Gerry Scharfenberger may be able to talk a good game in order to give the impression that he is always on top of the situation, but all he really ever does is blow and bluster a lot of hot air that makes people turn their heads and look the other way. Good examples of this was his recent handling of the school budget and how he has thus far refused to consider the idea of establishing a budget advisory committee that could help formulate and propose the fiscal budgets for not only Middletown but also the Board of Education. It would rely on shared services and greater cooperation between the two governing bodies and would save the Township tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars now and in the future.
Democratic Committeeman Sean Byrnes has been proposing for the past 3 years that the Township set up some form of financial advisory committee that could sit down, look at, discuss and propose ideas to the Township Committee that could help shape and steer the budget processes in order to find potential fiscal issues or problems that would hamper the budget process that would prevent the Township from having a fiscal budget in place by January 1st each year as opposed to 5,6 or 8 months into the calender/fiscal year.
Each time Byrnes has presented his idea for some type finance committee he has been rebuffed by Gerry Scharfenberger and his fellow GOP members on the Township Committee with Scharfenberger’s excuse always being the same, that he thinks it’s every committee persons job to look at and take responsibility over budget issues, even though it is inefficient to do so.
Byrnes’s latest proposal for a finance committee is a sound one and makes a lot of sense. It would be a joint budget revue and advisory committee that would include members of the Middletown Township Committee, members of the Middletown Board of Education and residents with budgeting expertise, for the purpose of making recommendations for sharing services, consolidating functions and for opportunities to consolidate maintenance and recreation functions. The goal of the committee would be reduce budget spending of each body by 2.5% in budget year 2011.
Committeeman Byrnes discussed his new proposal at the May 3rd workshop meeting where it received cool support from Gerry Scharfenberger and Committeewoman Pam Brightbill, who had earlier that met with members of the Board of Education to discuss the failed school budget. Gerry and Pam both stated that much of what Byrnes had proposed was discussed already earlier in the day when they met school board members, so it was not necessary.
Byrnes stated that he would introduce a resolution at the regular May 17th Committee meeting regardless so that the discussions could be ongoing and not brushed aside when it seemed that now was a perfect time to engage the Board of Education is serious talks concerning shared services.
Committeeman Byrnes stayed true to his word and moved that his resolution for a budget review and advisory committee be introduced and considered for adoption, unfortunately no other member of the committee would second the introduction so the motion failed and the resolution was dropped from further discussion.
Having a budget advisory committee is not a new or novel idea, many non-profits and Fortune 500 companies have them as well as other governing bodies, the Republican controlled Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders being one of them. They introduced their financial committee earlier this year and are very happy. So why do the republicans in Middletown continue to fight such a common sense idea? I can only speculate that the reasons against a finance committee of any kind is because outsiders would have access to the Township ledgers and would be able to see where and to whom all of the money goes, which would lead to questions and lack of control over township business that the ruling GOP have enjoyed for more than 25 years.
Gerry, you can’t wait for Trenton to bail Middletown out of the mess we are in. Leaders lead or they get out of the way, it’s that simple.
Below is the resolution that Committeeman Sean Byrnes introduced to the Township Committee on May 17th and failed to receive support from other committee members:
RESOLUTION TO CREATE A BUDGET REVIEW ADVISORY COMMITTEE
WHEREAS, the Township Committee is mindful of the difficult economic climate facing residents of the Township of Middletown and the hardships associated with any increased tax burden facing citizens of the Township of Middletown; and
WHEREAS, the Township has recently hired a new Chief Financial; and
WHEREAS, the voters of Middletown, recently rejected the budget proposed by the Middletown Township Board of Education, despite the Board of Education having undertaken substantial cuts in line item spending; and
WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey, the Township of Middletown and the Board of Education face a financial crisis unprecedented in recent times, and
WHEREAS, the Township Committee anticipates that municipalities and school boards will continue to operate in an austere budget environment where citizens demand efficiency, small government and the elimination of unnecessary or discretionary services, and
WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that closer cooperation with the Board of Education will be necessary to meet the financial challenges ahead, and
WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that consolidation of certain functions performed by both the Board of Education and the Township Committee should be seriously considered and adopted where appropriate; and that the process of developing these recommendations should be open to the public; and
WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that shared services within the public entities within Middletown and with neighboring municipalities and boards of education must take place and that the size of Middletown Township leaves it well-suited to lead these efforts; and
WHEREAS, the Township Committee seeks to pursue all opportunities to improve efficiency, eliminate unnecessary spending and reduce the burden on its taxpayers;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Committee of the Township of Middletown that the Township does hereby authorize and call upon the Board of Education to jointly convene a Budget Review Advisory Committee consisting of 2 members of the Township Committee, three members of the Board of Education and 2 members of the community with strong financial experience, preferably in a Fortune 500 environment, to meet regularly over the next 6 months and thereafter make recommendations to the Township Committee and the Board of Education for sharing services and consolidating functions. This Budget Review Advisory Committee will look specifically for opportunities to consolidate maintenance and recreation functions. The Budget Review Advisory Committee shall have a specific goal of reducing the combined spending of the Township Committee and Board of Education by 2.5% for fiscal year 2011