Monthly Archives: November 2010

>Middletown Refuses To Take Residents Money; Taxpayers Told Of Looming Tax Sales

>Does anyone have an extra $1500 cash or more lying around the house; if you do can you lend it to a neighbor? According to Middletown resident Dora Crisafulli, she was turned away from the Middletown Tax office yesterday (November 29, 2010) when she showed up to pay her property taxes. As it turned out she wasn’t the only one turned away, others who showed up Monday were also turned away.

Mrs. Crisafulli stated that when she arrived at the Middletown tax office Monday morning, there were several people in front of her, all waiting to pay their tax bills before the end of the month. Each resident was told that their payments were late and that their tax bill should have been paid by November 10th (since payments dates were adjusted a few months back to reflect the new bill payment schedule that require taxes due on the 1st of the month), each were told that only cash or certified cashier checks would be accepted as payment. No personal checks, credit or debit cards would be taken. According to Crisafulli, it seemed that a near riot would ensue as people were being turned away.

One elderly woman left the tax office in near tears when she couldn’t pay half of her tax bill by personal check with the remaining balance placed on a credit card. Others in line became angry and agitated at the situation, no one could understand the reasoning behind the sudden change in payment methods and they questioned who had that kind of money lying around?

When it was Crisafulli’s turn at the window she demanded to speak to the office supervisor (Crisafulli couldn’t remember her name) when she was not allowed to use her debit card to pay her taxes and found out that a late charge of nearly $60 was being added to her bill. She was told by the clerk that the supervisor was currently busy but could speak to her shortly. Mrs. Crisafulli let the clerk know that she expected to talk to the supervisor after she returned from the bank with cash.
Upon her return from the bank, Mrs. Crisafulli asked to speak to the office supervisor before paying her tax bill. When the supervisor came out to speak with Mrs. Crisafulli, she was probably sorry that she had, Crisafulli gave her an earful.

Crisafulli stated to me that she had asked why she and others had to pay by cash or by certified cashier’s check (which would have been subjected to an additional $15 bank service fee) when previous to this date other forms of payment were acceptable? She also questioned why she was charged and added misc. interest charge of $51.54 over the normal late interest fee of $8.04, which she had been paying since the Township change its payment cycle a few months earlier (Crisafulli stated that she was on a fixed income and doesn’t always have money available on the first of the month). Previously to the change, she had never been late with a tax payment and she would have paid her tax bill on Friday but the office was closed the day after Thanksgiving.

The woman that Mrs. Crisafulli spoke to informed her that the reason for the changes to the payment policy, was due to the upcoming Tax Lien sale that was being scheduled for late December (Crisafulli stated 12/28 but more than likely in January).

Anyone late in their tax payments, were being required to pay by either cash or certified check and the additional interest charge was for the purpose of processing the paper work for the upcoming tax sale and to place notices in the area newspapers.

After hearing this Mrs. Crisafulli was shaken and upset, she wanted to know how in the world Middletown could place a lien on her house and put it up for sale without her notice or her being delinquent in her tax payments; she never was and had ever been habitually late paying her taxes. She was mortified that her name would appear in the newspapers and that her neighbors would think that she was a tax cheat.

Only after the supervisor stated that she would check on Mrs. Crisafulli’s status, to see if her house was going to be included in the sale and notices, did Crisafulli make her cash payment and request a receipt.

Two hours later the phone rang in the Crisafulli’s house and the voice at the other end of the phone notified Mrs. Crisafulli that she was safe; her house wasn’t being subjected to the tax sale and no notice would be placed in the local newspapers.

Needless to say she was relieved to hear the news, but what about the others, who have been turned away over these last couple of days, have they been told of the upcoming tax sale and whether or not their homes would be included?

This is disturbing; I can’t imagine that Middletown would be so hard up for tax revenues that it would refuse to take late tax payments from residents unless those payments were made with cash. It is paramount to extortion, either you pay us in cash or we will but a lien on your house and then put it up for sale. How can this be possible, is this just a simple case of misunderstanding or is there something more to it? I have never heard of such a thing happening unless a property owner’s taxes were considered habitually past due. I also don’t understand why residents can’t pay with a credit card, the service fees that the banks charge the township are being passed onto the taxpayers, and the Township no longer absorbs those transaction fees. It just makes no sense.

Someone needs to question this before unknowing residents are hit with tax liens against their properties and find themselves in a court fight to keep their homes or businesses.

I placed a phone call to Middletown Committeeman Sean Byrnes last night to ask if he had known what was happing at the tax office. He stated that he did not but would contact Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, to inquire about it and get back to me.

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Filed under Middletown, property taxes, Sean F. Byrnes, tax liens, tax sale

>NJPP Monday Minute 11/29/10: Christie Family Income Taxes: When 10.25% really means 6.2%

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In New Jersey, opponents of progressive taxation, including Governor Christie, argue that tax rates are too high. Indeed, just a month before he filed his 2009 tax returns, the governor said he intends to lower income tax rates within two years in order to stimulate the economy and make New Jersey more competitive with neighboring states.

But a full understanding of the state’s tax structure shows that New Jersey is already quite competitive. And Governor Christie’s own 2009 New Jersey income tax return shows the truth often isn’t as simple as it seems. Even though their household income pushed them into the top bracket of 10.25%, the Christies actually paid just 6.2% of their family income to the state.

Much can be learned from an income tax return, which is why the average person’s return is generally not available for public scrutiny. Many politicians, however, make their returns public during their time in office to prove they are solid tax-paying citizens – just like the rest of us.

Such is the case with the governor. The governor has made his tax return available for public perusal. The document is quite useful in illustrating how New Jersey’s marginal income tax rates work.

In 2009, the Christie’s New Jersey taxable income was $540,792, including $527,069 in wages from Mrs. Christie’s part-time job at Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street bank and brokerage firm. The governor, who resigned as U.S. Attorney to campaign, did not have a salary.

The Christies paid $33,619 in New Jersey income taxes. To most, that sounds like a substantial sum, but it amounted to 6.2% of their New Jersey taxable income, considerably less than one would expect them to pay given their 10.25% tax bracket.

How does this work? It’s all about the margins.

New Jersey taxes income at different rates as income increases. Many believe this is the more appropriate way to tax income than a flat tax rate on all income, but it can be confusing. Current rates for married couples range from 1.4% on income of less than $20,000 to 8.97% on income of more than $500,000. Married couples who earn less than $20,000 pay no income tax in New Jersey.

In 2009, New Jersey had slightly different brackets as a result of a temporary rate increase enacted by lawmakers. The top marginal income tax rate was 10.75% on income of more than $1 million; 10.25% on income between $500,000 and $1 million; and 8% on income over $400,000 but less than $500,000.

The 6.2% effective income tax the Christies paid to New Jersey is less than they would have paid to New York State if Mrs. Christie’s job were there; less than they would have paid if she had worked in Philadelphia; and about what they would have paid if they had lived in Georgia.

New Jersey, unlike some other states, does not allow for many deductions. As a result, the Christies could not lower their taxable income by the $36,866 in property taxes they paid in 2009 for their nearly 7,000-square-foot house valued at $1.8 million in Mendham.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed legislation that would have maintained the higher income tax rates on the state’s richest residents and tied those increases to the property tax rebate program. But the governor vetoed the bills because he said income tax rates in New Jersey are too high. So, the rates for 2010 reverted back to the 2008 level when the top rate was 8.97% on income over $500,000.

In effect, the governor gave himself a $2,151 tax cut.

Rather than arguing over whether the current 8.97% top marginal rate on the richest people in the state is too high, the discussion we should be having in this state is whether it’s too much to ask the wealthiest families, those like the Christies who claim a net worth of $3.8 million, to pay 6.2% (or 5.8% under current tax rates) of their income to support public services in New Jersey.

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, income taxes, Monday Minute, New Jersey Policy Perspective

>Sunday was a good day!

>Well, I thank God that today is finally coming to an end, it was a very good day indeed. Not only did I get up early and prepare my turkey for roasting (that’s right, I roasted a turkey today. I missed out on Thanksgiving because of my work schedule), took care of the outside of the house and the Giants beat the Jaguars 24 -20 and the Bears beat the Eagles 31-26. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Here are a few pictures from outside the house with the Christmas Decorations glowing, I still have a few more to put out.




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Filed under Christmas decorations, Eagles, New York Giants, Turkey

>Saturday Morning Cartoons: G-dcast Spins Chanukah!

>Now that Thanksgiving is behind us and Black Friday is just a memory, it’s time to start thinking about the holiday. No, I am not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about Chanukah!

Chanukah starts next week, December 1st – December 9th, so I thought why not start the holiday season off on the the right path and find a little cartoon that explains what Chanukah is all about. It’s not just about presents, menorahs and latkes you know.

G-dcast Spins Chanukah! from G-dcast.com

More Torah cartoons at www.g-dcast.com

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Filed under Black Friday, Chanukah, Christmas, G-dcast, holiday season

>Why No Meeting Minutes Posted Over the Last Several Months?

>Here’s a question that I thought I would throw out there for someone to answer, why haven’t there been any Meeting Minutes of the Middletown Township Committee posted on the Township’s website since the April 5th, 2010 Workshop meeting?

It’s now the end of November and the next Township Workshop meeting isn’t scheduled until December 6th, 7 months after the last posting of meeting minutes and 14 meetings ago. Why the delay in posting the minutes online? I can understand a 2 month delay, the minutes from the previous meetings need to be approved at the following months get together of the Township Committee, then a little time is added for posting of the minutes to the Townships website by the Clerk, but 7 months? I think that is a bit excessive, someone should be jumping on it, to get those minutes posted in the name of transparency soon.
Transparency will be a big issue in Middletown this coming year when the Township Committee reverts back to its previous 5-0 Republican super majority that was the norm for 16 years before Patrick Short was elected in 2006 and Sean Byrnes in 2007.

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Filed under Meeting Minutes, Middletown Township Committee

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 11/25/10: Giving Thanks for Those Who Serve

>The President expresses gratitude to America’s military men and women and their families, and discusses the steps his administration is taking to help create jobs so that next Thanksgiving, Americans can give thanks for a stronger economy.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under economic recovery, military men and women, President Obama, Thanksgiving, weekly address

>Happy Turkey Day !!

>I would like to wish all my family, friends and readers a very happy and safe Thanksgiving. I hope your day is fill with all the joy and remembrances of which only good friends and family can make, Enjoy it!

And just in case you missed it yesterday, here is President Obama pardoning the National turkeys, Apple and Cider, at the Whitehouse yesterday morning.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under family and friends, President Obama, Thanksgiving, Turkey Pardon

>Transparency Once Again Turns Opaque in Middletown; APP: Middletown missed loan deadline for dredging of lake

>Very interesting article that was online at the Asbury Park Press the other day which I have been meaning to post about. One of the big issues of this past years election was the issue of Shadow Lake and whether or not the lake was going to be dredged any time soon, according reporter Kevin Penton it now doesn’t seem likely to happen before 2012.

It seems as though, the low cost loan that Middletown had planned to apply for that would cover some of the costs of dredging was never applied for. The loan application needed to be handed in by Oct. 4th to meet the deadline for possible funding and it was never sent.
What I find most disturbing about this, is how Gerry Scharfenberger and other Middletown GOP members (remember Tony Fiore’s letter) mislead many residents that live by and around Shadow Lake into believing that dredging was eminent if only they could get approval from the DEP to bury the contaminated spoils in near by Stevenson Park.
Scharfenberger attended a number of meeting with residents of Shadow Lake Village while campaigning in October and never once mentioned that funding for the dredging of the lake was a problem. He lead all to believe that as soon as the DEP agreed to Middletown’s demand of using Stevenson Park as a dumping ground for the spoils the project would begin.
With this latest revelation about the dredging of Shadow Lake, it is sad to say once again that transparency of those in charge in Middletown is sorely lacking and is turning, as resident Jim Grenafege has said at many Township meetings this year, opaque.
It just goes to show that Republicans in Middletown will do and/or say anything in order to retain their position of power in town even if it means that they have to deceive others to get it.
My thanks go out to Kevin Penton for following up on Shadow Lake and bringing this information to light, it shows residents that those elected in Middletown like to play fast and loose with certain information that they deem a possible threat to them.
Eventually residents will wise up and show the likes of Gerry Scharfenberger and the others the view form the other side of the doors at Town Hall, the view looking in from the outside.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, dredging, Gerry Scharfenberger, kevin penton, NJDEP, Shadow Lake

>It’s Your Town Newsletter Volume 2, Issue 25, 11/15/10 Now Available

>This edition of It’s Your Town Newsletter covers the November 15,2010 Middletown Township Committee Meeting.

This is the largest newsletter edition of them all. Something new that the town has done is the reformatting of the bill list. Since there are still two lists of bills for the month and both were voted on as a single list, you will get to see the difference in the reporting of information. The old format and the new are included in this newsletter.

This meeting was the first Committee meeting since the election and many Committee members reflected on the campaign. Also of note were the residents that stood and questioned the Mayor over his lack of integrity for not disclosing his appointment to a State position by Governor Christie that comes with a $95,000 a year salary.

Read all about what went on down at Town Hall >>>> Here

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Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, Its Your Town, Middletown, New Jersey, Newsletter

>If you have kids in the Middletown school system is Vinnie Brand the most dangerous person in Middletown?

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After posting last week about the possible resignation of Middletown Schools Superintendent Karen Bilbao, I was somewhat surprised by the chatter that it created. The post was easily the most popular posting since the Nov.2nd general election and caused enough buzz that Jennifer Bradshaw of the Asbury Park Press followed up on it by asking Bilbao if the rumor of her leaving was true. Bilbao denied the rumor and stated that she was staying, which I believe is good news for the school district.
When I stated above that I was surprised by some of the chatter that surrounded t Bilbao’s possible resignation, I was referring to not only private emails and comments that I received but also postings in other forums. The blog posting caused a string of comments on the NJ.com Middletown readers forum, which I encourage readers to stop by sometimes and take a look at. The forum, when concentrating on issues that directly effect Middletown, is a great place to gage what people are really thinking and feeling about all things Middletown.

One poster who seems to have his finger on the pulse of what goes on at Middletown Board of Education meetings goes by the screen ID of 7vens. This person wasn’t surprised to hear about Bilbao’s possible resignation considering what Bilbao has had to deal with since May, when new members of the BOE arrived on the scene.

7vens’s posts on the forum are extremely critical of new BOE member Vinnie Brand and his colleagues Aveta and Mascone, calling Brand “the most dangerous man in Middletown” for his displays of ignorance and power plays on board issues.
7vens accuses Brand of violating the codes of ethics that all BOE members must adhere to when he bases his votes on Governor Christie’s recommendations as opposed to what is in the best interests of students amongst other things.
I wonder how many………

by 7vens, 11/19/10 4:51 PM
Re: Karen Bilbao Resigns!? by 7vens, 11/19/10 4:51 PM
of the mothers that were spreading the RUMOR were at the BOE meeting?

Oh, I know, none. She did not resign at the BOE meeting. She has a contract. The BOE would have to let her out of it with a vote. She would not be able to leave at the end of the month as Middletown Mike said. My guess would be a minimum of 60 days.

If she is a smart as she appears to be, she will leave. When the power shifts to the new guys the administrators are going to leave in droves. They, Vinnie and friends, just don’t understand that people are not going to work in Middletown when they can go elsewhere and work for a BOE that is not anti administration for more money.

We already lost a great BA. Vinnie made a motion to reduce his pay and he took a job a few days later for $9000 more in Toms River. He saw the handwriting on the wall and he is just the first of many.

There were only 3 qualified applicants for his replacement after posting the job twice. They found someone, negotiated a salary and Vinnie wanted to offer her $8,000 less. She already said that she would not take the job for less than she negotiated for. If Vinnie had his way, they would have had to post the job again. Take a less qualified person and pay for the interim until the next BOE meeting when they could approve the new hire.

When the board was looking for the replacement for the assistant BA, who is leaving, Vinnie suggested that we don’t need an assistant BA, in a district with a $140 million budget. Then he asked what the BA did. I am not making this up. If you have kids in this school system Vinnie Brand is the most dangerous man in Middletown. Ignorance and power is a tough combination to beat.


This is the beginning of the end for education in Middletown. If you can afford it, send your kids to RBC ASAP.

25669.4.3.1.
/\ The real problem /\
by 7vens, 11/20/10 10:24 AM
Re: Karen Bilbao Resigns!? by 7vens, 11/20/10 10:24 AM
Are the idiots like the triumvirate of ignorant posters above…

… who slander the administrators by calling them corrupt without an iota of evidence. They are using the same logic that they use to group all Mexicans, Muslims and Blacks together.

The problem Is that these ignorant morons vote and their votes carry as much weight as an informed person’s vote. The BOE is about to be taken over by people that represent ignorant voters.

Vinnie Brand met three times with members of the township committee before running for the BOE. He never met with BOE members or administrators before running. In fact, by his own admission, he NEVER ATTENDED A BOE MEETING BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED. Vinnie is a politician, not an educator.

He suggested that the school district should leave all of the handling of the $140 million budget in the hands of one person. He suggested that the BA does not need an assistant. Then he asked what the BA did. He has no idea what administrators do, but he wants to eliminate them.

Middletown has been warned by the County superintendent of schools that if they eliminate any more administrators that they could be placing the safety of our students at risk. Vinnie Brand chooses to ignore this information in the interest of saving literally a few dollars per household. The county superintendent also warned that any further reduction of administrators could make it impossible to provide an adequate education for the students. Vinnie Brand thinks he knows more than educators about educating.

Viinie Brand stated that his reason for voting down proposals was that the BOE should be doing what Governor Christie suggested. This is a clear violation of the code of ethics that all board members are sworn to uphold. Board members are obligated to leave their political affiliations behind make decisions based on what is best for the students, not what is best for their political futures. He constantly hinders the board’s ability to run an effective meeting with his political grandstanding. There are over 600 school districts in New Jersey. Middletown is in competition with these districts for administrators. All things being equal, qualified superintendents and Business Administrators with experience in a large K-12 district are difficult to find. These people do not need Middletown, Middletown needs them. Vinnie has already started fostering an adversarial relationship with Middletown’s administrators. Once the balance of power is turned over to Vinnie and his pals the good administrators will leave for greener pastures. It’s already started to happen and it will only get worse.

Vinnie and his cohorts know absolutely nothing about educating children. They are shameless politicians who make decisions about our children’s futures based on politics. If you have children in Middletown’s schools, Vinnie Brand is the most dangerous person in Middletown.


Wrong.
by 7vens, 11/20/10 1:06 PM
Re: Karen Bilbao Resigns!? by 7vens, 11/20/10 1:06 PM
Members of the BOE are elected. Once elected the code of ethics dictates that they are to vote based on what is best for the education of the children specifically without regard to political affiliation. You are factually dead wrong on this and you need to read the code of ethics:

“I will refuse to surrender my independent judgment to special interest or partisan political groups……”

“I will make decisions in terms of the educational welfare of children”

For Vinnie Brand to publicly state at a BOE meeting that he is casting his vote based on the recommendations of the Governor to cut costs is not voting based on what is best for the children. What will he do if the next Governor is a Democrat? We he cast his vote on that Governor’s recommendations? No. He is a politician in a position that is by definition apolitical.

If you think that it is going to be easy to replace our superintendent you are sadly mistaken. Who in their right mind is going to want to work for a school board that is openly hostile towards administrators? She may not be leaving at this moment but how can she stay? Why would she stay? Once the balance of power shifts to the inexperienced politicians they will vote to reduce her salary. These guys, BAM, ran on a platform of reducing administrative costs, even though they have no clue what administrators do. They are ignoring the warnings of the county superintendent regarding the SAFETY of our children. Middletown has one of, if not the highest, administrator to student ratios in the state.

They are putting politics before the SAFETY of our children. It’s an abomination I just hope that we are never here talking about a tragedy that occurred because of a lack of administrative oversight. It is a very real possibility and they are ignoring the advice of experts in education.


Other posters on the forum have had similar concerns, so I encourage readers to check them out to form their own conclusions.
I myself haven’t been to a BOE meeting this year so I cannot personally substantiate whether or not 7vens comments are gross exaggerations or are closer to the truth. What I can say about the Brand allegations is that I have heard similar rumblings from others over the past few months and up until this point haven’t mentioned these rumbling because I don’t generally comment on the BOE.
I’ve stated before that those that run and oversee the school system have a hard job and I feel that they act in the best interests of the students, even though I may not always agree with some of their policies, the points that were brought up by 7vens over at NJ.com however are different. If board members are showing themselves to be more concerned over politics than the well being of the students in the district (which my kids happen to be) than it is important to speak out it, especially if those politically motivated board members like Vinnie Brand would cause the resignation of a very qualified and highly thought of school superintendent as Karen Bilbao.
If Vinnie Brand or any other member of the Middletown Board of Education wishes to address this situation, I would be glad to hear from them and post their response, board members and administrator need to be partners in the education process not adversaries.
And to answer the headlines question, I don’t think so.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Middletown Board of Education, NJ.com, resignation, Superintendent Karen Bilbao, Vinnie Brand