The Middletown budget has been the subject of quite a bit of discussion lately. Some of the information I have heard from folks around town is based on very false and misleading data. To try and clear things up, I thought I would put together a fact sheet to give people the reality of all things associated with the 2010 budget, as well as the situation at the state level. As always, if you have any further questions or need additional information, don't hesitate to contact me. Also, please look over the attached FAQs - they are quite sobering.
Here are the facts:
- the proposed municipal tax increase is 2.8% which means the municipal increase on a $5000 tax bill will be $140 per year, a $10,000 tax bill will be $280 per year and so on. This will go down prior to adoption, thanks to legislation the governor has signed that will allow us to make additional cuts.
- 98% of all of the municipalities in the state had to do estimated tax bills this year. This is due to the state budget and the uncertainty of state aid to the municipalities.
- it is a mistake to multiply the third quarter estimated tax bill by four - THAT IS NOT THE PROPERTY TAXES FOR THE YEAR! When people get their fourth quarter bill, that will be accurate and will also be much lower than the third quarter bill.
- Middletown has one of the lowest tax rates in the region. While we are currently at 35 cents, Fair Haven, for example, is almost 49 cents and Little Silver is over 50 cents.
- Middletown has one of the lowest worker per capita in the state (305 for 70,000 residents and 41.4 square miles) and one of the lowest spending per capita (around $880 per person).
Below are some of the drivers of the budget and how we've addressed them. Get rid of binding arbitration, civil service and unions and we could really do some cutting. For now, we are legally prohibited from doing what is really needed to make deep, significant cuts.
While there were many factors that contributed to this year’s budget problems, the main ones were:
$1,564,911 loss in 2010 state aid. This loss comes after a $640,000 reduction in 2008, $184,000 in 2009.
$1.4 million for prior year’s salary increases from resolved labor contracts;
$1 million increase in health care costs,
$900,000 for snow and rain storms clean up,
$900,000 for unexpected retirements. Cost includes payments for unused sick and vacation time.
$1.8 million increase in pension payments mandated by the state.
$400,000 loss in recycling revenues
To address these, the Township Committee instituted:
40 staff/position reductions since January 1, 2010.
A 15% reduction in 2010 department funding requests.
Purchasing natural gas and electricity as part of a collective of 119 government entities known as the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Joint Meeting (NJSEM) instead of from the utility company. The move is slated to save approximately $160,000 this year.
Funding the 2010 Summer Concert Series with community and business sponsors.
Canceling Middletown Day unless sufficient private sponsorship is found.
Closing the township’s skateboard park and mini-golf course.
Closing the Police Department’s Community Relations Bureau and suspending the DARE program.
Limiting lifeguards on municipal beaches to weekends only.
Continued limitation of overtime for non-essential personnel without approval of the Township Administrator.