maccanico as the co-chair. The resolution passed with a 4-2 vote.

Next: What the auditor found.

The Recreation Debate Continues

In a previous posting, heightsonline reported on a Council debate over a proposed ordinance to create a new Recreation Commission. The municipality’s original Recreation Commission had been dissolved following an audit of the Commission’s finances. We continue the coverage. 
 
Following Councilman Vorbach’s statement that the proposed ordinance would empower volunteers, the discussion continued.

“And every single bill, every single bill, every single expense they occur, goes on the bills list first,” expounded Councilman Brennan.

“The Recreation Commission oversees the Recreation Trust Fund,” interjected Councilwoman Cindea, “We have to have controls over that. They can’t …”

  “We do!” exclaimed Councilman Brennan. 

Following Councilman Vorbach’s statement that the proposed ordinance would empower volunteers, the discussion continued.
“And every single bill, every single bill, every single expense they occur, goes on the bills list first,” expounded Councilman Brennan.
“The Recreation Commission oversees the Recreation Trust Fund,” interjected Councilwoman Cindea, “We have to have controls over that. They can’t …”

“It says here they do,” said Mayor Enright, referring to the proposed ordinance. However, the proposed ordinance violates State law by changing the requirements held in NJSA 40:12-8. That statute clearly holds that:

All moneys received by the board shall be paid over to the municipal or county treasurer and be by him kept in a special fund, which shall be under the control of the board and used only for the purpose of defraying the expenses of improving, maintaining or policing the playgrounds and recreation places and for the other expenses of the board.

“No,” stated Councilwoman Cindea, who was aware of the statutory requirements. “They don’t.”

“They do. It says in there they do,” the Mayor interjected again.

“Yes, they do,” Councilman Brennan interrupted. “The Recreation …”

Here some of the Council members and the mayor began to speak over each other.

“Of all the input I received …” Councilman Vorbach began.

“If we are going to have a hangup here about semantics,” Councilwoman King said, “I don’t think I … if you can have a recreation program and run it to as great as you want it to be, all I’m saying is, why do we have to cloud everything with making this a board? Why can’t we just make someone on the Council be responsible to make sure that the recreation program goes forward. And if you are going to volunteer, I would think you would volunteer whether it was under the auspices of that or the auspices of a commission. I just can’t see …”

“I do want to say how healthy the Recreation Trust Fund is,” Councilwoman Cindea added. “Since it was taken over … since Rich started on Recreation. It is very healthy.”

The mayor again referred to the draft ordinance. “This says that all monies shall go through the CFO. So the money part is not an issue. Rich?” she said, recognizing Councilman Diver.

“I’d like to call the question,” Councilman Diver said. Under Robert’s Rules of Order, a member may ask that the question be voted on after discussion has progressed beyond a reasonable point.

At that point, the Council was supposed to take a roll call vote to determine if everyone was in agreement to calling the question. However, this was not clarified and members thought they were voting to introduce the ordinance. Councilmen Brennan, Diver, and Vorbach voted yes and Councilwomen Cindea and King and Councilman Maccanico voted no. When the Mayor was aske to break the tie to introduce the ordinance, she voted yes. At that point, Councilman Diver questioned weren’t they voting on calling the question and the Borough Attorney said no, it was the introduction. He said if Councilman Diver had voted incorrectly on that issue, he should let them know to change his vote. Councilman Diver changed his vote to no, and the 4-2 majority agreed to not introduce the ordinance at the February 28 meeting.

Next: An attempt to pass the unintroduced ordinance at the Feb. 28 meeting.