Monthly Archives: March 2011

>Middletown Board Of Education Approves $144 Million Funding Plan

>At last night’s Middletown Board of Education meeting, the school board approved a $144 million dollar spending plan for fY 2011-2012, that will be presented to voters on April 27th.

According to the Asbury Park Press’s article, the spending plan seems reasonable and I see no reason for voters to reject it. The budget will increase by 1.38% which is well below Governor Christie’s 2% cap on budget spending.
This budget will provide for the hiring of additional teachers this year, which will help to alleviate classroom overcrowding in a few of the districts school.
I was not at last night’s meeting but from what I was told, a few who were in attendance questioned the leanness of the budget and whether or not the school board left enough wiggle room within it in case it was rejected by voters, as it was last year.
I was told that the response to this questions was that the budget was purposely put together lean in an attempt to show residents and the Township Committee that this budget, unlike previous one, was honest and reflective of the times. And if the budget was rejected, it would be devastating to the district.
The main thing that I am curious about, is how contract negotiations with the teacher’s union is going. unlike in years past, these talks have been relatively quite but still unresolved over issues concerning healthcare contributions. So I wonder how the Board of Education can produce and honest, lean budget without a signed contract with the teachers?
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Filed under 2% cap, Asbury Park Press, blogging, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, school budgets, teacher contracts

>Middletown Letter to Property Taxpayers,Prior To Next Weeks Budget Presentation, Suggests Rebate Program Was Township’s Idea

>Hypocrisy and disingenuousness has reached new heights in Middletown when it comes to what our Republican politicians will take credit for in order to given an impression that they are being fiscally prudent and watching out for our tax dollars.

In a letter to taxpayers that arrived with quaterly tax statements, just prior to next weeks Township budget introduction, Middletown’s Mayor Fiore states that taxes will not really be going up this year, that they will actually be going down.

How can that be when it has already said that there will be increases in this year’s Township budget? It seems that our mayor is jumping on the bandwagon and taking credit for the new NJ Homestead Rebate Tax Credit program initiated by Gov. Christie this year that some homeowners can qualify for t, after the governor eliminated the old rebate program last year.

Middletown residents should know that not all Township residents will qualify for tax rebate credits and that Middletown had nothing to do with the new NJ Homestead Rebate Program, which entitles some to the tax credit. Middletown has to cooperate with the Governors office because it is a State program, not a Township program. I repeat Middletown had absolutly nothing to do with this program.

So once again, here is another example of how those that run Middletown are trying to take credit for something that wasn’t their idea and had nothing to do with. It’s all just a smoke and mirrors attempt to fool resident taxpayers into thinking that the property tax rate that they pay to the Township will be going down, when in fact it will be increasing once the budget is released, to offset lower property assessments.

Nice try Tony, you really earned your “fibber” moniker on this one!

If you haven’t seen the letter you can read it >>> Here

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Filed under blogging, Gov. Chris Christie, homestead rebates, Middletown NJ, Tony Fiore

>Ringing Controversy; Concerned Citizens of Middletown Robocalls Strike A Nerve

>It seems that the latest round of Robocalls that went out yesterday afternoon by the group calling themselves “Concerned Residents of Middletown” have struck a nerve with some sitting on the Township Committee who say that the calls don’t ring true.

In a column published this morning over at Redbankgreen.com, Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore and his Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill question the legitimacy of the group Concerned Residents of Middletown and it’s message.

It appears to be just another desperate attempt by the Middletown Democrats to spread misinformation to the taxpayers,” Fiore is quoted as saying in reference to who he thinks is behind the calls. He adds “the real truth will come out. The information they’re pointing out is just not accurate,” when referencing that the Townships budget will be introduced next week.

As if that has any real barring on the truthfulness of the messages contained in the robocalls. Remember last year how Mayor Scharfenberger and those sitting on the Committee, other than Democrat Sean Byrnes, insisted that the Township tax increase was only 2.8% when the proposed budget for 2010 was introduced in last June, when in actuality the municipal tax rate increased by 13.9%.
I think the people lacking credibility on budget issues are those that sit on the Township Committee. The real truth behind the budget numbers and any proposed tax increase which will be presented next Monday night, wont really be known until revised tax bills are sent out to residents, after the budget is adopted later in the year, just as it was last year. When residents looked at their tax statements expecting to see only an increase of 2.8% in the municipal rate, they were stunned by the difference.
Before passing judgment on these robocalls, it is important to see if the message included in them pan out as describe. Only then can we tell who was spreading false information to residents.

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Filed under 2% cap, Concerned Citizens of Middletown, Middletown Township, Pamela Brightbill, proposed budget, RedBankGreen.com, Robo-calls, tax increase, Tony Fiore

>In Case You Missed It: Local library budgets get separate line on property tax bill: Law might shelve impulse to merge

>In case you missed it, there was an article posted Sunday on the Asbury Park Press’s website that would be of particular interest to those that had been following the drama that had been playing out between Middletown’s Township Committee and the Middletown Library over the past 2 months.

A new law signed by Gov. Christie on Tuesday of last week, created a dedicated line on property tax bills for funding municipal libraries and makes a library’s budget exempt from the state’s new 2 percent cap on annual spending increases.

…Although taxpayers will continue to pay a percentage of their property’s assessment to fund their local library, the money will no longer be considered part of a municipality’s budget, making the process less political, said Assemblyman Upendra J. Chivukula, D-Somerset, one of the law’s sponsors.

“Unfortunately, some municipalities were not providing the funding to their libraries on a timely basis,” said Chivukula, who noted that library usage has increased statewide since the recent economic downtown.

The law should help to bring parity between local libraries and county systems, which already had dedicated line items exempt from the cap restriction, said Patricia Tumulty, executive director of the New Jersey Library Association.

“This was a very important piece of legislation,” Tumulty said….


What impact, if any, would this new law have had if in the battle between Middletown and it’s Library if it had been known prior to the Library agreeing to the Township’s terms for transferring $500,000 of reserved forms from the Library’s coffers to that of the Township?
I’m not sure, but I think the Library wouldn’t have felt the immediate need to pony up the excess funds over it’s legitimate surplus, in an attempt to head off the Township from transferring the operations of the Middletown Library to the Monmouth County system. I think the negotiations between the lawyers for both sides would have been extremely different.
The library’s Board of Trustees gave up a lot for very little in return and the impact of the Boards decision will be felt by the library for an extremely long time based on the wording of the 3 Library resolutions passed at it’s March 16th meeting, which authorized the funds transfer.
As the article states, local municipalities that fund their own library system can’t just transfer control of it’s library to it’s county system on a whim. If the municipal library system was created by an ordinance, as most have been, then the municipality would have to propose a new ordinance stating it’s intention to transfer it’s library over to the county and then place the ordinance on the ballot for referendum approval by township residents.

…For decades, the state’s policy for dissolving libraries has been that municipalities must repeat whichever process was used to create the system originally, Tumulty said. Typically, that has meant a public referendum is required, she said….

I would have like to have seen what would have happened if residents of Middletown did have a say in the matter. I don’t think such a referendum would have gained approval.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Middletown Library, Middletown Township Committee, reserved funds, resolutions and ordinances, surplus funds, voter referendum

>Contrasting Styles Between Cuomo & Christie; Different Approach, Same Outcome No Animosity

>NJ.com yesterday had an interesting editorial that I think a lot of people should be reading.

In the face of an $11 billion dollar budget defect, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo balanced NY’s budget by cutting spending and entitlement without raising taxes just as our governor did last year (although that is somewhat debatable). Cuomo achieved this by reaching out to legislator and including them in the process. Gov. Christie on the other hand, has created divisiveness between the governor’s office and those in the legislature with his take it or leave it approach and sledgehammer style.

Interestingly Cuomo was able to balance his State’s budget without demonizing any one group (public employees) or had to hold nonstop “Town Hall” meetings to convince people that there is a problem and his way of solving it, is the only way that it can be done.

Resident of NJ should take notice and see how a different, less caustic and abrasive style can achieve similar yet far different results.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo just won agreement on a budget for New York state that cuts overall spending and contains no new taxes. He even blocked an attempt by fellow Democrats to extend a surtax on millionaires.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because New Jersey did all that last year. Perhaps Cuomo looked across the Hudson and liked what he saw.

Now maybe Gov. Chris Christie can return the compliment. Because Cuomo has something to teach him as well.

Note the lack of personal attacks in Albany. Cuomo was tough, but he wasn’t abusive. He didn’t call his Assembly speaker a liar, for example, or clear his schedule for a nonstop tour on the unlimited greed of teachers and cops.

And he negotiated. Especially relevant to New Jersey was Cuomo’s approach to Medicaid.

Like most states, New York and New Jersey are facing daunting increases in health care costs. Cuomo’s approach was collaborative.

He invited key stakeholders, including hospitals and unions, to sit together and hammer out an agreement on cuts. If they couldn’t come up with an answer, he said, then he would do it for them.

After two months, Cuomo’s committee pulled it off, agreeing to 79 cost-cutting measures, from lowering reimbursements to shifting patients to managed care plans.

Christie wants to cut $540 million in Medicaid spending next year, a huge sum that both sides expect to be a main point of contention. But he’s drawn up his plan in secret, and even now is keeping the Legislature out of the loop. People such as Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), a key architect of the current system, are still looking for basic answers.

“They are crafting their own proposal in a vacuum,” Vitale says. “They would be wise to include legislators.”

Cuomo’s collaboration ensured that his plan had broad political support, and would pass. Christie’s approach risks just the opposite.

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Filed under budget deficit, entitlement spending, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Chris Christie, health care costs, Medicaid, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey, New York, NJ.com, tax cuts, tax increase, Town Hall

>New Robo Call From Concerned Citizens Of Middletown on Bonding Debt

>Shortly after 12:00PM this afternoon my phone rang, on the other end of the phone was another robo-call from the group calling themselves “Concerned Citizens Of Middletown”. This time the robo- call’s message was geared toward “bonding” and the amount of debt that the Township has incurred over the years.

According to the call, Middletown is currently $73 million dollars in debt and nearly 20% of very tax dollar collected by the Township is must be allocated to pay it off, which seems about right to me, give or take a little either way.

People have been asking me if I have any information on this group, unfortunately I don’t but would like to find out. My suspicions are that they are a Tea Party group or a few disgruntled township employees who want to get information out about the shell games the Township Committee has been playing over the past couple of years.

If any one has any other information on this “Concerned Citizens of Middletown” group, please send it along.

Below is the message that went out today, I recorded off my answering machine so that I could post it here.

http://www.archive.org/flow/flowplayer.commercial-3.2.1.swf

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Filed under bonding, Concerned Citizens of Middletown, debt service, loan payments, Middletown Township Committee, Robo-calls, Tea Party

>Heard It In The Hallways….

>Last week when an anonymous poster left a tidbit of information in the comments section for the post “Middletown Tax Assessor To Receive $15K “Bonus” Under New Salary Ordinance”, referring to Middletown Township Administrator Tony Mercantante being offered a job in Trenton by the Christie Administration, I found it hard to believe. I didn’t think it was plausible that the guy would leave a nice cushy position in Middletown making over $125,000 a year, to take a less stable, patronage job that wouldn’t pay him anywhere near what he is currently being paid. But I kept it in the back of my mind and started to ask around. What I was told surprised me, but after it was explained I could understand it.

The person that I talked with did not want their name mentioned, but as a Township employee they can be found very often around Town Hall. This person told me that Tony Mercantante was indeed offered a job down in Trenton, somewhere within the State Planning Office and he will be leaving Middletown for his new gig sometime in May.

When I questioned the person why Mercantante would leave Middletown, they explained it thusly:

The late Judy Stanley, who was often referred to as the Queen of Middletown, was very fond of Mercantante and acted as a mentor to him for many years. She was instrumental in Mercantante’s rise through the system. It was Stanley that brought Mercantante back to Middletown as a planner after a few years absence working out of state and it was her idea to promote him from his Township planning job to his current position as Township Administrator, when Bob Czech left that position in order to become Monmouth County Administrator a few years back.

Once Judy Stanley placed Tony Mercantante into the position as the Township Administrator, it became evident to some that he was in over his head. They thought that he had a problem with telling the truth, as in, being to honest when some one asked a question, while others thought that he was (is) a bungler who causes more problems than what he solves.

Allegedly, 3 out of the 5 currently sitting Township Committee people can’t stand him and have been making it extremely uncomfortable for Mercantante to do his job. As a result, it’s often hard to get a straight answer out of him. And on top of it all, Mercantante has to deal with a Township Attorney who has a Napoleon Complex and who also happens to be the #2 Republican in Middletown, Brian Nelson, on almost every decision, every day (that alone would be enough for me to seek out new employment).

So, as a result of all this, I was told that the powers that be, seeing that things have not been working out to their liking for sometime now, have worked out a face-saving arrangement for Tony Mercantante to leave his position as Township Administrator, for a job with the Christie Administration in Trenton.

If this turns out to be true, and I have no doubt about the person who passed along this information, than I want to wish Tony Mercantante well in his new position down in Trenton. I’ve personally never had a problem with him he has always been personable with me on the few occasions that we have talked. He probably deserves better than what he is getting, I always thought that he was on top of things, but then again since when have I thought anything that meant a damn to those that run Middletown anyway.

Good luck Tony, your going to need it now more than ever.

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Filed under Brian Nelson, Gov. Chris Christie, Judith Stanley Coleman, Middletown NJ, planning, Tony Mercantante, Township Administrator, Trenton NJ