Letter: Middletown budget raises taxes again

The following letter written by a Mr. Warren Houck, appeared in the printed version of the Asbury Park Press last week but for some strange and unknown reason it failed to make the online addition, which has forced me to painstakingly reproduce it here for all to read an comment on:

After the school budget was defeated in Middletown, the budget went to the Township Committee, which ordered more than $2 million in additional cuts.

Now the Township Committee has proposed its budget. Guess how much that budget went up? A little over $2 million. Basically the Township Committee gobbled up the cuts it forced upon the Middletown schools.

The Township is proposing a 13% increase in the tax rate. This increase is on top of a 6% increase last year and a 7% increase the year before. This comes to a three-year average of around 9% per year – all during a time of little or no inflation.

By the way, besides the township rate, the open-space tax has stealthily been increased by more 100%. How? When the entire town was reassessed and the average property value more than doubled, other tax rates were adjusted lower to reflect the reassessment, but the open-space tax stayed at the same rate.

The tax before the reassessment was 0.02 cents per 100 dollars of property value. The tax is still 0.02 cents, but this is after reassessment and after doubling of the typical property value, which causes the typical homeowner now to pay twice the amount towards open-space.

While an open-space tax may be desirable, no one voted to double it. Adjusting this tax back to the level before the town reassessment would save Middletown taxpayers more than $1 million per year.

It is interesting that Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger complains that the Middletown teachers would not agree to a pay freeze, yet the township is not even close to being able to freeze its own budget.

Understandably, the terrible recession we have been through is putting towns in this state into a bind, but the Middletown Township Committee’s members do not seem capable of making the same tough decisions that they dictated to the Board of Education.

Also, with three straight years of huge tax hikes, the committee seems to be in denial about adopting a budget that reflects the current reality.

Warren Houck

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget cuts, Gerry Scharfenberger, letter to the editor, Middletown Board of Education, open-space tax, pay freeze, tax increase

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