Daily Archives: March 10, 2010

Who is Behind The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee ?


Has anyone noticed the signs popping up all over Middletown like the one posted to the right?

The signs are from a group calling themselves the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee.
I wasn’t familiar with this group until I saw these signs spring up along the roadside and decided to ask around to see if anyone could enlighten me.
I was informed by a friend who just happens to know the Chairperson of the committee, that The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee is a group who supports the BOE with their budget plans. They try and get public support so the budget gets passed and the signs reflect what Trenton is doing by taking back the surplus money that the BOE wanted to use for tax relief and new programs.
My friend reached out to the Chairperson of the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee on my behalf for more information and I was sent the following statement:
The Middletown school budget has traditionally been built applying funds called Budgeted Tax Relief. These are funds that may be “left over” (surplus) from previous years’ budgets due to economies put in place during the school year. The funds that were squeezed out of that budget were returned to the taxpayers as tax relief to fund next year’s budget (hence the title “budgeted tax relief” and not surplus). So the “tax relief” funds arises from the District being able to save X amount of dollars of the previous budget by implementing cost-saving measures (such as a good year’s negotiations for medical coverage, installing efficient utility systems, etc.), and those savings are used when crafting the next year’s budget to “relieve – basically lower” the levy of local taxes to a level the taxpayers hopefully find acceptable.

Part of budgeting would also normally include allocating a portion of any remaining funds to the “capital reserve” fund to support future capital improvements (infrastructure, systems, fields). The state has taken .5M of Middletown’s accumulated capital reserves.

With the state taking the tax relief and reserves, the District has to rely on “real tax dollars” from this year, as well as pulling remaining capital reserve. Keep in mind that the State often imposes mandates on Districts without funding them. What this means is when the state says “you must have full-day kindergarten,” and there are specific regulations as to the physical structure of a kindergarten classroom, a district must fund that out of somewhere.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: 84% of the funds that the Governor authorized to withhold from Middletown are local taxpayer dollars. Senator J. Kyrillos, at the Middletown BOE Forum last week, admitted he had no idea the funds that were taken were predominantly funded by local taxpayer dollars. It appears he assumed that the funds were 100% state aid dollars held in reserve and therefore the state was still funding the approved budget by withholding committed funds and saying “keep the funds you already have from us.” For the 2009-2010 school budget year Middletown was supposed to receive only 16% in state aid (versus 41% average across the state). The checks have now stopped, and Middletown has been directed to use our $2.3 million tax relief and $.5 million capital reserves to cover the state’s shortfall. IF THE STATE IS WITHDRAWING STATE AID, THEY SHOULD ONLY BE TAKING 16% of $2.8 MILLION, NOT ALL OF IT. 84% OF THAT IS MIDDLETOWN DOLLARS RAISED FOR MIDDLETOWN CHILDREN!!

WE PAID OUR STATE TAXES. WE PAID OUR LOCAL TAXES SPECIFICALLY FOR MIDDLETOWN. NOW OUR STATE TAXES ARE GONE, SO OUR STATE AID IS GONE, AND THEY WANT OUR LOCAL REAL ESTATE TAXES TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE STATE!

So where does Middletown stand right now? Based on the funding the state has withdrawn, and assuming that the state aid of 16% from last year is not reduced (highly unlikely), and also assuming that the Middletown taxpayers vote to pass the current budget on April 20th, we can expect to lose 36 teachers (in addition to 28 other positions ranging from Administration to Facilities). That is the “best case scenario” as we stand right now. If the Middletown voters vote to not pass the budget, the budget is presented to the township committee who can vote to cut the budget further, resulting in even more cuts.

The worst-case scenario is that the state follows through on a full 15% cut to Middletown’s current funding, which would result in a potential loss of over 80 teachers, additional positions, and program cuts! If the Middletown voters will not pass even that budget, additional positions and programs will have to be cut to make up for a potential township cut.

Think about the impact of 80+ families in Middletown and the surrounding areas losing their income. This is not an issue just affecting Middletown; this situation is happening across over 600 districts in this state. Lost jobs equals loss of income tax and sales tax to the state. Lost jobs equals unemployment, and the state has said the unemployment system is bankrupt. Lost jobs equals loss of property tax when families leave NJ for a cheaper place to live.

The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee, Inc.

Relevant documentation:

BOE forum presentation and spread sheets @ http://www.middletownk12.org/superintendent/files/FINAL%20Presentation%20without%20NOTES.pdf.

The text of the speech given by President Laura Agin of the Middletown Board of Education @
http://www.dollarsandsense.bz/.

In my opinion, this is a fight that parents with school kids need to get involved with and support the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee and the Middeltown Board of Education. Not only will there be a lay-off of teachers and supporting school staff,l but there will be after school programs cut as well with little or no money for new books or other essential supplies available for the students use.

And if that wasn’t bad enough after all the $2.8 million in budget cuts are over with, the School Board will still have to raise the tax rate just to maintain what is left for next year.

Middletown needs this money to maintain what they have and hopefully the Christie Administration will come to their senses and realize that by taking surplus money away from
school districts across the state to plug his own budget gap is wrong and will return the portion of the surplus that was not directly due to aid payments from Trenton.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Kyrillos, Middeltown Board of Education, Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee, School cuts, Trenton

Middletown’s School Board President Laura Agin To Gov. Christie: "We Get It"

At last week’s March 4th “Community Forum on State Aid Cuts” held by the Middeltown Board of Education, School Board President Laura Agin read the following statement. The statement was frank, to the point and said exactly what many need to say and what others need to hear:

“On behalf of the Middletown Board of Education, I would like to tell you all: We Get It. We understand New Jersey’s fiscal crisis. We realize the state is running out of money and we appreciate our governor’s need to fill a multi-billion dollar budget gap. We know that no part of the public sector has been left untouched and we accept that school aid needed to be appropriated to assist in solving the state’s budget shortfalls. Middletown gave; we gave $2.8 million.


We strive for efficiency. Our budgets are developed including all of our stakeholders. We involve Parent Information Groups and Ad Hoc Committees. We have passed seven of our last eight budgets by educating our community and fostering an understanding of the efficiencies in our district. We have remained well below the 4% state mandated budget cap each of these budget years despite ever decreasing state aid to Middletown. We have diligently maintained a fund balance through prudent budget management, as required by law. We have absorbed unfunded state mandates while maintaining the integrity and quality of other programs and services.

We have continued to build on these efficiencies by improving the way we deliver instruction. We have developed programs to keep students in district thereby reducing costly out of district tuitions. We have decreased our need for support staff by introducing best practice instructional models in our elementary and middle schools. We have made strategic reductions in order to modernize our district without adding to the overall budget. We implemented full day kindergarten with no cost to the community by restructuring teaching assignments.

We’ve tackled tough issues. Negotiations with our bargaining units have consistently yielded positive results for our district. We have achieved cost savings by increasing health care co-pays and eliminating traditional insurance plans for employees. We have negotiated caps for accrued sick and vacation time. Recent negotiations with our Administrators Association yielded the lowest cost increase in the county, maybe the state.

We have heard that’s not enough. We understand there should be parity between the real world and the public sector. Our economy demands it, our community now expects it. But Middletown cannot achieve this in isolation. Past Middletown boards have tried to rein in contracts with dire, long-term consequences to the district. We cannot and will not do that again.

But make no mistake. The leadership in this district is willing to continue to make tough choices. We will support legislative reform designed to provide the tools we need to further reduce costs. We will continue to work with our township to increase shared services and inter-local agreements.

We recognize and fully understand New Jersey’s fiscal crisis. Though begrudgingly, we accept that our fund balance, our budgeted tax relief, our $2.8 million, funded primarily by taxpayers in this district, has been appropriated by the state to plug the state budget hole. You will hear Mrs. Bilbao outline cost reduction measures to be implemented for the coming year to account for this loss of funds.

But now we truly believe we have paid our share. The portion of our state aid has been a mere 16% of our total revenue despite a state average of 41%. Our towns are measured by the quality of our educational programs. We will not be able to sustain our momentum or continue to deliver quality instruction with further reductions in our state revenue. Our taxpayers should not be asked to pay a larger portion again. We implore our representatives and our governor to maintain our current level of aid going forward.”

Update:

I failed to mention that the text of Laura Agin letter was included in an email newsletter from
the Dollars and Sense Education Advocacy group. This group has conducted extensive research, published position papers, and sponsored public forums, all focused on the issues facing schools, school children, and taxpayers .

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Filed under budget cuts, Financial crisis, Gov. Chris Christie, Middletown Board of Education, New Jersey

Speaking Of Budgets, Middletown’s Is Done Through Osmosis

Back on Reorganization day in January, one of the many things that Gerry Scharfenberger addressed during is speech after being re-appointed as Mayor of Middeltown, was the upcoming budget process.
He told the crowd in attendance that the Township was facing a huge budget shortfall of nearly $7 million but not to worry because there was a plan on how to deal with it.
He state that even though …“no one here is a super expert on finances by profession but if you sorta do it by osmosis…”
Which I suppose means, that if you sit around long enough thinking about it, to let it sink in you become a expert in how to deal with a $7 million deficit without a Chief Financial Officer to help in the process! Unfortunately however the process of osomsis isn’t good enough now that budgets need to be submitted to Trenton by the end of the month.
Where’s a Finance Committee when you need it? Oh that’s right, Middeltown doesn’t need one because Gerry and the boys can handle the budget process on their own.

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Filed under Budget Shortfall, Chief Financial Officer, Finance Committee, Mayor Scharfenberger, Middeltown Township, osmosis

Deadline For Municipal Budgets To Be Introduced To Trenton Is March 31st

It has come to my attention that on Thursday, March 4, 2010 a meeting took place between representatives of the League of Municipalities, the Department of Community Affairs, the Division of Local Government Services and various Business Administrators and CFOs of local governments at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel.

The primary speakers were Marc Pfieffer, Department of Community Affairs, Tina Zapichi, Division of Local Government Services.

To wrap everything up in a nutshell, the word was budgets would have to be “introduced” to Trenton by March 31 and that the date Trenton has set for municipalities to adopt their budgets is May 11, 2010.

They were told that no state aid was forthcoming and not to expect any extraordinary aid for snow removal but for those cities could expect extraordinary aid, they would have to get their budgets in on time. Those in attendance were also told that there would be a 4% cap on the tax levies and a 3 1/2% cap on appropriations.

This is actually pretty heavy stuff especially for a town like Middeltown, in a good year Middeltown has never had it’s budget ready for introduction before April. Middeltown and other towns always procrastinated and dragged out the process until they heard how much aid was expected from Trenton. Well now I guess they found out and they have less than 30 days to put together a budget.

And to think, Middetown doesn’t even have a CFO. How does Mayor Scharfenberger and the Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, plan to submit a budget by March 31st without the expertise of a CFO?

I guess though that residents in Middletown shouldn’t worry to much about this, After all the Mayor has been telling everyone that he has a plan for dealing with the expected $7 million shortfall in the Township’s budget since the January re-organization day, the only problem is he hasn’t shown it to anyone yet!

Why is Mayor Scharfenebrger’s new best buddy Gov. Christie, pushing municipalities to present budgets to him before April? My only guess is that the Governor wants to get a handle on how bad things really are before presenting his doomsday budget to the state house in June.

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Filed under budget cuts, budget deficit, Gov. Chris Christie, League of Municipalities, Middeltown Township, Trenton

Joe Kyrillos "Not Smart Enough" To Figure it Out

During last week’s Middletown Board Of Education public forum on how the Christie budget cuts will effect the upcoming school budget, Governor Christies’ personal confidant, buddy and Middeltown resident NJ State Senator Joe Kyrillos, made a rather striking comment when answering a question.

” …That’s right, the kids are paying a price, the taxpayer is paying a price, society is paying the price…Now is the time for smart people to be really smart and creative as possible and i say that freely admitting that I am not sure I’m smart enough to figure out how to pull it all together…”


So Christie freely admitted during his campaign that he “doesn’t do math” and now his good friend and confidant Middletown’s very own Joe Kyrillos admits that he “isn’t smart enough” to figure out how to deal with all the budget cuts the governor is proposing.
That’s great… good job guys.

Listen here

Here’s how the Asbury Park Press summed up the Middeltown forum last week.
And here’s a personal shout out to Jason Springer over at Blue Jersey for picking up on this after I gave him the heads up yesterday.
Thanks Jason, you guys at Blue Jersey do a great job… keep up the good work!

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Blue Jersey, budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Jason Springer, Joe Kyrillos, Middletown Board of Education, not smart enough