Saturday, July 24, 2010

Middletown (And Everywhere Else) Needs To Hold The Line On Spending and Taxes

Property taxpayers throughout New Jersey are suffering sticker shock this week upon the receipt of their new bills. In Middletown, preliminary bills were sent out that have some of the township's strongest boosters angry.

In his interview with MoreMonmouthMusings earlier this month Middletown Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger made this case that extraordinary expenses and loss of revenue were driving the increases this year. On the expense side, $900K for snow removal last winter, and $2 million in golden parachutes (accrued sick and vacation time) for retirees. On the revenue side, Middletown lost $1.6 million in lost state funding (I refuse to call it aid since it is our money), $400K in reduced newspaper recycling. With almost $3 million in extraordinary expenses and $2 million in lost revenue, something has to give.

Taxpayers are done giving. The school board elections made that very clear.

Scharfenberger makes the case that Middletown is the victim of its own success. That while other municipalities throughout the state have been spending wastefully, Middletown has been well managed, making cuts more difficult. He's right about that. I pay property taxes in three municipalities including Middletown. Middletown is the best value of the three.

Scharfenberger also points out that Middletown is a model that the League of Municipalites points to in training elected and employed officials throughout the state.

Governor Christie's proposed "tool kit" is designed to reduce state mandates that have increased municipal costs and to give our local elected officials more flexibility in managing our budgets. The bottom line of the "tool kit" is to reduce the cost of government which means reducing the costs of government employee compensation packages. That is why, as InTheLobby points out, that the NJEA and the CWA are preparing for a bloody fight against the "tool kit" and threatening to withhold their financial support to the Democrats in the legislature.

One would expect elected officials, in Middletown and throughout the state, to argue that the tax increases are unavoidable until the "tool kit" is passed and encourage voters to lobby their legislators to pass the "tool kit."

There is an another option. Before Middletown Democrats get excited because they think this post is not a cheer for the Middletown GOP, they should consider that a Republican is proposing this option, one that they would never be able to propose and still call themselves Democrats. The option is cut services.

Cut services. If it is not possible to do more with less until you get the "tool kit," just do less.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker announced he was cutting the toilet paper budget. That was probably a silly stunt to make the point that everything needs to be cut.

In Middletown, I would prefer a stunt like gathering all the employees together and handing out the $2 million in sick and vacation checks for retirees and RIF notices during the same ceremony. That would make a point that the employees can tell their unions leaders about. It is a harsh point, but a realistic point.

Cut services and see what the people really miss. I would rather township committee meetings were filled with angry residents complaining about the roads not being cleaned or repaired fast enough, or that the grass in the parks is not being cut often enough, or that only two instead of three police cars responded to their call than with angry residents complaining about their tax bills. I would rather residents complain that the township adminsitrative and planning offices are only open 3 days per week, than complaining that they can't afford to stay here.

The Middletown Township Committee is waiting for the Local Finance Board to approve their budget with a waiver of the 4% cap. If the Finance Board declines to waive the cap, the township committee will have to cut further, and they can then blame the state for the reduced services. That would be an acceptable alternative to a 14% increase, but it would not be leadership.

Regardless of what the Local Finance Board does, Middletown should pass a flat budget. Make the cuts.

Be bold Gerry. Be bold Pam. Be bold Tony.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Art-

A review of the Middletown budget summary( http://www.middletownnj.org/finance/index.asp )shows that Middletown only controls $11.9 million of $64 million in discretionary spending. All other costs are by statute (salaries, pensions, insurance costs, state mandates, etc). I don't envy the committee for having to try to find cuts with $11.9 million to cut from. From what I understand, this $11.9 million includes all the materials and supplies for the township (road salt, fertilizers, etc). I agree that in Middletown the committee should cut services but it seems to me like the only way to make up $5m out of $11.9 million would be a complete government shutdown to get flat.

Anonymous said...

All three of them,Sharfenberger, Brightbill and ,Fiore
should resign and take Merchantante with them !!!!
Not a leader among them.

It's called arrogance and ignorance. This township was without a CFO because these four thought they were qualified to do the finance job. HA HA, none of them are and Massell is useless,don't even know if he talks.

Anonymous said...

Before patting yourself on the back by proposing service cuts Art, you should educate yourself a little bit about what Democrats have already proposed in the past and have been dismissed out of hand by Gerry, Pam and Tony (funny you didn't include know nothing, do nothing Steve in you your comments).

Democrats have proposed many ideas recently and in the past, which would go a long way now and in the future to balance Middletown's budget all you need to do is go back and read or listen to the many proposals laid out by Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short.

Their ideas have run the gam-met from consolidating services with the county, merging the Arts Center with the Library, recycling of cardboard (which Gerry took the credit for in your interview), once a week garbage collection within the garbage district (achievable through better recycling efforts), bond consolidation, 4 day work week with furloughs and many other ideas that are either dismissed out of hand, taken as their own by Gerry ,Pam and Tony or called illegal by the GOP majority.

Let's not forget the $1.4M retro active raise that Gerry and crew gave to the Middletown police this year. That was an expense that did not have to be added to this years budget.

Gerry, Pam and Tony (and lets not forget Steve) have done a poor job over the past 5 years at controlling costs as evident by the 30% increase to the Municipal tax rate during this time.

It's time for a change in Middletown, the Democrats can't be any worse then the crew that has controlled the town for close to thirty years.

As a matter of fact I think they would do a better job of running things.

Areyoukiddingme? said...

What about the $85 mil in bond debt we've been paying interest on for who knows how many years? Bonds for projects like the Art Center which went $3mil over budget and cost $300K each year in utilities alone. Buying land which was contaminated and sitting unused, turf fields, Shadow Lake. Now the mayor will want to defer the pension payments with another bond.
The average person knows you can't keep on using a credit card and acruing debt with interest. The interest the tax payer is paying on our bond debt has got to be over $8 mil a year! This is why we are in the hole we're in.
This is financial mismanagement and poor planning pure and simple.
Why give our township clerk a 30% raise last year during a recession?
Why hire a crossing guard, when the police have been responsible for that? So many more, so little time.

Anonymous said...

Did they try obtaining different vendor's? Bid for new contracts on materials and supplies? Did I read somewhere they purchased new cars/trucks for the township? I would hope not, or is it just a bad rumor

Anonymous said...

If you don't plow streets or pick up leaves, cut grass, etc, what do I wind up getting for the taxes I still pay now? It's not like I'd pay no taxes to receive no services.

Catch-22 situation. Government needs to provide some level of service for the taxes we pay.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand a 14% increase,they just re-evaluated properties, and most were over-evaluated to begin with, yet one of the largest increases ever, in poor economic times. What is the amount of taxes collected; this years anticipated vs last year. Are you sure Democrats are not the majority here, is Corzine politics in Middletown? Read my lips, Cut the nonsense, and don't blame the Governor.

Anonymous said...

Anything that happens currently and anything that has happened locally in almost thirty years is clearly the responsibility of the bumbling republicans in this town.

Blame is an easy game and Gerard Scharfenberger is an expert at blamimg others, deception, distortion of facts, lying
and seems to operate without conscience.

Long for the day to bid him GOOD RIDDANCE !!

Anonymous said...

anon 8:36 sure sounds like our Mayor.

Anonymous said...

They don't cut our lawns ,they don't plow all the roads .

The law requires the leaves to be picked up because the law prevents open burning of them.

They spend all their efforts playing politics. The residents in Middletown needs leadership which we sorely lack,anonymous 8:36 and 11:04 ( mr. mayor )

Anonymous said...

They don't cut our lawns ,they don't plow all the roads .

The law requires the leaves to be picked up because the law prevents open burning of them.

They spend all their efforts playing politics. The residents in Middletown needs leadership which we sorely lack,anonymous 8:36 and 11:04 ( mr. mayor )

Anonymous said...

There is no reason for the budget to grow any more than inflation + population growth (that is by maintaining the same services, zero cuts). So why not take the 2006 budget ($57mil), adjust it for inflation (7.42%) and pop. growth (1.76%), and you get $62.3 mil. This is lower than the proposed budget of $64.9 mil. Just go over the '06 budget, and see what expenses have increased more than the reasonable rate (inflation, pop. growth). We should be able to get the exact same services for that price. If we pay more for anything, then something is wrong. Once you figure that out, then you can think about cuts, but first think about where we're spending more than we should.

Anonymous said...

Another example of waste and mismangement is the no bid contracts for T&M. It's plainly clear the Mayor & Co. rewards the same engineering firm over and over again. What home owner or business person would do that?
Clearly they have no business sense.
Fiore has helped with saving us on insurance. He should be able to since he works for Prudential.
I'm just upset that the Mayor has been saying for months that they have a plan, and obviously there is no plan. Now he asks us for help?
They don't need a Finance committee because "they are the finance committee". He does the "budget through osmosis."
What a mess!!!

Anonymous said...

What was I thinking when I voted for Steve Massell instead of Patrick Short? I fell for the BS that my party has been spewing all these years. I will never make that same mistake again.
I'm mad and I'm not going to put up with it anymore!

Anonymous said...

Byrnes is a political blow hard that likes to say anything to make headlines. His grand ideas never have a dollar figure associated with them for potential savings. All in, his ideas (most of which are never legal or practical) would save less than $1m. That doesn't solve a $5m hole like his cheering squad on this forum would like everyone to believe.

As for wishing you voted for Short instead of Massell, get real. Just shows that the Democratic Executive committee has found this board.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Thank You, Art for this entry, and for being truthful about the increase - a straight comparison of the Municipal portion of the budget shows a 14% increase.

I'm sick of listening to the politics at Committee Meetings - and TRUST me, I'm not a Democrat.

The resident who spoke Monday night about unions ruling the country was awesome! I, too am disgusted with how we have to cater to contracts - where was our contract when my husband was laid off 17 months ago!

And since we're now paying our property taxes from savings, I'm also disgusted to see a $25.00 monthly property tax increase!

Anonymous said...

Let's centralize public works and police in the county - do away with all those high paying and outrageous police salaries and benefits. Possibly even Parks and Recreation. What about privatization?

Do leaf and brush collection the way we do garbage collection - let the town negotiate with a private carter (bid) and then bill the residents who need it.

Lay off full timers and replace with part-timers (no benefits)n- plenty of retirees and unemployed to fill these jobs.

Give the public workers a chance to bid on contracts (or renegotiate salary and benefits); if they don't, sorry, the cash register is empty.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:42
It's funny how you describe Byrnes as the political blow hard. Your buddy the Mayor has been all over the press and you're his only cheerleader.
Byrnes makes news and is quoted because he's the only one on the TC who has come up with credible ideas and makes sense. If you think saving estimated $1mil is trivial than that's a problem. I'll take that in a heart beat. I think he knows the law a little better than you and the mayor, so again your comment is inane. It's pure politics that he is ignored and dismissed and people are seeing that more and more. I don't care what party you belong to, when a good idea is proposed, than look into it.
Your lame defense of the Mayor is is becoming pathetic.

Anonymous said...

anon 6:43 I agree with you and appreciate Art's honesty with recognizing the 14% increase in Municipal taxes. I was beginning to think the public was refusing to deal with reality.
As far as the politics on the TC, until we have a more balanced representation that will never change. One party rule has gotten us into this mess because there are no checks and balances. This holds true when any party has been in total control for a long period of time.
We are now experiencing the consequenses of poor leadership and mismanagement.

Anonymous said...

The "star quarterback's only very vocal lone supporter ," the one and only head cheerleader' is a classic display of the narrow point of view and very deficient body the TC majority has become. There's nothing to cheer about here anon 6:42 and your math skills rot and you are not smarter than a fifth grader if you can't see reality. This budget is the last straw for EVERYONE !!

It's sad the redundant efforts to deceive the taxpayers by this conniving,manipulative excuse for a mayor .

Hopefully the public has had enough of the nonsense and we will see the last of Sharfey come 1/2/2010 .

Anonymous said...

Steve Massell seems like a nice enough guy but has been completely ineffective. Last meeting he said zilch. He just does what he's told by the ruling party. Just what we needed in Middletown...another Repbulican puppet. Fiore seems to have some strengths, but is arrogant.
Pam is all fluff.
I think the comments about Gerry seem to have said it all. Tells you what you want to hear, a partisan politician if I ever saw one. All about the party, not the people. He does like handing out lots of awards, unfortunately that's not what people want right now. We need problem solvers, not award givers.

Anonymous said...

Dems are very hateful people. lt
will be fun watching the GOP wave
in Nov wash them all away!!

Anonymous said...

anon 9:40 hit the nail on the head. We have no checks and balances in our local government.
Elections have consequences.

Anonymous said...

It's not about being hateful, the GOP can't accept it when the Dems are in power.
The Repubulicans would rather elect the incompetent people in their own party than choose the right one for all.
Look at how many Dems voted for Christie. I'm one of them.
I will again make my decision based on the person not the party.

Anonymous said...

You bet they have consequences !!

Look what we have....incompetent, inept, inefficient,conniving politicians who represent only themselves and the "shadow government" based on the banks of the Navesink.

Anyone who cannot see that fairer, bi-partisan representation is needed in this township, has their HEAD IN THE SAND or maybe in the mud on the Navesink!!

THIS BUDGET fiasco and estimated tax bills are the last straw. Question whether bills as they were sent are even legal. This resident wants to know how much and to whom I owe WHAT. The incompetence is the "FAKERS" in the republican majority on the TC. GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON TO TRUST ANY ONE OF THEM .

The lone,truthful committee person is the Democrat, Sean Byrnes.who has offered many solutions that could help !! HE has been ignored. What an irresponsible display by the others.

Not one of the others is qualified to serve the public. No common sense in any one of those four !! Their primary priority is POLITICS....poor politics at that!! Their faults stick out like "sore thumbs" in some of the most difficult times residents have faced in decades.

This poster is an independent thinker,intent on selecting qualified representatives .This majority is sorely lacking in that category!

Anonymous said...

anon 9:28 am is the "head cheerleader" again with her inane remarks that have no merit and neither does her "star quarterback" !!

Anonymous said...

anon 9:28 all you seem to care about is having fun???
Dems are hateful people???
Partisan politics doesn't solve our problems.
YOU are the problem!!!!
That's why I'm an Independent.
Stupid is as stupid does.
8 years of GWB....I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

It's not about Republican vs Democrat. It's about Knowing how to do the job you are elected to do. It's about knowing how to lead, not be led, it's about the taxpayers and knowing how to budget; how, when and where to spend the taxpayers dollars. It's about knowing where to look for the right answers when you don't know!

It's about honesty and doing the right thing.

It's not about power, it's not about looks, it's not about the "winner", it's not about your ego's. It's not about YOU. Both sides have lacked some of the true qualities needed to successfully manage this township at times. It is time to stop the "us against them mentality" which both sides are guilty of, and start caring about this town as a whole without prejudice,and stop caring about all your political futures more!

Anonymous said...

yes, 11:12, I miss Pres. Bush as
well, I feel your pain, but we
can't go back to those days when
we all had jobs. Sadly,elections
(like most bad decisions) have
consequences.

Anonymous said...

80% of municipal taxes are attributalbe to the schools and county. The remaining 20% are municipal. Of that, only about 20% is discretionary, and that includes plowing, cutting the grass and picking up the trash, leaves and brush, which everyone complains about there not being enough of. Compared to sorrounding and similarly situated communities, Middletown's taxes are actually some of the lowest in the state.

Anonymous said...

anon 5:07pm

Are you kidding us or are you nuts???

GWB is responsible for an unwanted war and deficits it will take years to pay and policies that enabled the current economic crises.

Again,more of the nonsense from guess who....
you got it,..the "cheerleader".

The world is full of ass holes and they all stink.

Anonymous said...

anon 5:07
FYI the financial melt down happened under GWB.
Don't try and rewrite history.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:26 I agree whole heartily.
Choose the right person, not the party.
Beautifully stated.

Anonymous said...

FYI Everyone,
Sean Byrnes voted no on the budget,
Scharfenberger,Fiore,Brightbill & Massell all voted for it.
No need for any further discussion.
Actions speak louder than words.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:12 Keep dreaming. Still trying to deny 14% increase aren't you Mr. Mayor?

Anonymous said...

simple - 15% reduction in staff, no sacred cows. Police, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, all administrative functions.

problem solved.

next.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the do nothing administration,like police,parks and rec and the dead wood everywhere and there's plenty of that,mr. mayor!!

Anonymous said...

Early morning wake up call to the "snake oil sales man" 7:12 p.m.:

Garbage is separately calculated in the garbage district and contracted individually outside the garbage district. Proper planning would provide the reserves for snow plowing and consolidation of the deficit operation of the Arts Center with the Township Library would eliminate duplicate programs and save administrative costs and the absurd utility expenses are another problem that must be addressed. Sale of the Arts Center should be considered!

That's just a beginning. abolish the Sewage Authority,it's nothing more than SICK PATRONAGE and have it become part of public works,savings on benefits and administration.

As for the all your excuses about everything,realize you do not have any financial expertise and stop the arrogance because the egg on your face prominently displays your lack of competence in the financial arena.... you should be ashamed of yourself... anyone can play the blame game and you don't do that well either.

Clean house of political cronies because the jig is up.... the taxpayer is unable to pay for the political nonsense any longer and they are well aware of it's existence!

Anonymous said...

anon 7:48 Well stated and makes a lot of sense to me. I've heard many of these cost saving ideas a year ago and they made sense then.
I can only surmise that the Mayor would rather see Middletown continue to go more into debt and layoff more employees than take the suggestions of Committeeman Byrnes.
The Mayor has had no ideas or solutions except to layoff 17 part time employees just last month.
It's plainly obvious that partisan politics is more important to the Mayor than what's doing right for the residents of Middletown.
The proof is in the pudding.

Anonymous said...

Art, please turn the lights on
so they scurry back into their holes.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 10:09 is

The "cheerleader" AGAIN.... inane as usual !

Blind as a bat apparently !!

Anonymous said...

Here's another reason Byrne's proposals aren't practical. In order to force everyone to one day a week garbage collection, you need to move half the town into the garbage district. You then need to force the other half in the district who currently pay for two days a week collection to only get one day. On top of it, you get to force people who pay privately for two days, to pay more for only one day collection.

Forcing people to lose control of their private collection in "hopes" you can save money seems like an idea designed by Obama. A perfect example of why poster boy Byrnes can't be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

There are a multitude of reasons to send the cheerleader's "quarterback" to the showers.

He's no star that's for sure in the following areas of conduct

honesty shown to ,consideration of and common decency for all of the residents of this township regardless of party affiliation... it's all about politics and he shows nothing but distain for anyone who does not agree with him. better qualified to run some excavation than a town

he has an acute arrogance and ignorance of financial matters and put this township into an unnecessary financial position because he refuses to face his own shortcomings

arrogance with his view of the law....skirts on the edges frequently...that lawyer wasn't elected to sit on the dais.. and no one who ever served before needed a lawyer at their elbow...the mayor and his legal crutch are both RUDE! is the mayor that needy of being told what the difference is between right and wrong??

shall I go on??

It's time to clean up Middletown and step one is NEW LEADERSHIP !!

Anonymous said...

anon 11:59 you're really grasping at straws. Who said anything about FORCING us to one day a week garbage? That's a flat out lie.
The point is none of his ideas are being considered when they should at least be looked into.
What has Obama got to do with this at all? I
The only fiscal conservative on the TC is Sean Byrnes.

Anonymous said...

"One party rule has gotten us into this mess because there are no checks and balances."

Is is funny that all of the "you know what" has hit the fan in the last 4 years ... ever since Dem's have had representation on the board.

Anonymous said...

Dems should make budget policy?
Like matches to an arsonist, in
18 months they have quadrupled
the nation's defecit, don't let
them destroy Middletown.
ps you haters should come out
of your mom's basements for awhile,
it's nice outside even if the
light hurts your eyes.

Anonymous said...

ps we don't take the two of
you seriously

Anonymous said...

anon 3:58, 4:58
It's amazing how you choose to forget what GWB did to this country. This country had a record surplus before he took over.
Now to actually blame the Dems in Middletown for our problems is ludicrous. They've had no power to do anything. Did they force poor Gerry, Pam, Tony & Steve to make bad decisions? You've become
desperate and it shows.
Give it up.... the lies and deceit are no longer working. Common sense is finally prevailing

Anonymous said...

Who the hell cares who you take seriously.... your tax bill will wake you up 4:28 and 4;29 ( one and the same idiot head cheerleader) the broad who spews the redundant nonsense who works with Massell in real estate in town .( also 6:42pm sat., sun.9:28 a.m ,,5:07 p.m.and more ) and claims to be the "taxpayerfighter". Bullshit artist,that's what.

Is this the best the repubs can offer to defend their nonsense, No wonder they are in trouble,a brain dead bunch if this is what they represent, And am not a democrat either,just a citizen that knows stupidity when it's bare face is "hanging out" here on your blog, Art.

God Help Middletown !!

Anonymous said...

The comments from the only Gerry fan out there are a joke.
Not worth even a response.
People don't waste your time.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Art for breaking a record. The Senile Senior of Swimming River has reached her 44th post out of 50 comments. Her old record from the APP has now been broken. An accomplishment indeed!

Anonymous said...

You are a lost ball in high weeds. Absolutely clueless, it's hilarious how you comment on posts. Pinning the posts to the wrong people all the time. I'm waiting for it to backfire on you, your time is nearing. I'm sure. Cha-Ching

Anonymous said...

Something tells me the comment above is a veiled threat to a particular individual.
Whoever made that threat, take note: we're all watching and there are many of us.