Daily Archives: November 3, 2011

Corruption Behind the $4 Million Tab for Tax Appeals in Middletown

By guest blogger Linda Baum

I’m sure we all recall the big jump in our property assessments on 2009 tax bills. That was the result of a town-wide revaluation done at the height of the market in 2008 — a huge mistake. It guaranteed there would be an onslaught of appeals and the drastic measures we saw this year by the Mayor and Township Committee to find extra money to pay the $4 million dollar tab.

Remember the ugliness? The seizure of $500,000 of library funds and threats of police layoffs to gain concessions. Middletown certainly didn’t feel like a great place to live.

The Township should have done a revaluation years earlier. It had been at least 15 years since the last one. The company hired to do the revaluation had difficulty explaining the delay. That company, Realty Appraisal, does loads of revaluations around the State, and the cause for the delay didn’t stem from their efforts. So then where does blame lie?

If you spoke to the County Tax Administrator, I’m sure he would tell you that revaluations should probably happen every 4-5 years. By waiting, Middletown drew the ire of the County Tax Board.

Middletown Republicans basically thumbed their noses at the County and refused to do a revaluation while other municipalities followed the law. Meanwhile, the richest property owners in the Township saw property values increase hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in that time period while their taxes were based on assessments from long ago.

Residents in less affluent sections of the Township were picking up the tab for the Navesink River Road crowd. That’s because when expensive properties are dramatically under-assessed, the effect is to remove potentially hundreds of millions from the town-wide assessment base. The result is that everyone else pays proportionately more.

The low assessment base means that the tax rate would have been set too high. Evidence of that is the big decline in the overall tax rate upon revaluation – it went from $3.787 in 2008 to $1.725 in 2009 (per $100 of assessed value). Owners of newly built homes would have been among the most adversely affected by the inflated tax rate, which, coupled with their higher more up-to-date assessments, means they were paying more in property taxes than they should have been in the years prior to the revaluation.

The bottom line is that the more valuable your property and the longer you owned it, the more money you stood to save from the Township’s failure to revaluate.

Per the County, around 60% of Middletown residents saw a reduction in taxes as a result of the revaluation. Since the Township still needed to collect the same total revenue, it stands to reason that owners of high end properties saw the largest dollar increases in their taxes after the revaluation.

It seems to me the Township most likely delayed the revaluation for two reasons.

First, the Republican Party leaders resided along the Navesink River Road corridor and had enjoyed tax-free, enormous increases in the value of their homes. As they took advantage of this increase in equity, the Township gave them a free pass. A revaluation would have increased taxes for many of them.

Second, Democrats had started to take seats on the Township Committee and the Republican Party desperately wanted to avoid losing votes, and possibly control of the Township, by doing a revaluation. Republican strongholds like Shadow Lake might have punished Republican leaders for tax increases and shifted the balance of power.

The County was upset with Middletown officials and, in 2008, took the unprecedented step of suspending our tax assessor, Charlie Heck, for failing to submit the paperwork necessary to do the revaluation. In a brazen admission of the underlying truths, then Mayor Scharfenberger actually referred to Mr. Heck as “Saint Charlie”. And this year, Mayor Fiore and our all-Republican Township Committee voted unanimously to award Mr. Heck a $15,000 bonus.

While you can draw your own conclusions, it seems obvious to me that Republican officials manipulated the process for their own political and personal financial gain. Due to their delays, when they were finally compelled by the County to submit the data for the revaluation, they did so on the eve of the financial crisis, just before property values plummeted. It would have been wise to postpone the revaluation until the market settled, but they couldn’t ask for another extension because they were already in deep trouble with the County for waiting as long as they had.

The delay cost taxpayers dearly. To deal with the unrealistic property data created by the poorly-timed revaluation, the Township was forced to undertake a costly reassessment this year, forcing taxpayers to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a reassessment that could have been avoided.

The overall tab may be $6 million or more now. Township officials won’t reveal how much or exactly where the money is coming from to pay for it. But appeal awards continue to roll in, and one thing is certain. Middletown residents will be feeling the sting for years to come.

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Filed under Charles Heck, corruption, Middletown Township Committee, property tax reassessment, property tax revaluation, Republicans, Shadow Lake, tax appeals, tax assessor, tax rate

Patrick Short; The three most important issues facing the State and how he would address them

Former Middletown Democratic Committeeman Patrick Short is currently seeking election to one of the two NJ State Assembly seats up for grabs in this years 13th Legislative District race.
He was asked recently by Patch.Com and NJ Spotlight to submit his thoughts on a few issues effecting the State and what he would do to address them in the event that he was elected to the Assembly this coming Tuesday, Nov.8th.
Knowing that only portions of his answers would be addressed in the columns written, Mr. Short sent me the outline that he submitted to the other publications.
His answers are insightful and well thought out. If elected on Tuesday, Short would bring his business experience, commonsense reasoning and solutions to the State House in Trenton as well as his personal discipline and principles that he learned as a cadet while attending the US Military Academy at West Point.
Here is what he sent:

1. Restore Trust in Government (Leadership, Trust and Responsibility)

I am a West Point graduate and a retired military officer who dedicated 22 years serving our country. I understand what unselfish service is about; that is my character. As a Middletown Township Committeeman (2006-2009), I kept all of my campaign promises. I did what I said I would do. I made it clear through my actions that I was a public servant; whose’ purpose was to serve and not to take. I was the only elected official in the State of New Jersey, who did not take Health Benefits, and refused to enroll into the State Pension System. In my last year in office, I refused to take a salary and further illustrated that I had chosen to serve the people and not myself. I lead by example. I take responsibility and am accountable for my actions. And, I want to restore confidence and trust in today’s government. As an elected official, it is my duty to serve all the people not a select few. I don’t ask one’s party affiliation before I provide assistance. I believe in political independence. I am a doer, not a talker. I find a way to fix problems. That is what I do as a certified project manager managing multi-million dollar projects to cost, schedule, and customer’s expectation. I would ask the District 13 residents to “Hire” me” rather than “Elect me”. Think of it as if you want some work done on your house. You hire the best qualified individual to do that work. I would say, “Hire me to do the work you want done in Trenton. In the end, if you are not satisfied, then replace me”. Many of today’s politician’s have lost sight of how lead, to be responsible and to gain people’s trust. I ask to look past the “Scarlet D” I wear on my forehead and vote for the person not the party. See my character, knowing that I will do what I say I will do and represent District 13 residents truthfully and unselfishly.

2. It is about Creating Jobs. Let’s put New Jersey Back To Work

While everyone was focused on the budget this past year, it reminded me of a youth soccer game. Everyone chased the ball to the “Spending” side of the field while vacating the “Revenue” side of the field. Managing spending is extremely important in business, but managing spending will not keep a business in operation. Making money and generating revenue is what keeps a business in operation. My record shows that I understand the importance of managing spending, what is spent, why it is spent and how it is spent. I consistently voted to cut taxes and reduce spending and never voted in favor of a tax increase as a Middletown Committeeman. I regularly disapproved monthly expenditures that I felt were unnecessary and inappropriate. While I will continue to be a watchdog on spending, a significant part of my time will be used to bringing revenue into New Jersey to create jobs. Today, there are businesses that are spending money. The problem is they are not spending their money in New Jersey. We need an aggressive approach to capture those business opportunities. I am not talking about offering more tax credits. To me, those are secondary measures that are only offered when there is some assurance that the expected Return on Investment (ROI) will be met. What I am speaking about is an approach that is taken by corporate businesses that use Capture Managers to aggressively seek out and capture business to preserve and grow market share. We have not done enough to actively go after business opportunities to bring revenue into New Jersey. I want to expose Trenton to existing business opportunities , where money is already being spent, that can be captured and brought into New Jersey to stimulate economic development and job creation. Here are a few samples.

a. Department of Defense (DOD)-Research, Development, and Procurement Funding: The DOD spends billions of dollars each year on military approved technology programs and projects. This funding stream flows into the States that have military bases that sponsor these programs. While New Jersey has the military facilities available for this business, clearly, Maryland values the economic impact that these military installation make and they have made it a priority to capture the DOD business. Unlike New Jersey, Maryland has created a “how to manual” on how to foster a partnership between the State’s military installation and private sector, in order, to gain revenue and to create jobs. They have Capture Managers at the Local, State and Federal level that aggressively go after this business. As a result, Maryland is ranked 4th out of the 50 States when it comes to obtaining funding for DOD military programs and projects. New Jersey, on the other hand, is ranked 48th. Subsequently, unemployment around Maryland military facilities is 4% as compared to 9+% around New Jersey facilities. Note: In 2009, over $3.4B flowed through Fort Monmouth for these technology projects, $38M, of which, was for salaries which the surrounding communities significantly benefited from. New Jersey no longer has Fort Monmouth, ironically Maryland does. However, New Jersey still has the tri-bases of McGuire, Dix and Lakehurst and other installations. We must value these military bases and their ability to sponsor these technology programs and projects. DOD money is being spent and will continue to be spent on these approved projects. We need to adopt a “Why not New Jersey” mentality and aggressively capture more of this DOD market share.

b. Film and TV Productions: New York is a major player in the film and TV industrial market; New Jersey is not. Since January, 70 new movie and TV projects have gone into New York, pumping $1 billion into their State and Local economy. A total of 4,700 industry-related jobs are being created. Pat Swinney Kaufman, executive director of the Governor’s Office for Motion Picture and Television Development is New York’s “Capture Manager”. He has identified that this business is willing to spend money and he is aggressively going after a greater market share in this business sector. Again I ask, “Why not New Jersey”; an existing market that is going to spend money why not spend it in New Jersey. Important point, in many cases, tax credits need not be offered to gain this business. It is simply becoming a player; promoting what New Jersey has to offer and that we value their business.

c. High Tech industry and Job Creation: IBM, Intel, Global Foundries, TSMC and Samsung have committed to invest $4.4 billion over five years to create 2,500 permanent new jobs in New York to build next generations of computer chips. Officials credited the state government’s interest, cooperation between public and private sectors and an effective government working together on a coordinated economic strategy, to capture this business opportunity. “Why not New Jersey”. Where are our Capture Managers? If this market is available and these businesses are willing to spend their money, I want it done here in New Jersey. We have abundant facilities waiting to be filled and we have the high tech resources ready to be employed. Let’s find these business opportunities and get a larger piece of this market share.

d. Embrace the Federal initiative for Renewable Energy in support of NJ small businesses: If the Federal government has made it a goal to fund Renewable Energy projects, then our Capture Managers should aggressively capture business opportunities in this market for New Jersey. New Jersey small businesses are doing fairly well with solar products to expand solar technology. However, I want Capture Managers to aggressively promote more of what these small businesses have to offer; not only with solar technology but also with other Renewable Energy technology. For example, wind turbines are being installed throughout the United States but not with US manufactured wind turbines. “Why not New Jersey” if we have the leading technologist and manufacture of wind turbine products located in Toms River. I want New Jersey to own the solar panel and wind turbine market so these products can be manufactured here in New Jersey by New Jersey resources. Let’s go after the Renewable energy market and push New Jersey made products.

e. Repatriate foreign profit tied to US investment and job creation: American companies have more than a trillion dollars in profits that have been made overseas after foreign taxes have been paid but won’t bring the profit back to the US because the 35% US tax would be applied. Instead, they invest and hire abroad. However, these companies would return a huge portion of these profits to the US for investment, if it were taxed at a lower rate. John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, recently stated that Cisco would not build a manufacturing facility in U.S. when one can be built in Ireland at the 17% tax rate. If we want to become a player in this market, which today we are not, then we must reduce the tax to gain more of a market share. The tax rate needs to be reduced at a flat rate or a sliding scale applied that is based on the amount that is invested and the total number of jobs created. Whatever the case, these companies are spending their profit but it is not being spent in the U.S. New Jersey Legislatures, at all levels, must advocate for change while Capture Managers reach out to these companies and promote New Jersey resources in order to capture this business after this change comes about.

f. Legalize gambling in all regions of the State: In business, you have to adapt to change or you will not remain in business. The gambling industry is changing and New Jersey is not adapting quickly enough to retain or grow shares in this market. The question is, “Do we want people to spend their money in New Jersey or do we want them to spend their money elsewhere”? The majority of voters in New York back legalize casino gambling in all regions of their state. A recent Zogby poll showed 64% of voters, in our neighboring State, think this would be good for the economy (Carl Camanile). New York Legislators have listened and are acting to legalize gambling in all regions of their State. Likewise, recent polls in New Jersey show a wide support of a constitutional amendment that would authorize the waging on sporting events at casinos and horse racetracks. It is time for our corporation, New Jersey, to adapt to this change and to change our business model so New Jersey can retain, if not gain, market share and its associated revenue stream that would otherwise be lost to our neighboring State.

g. Now is the time for Capital projects: Now is the time to invest in capital projects that would immediately put our trades back to work to fix our aging infrastructure of roads, rail, bridges, airports, tunnels and even school projects that have less start up time than many other projects. With 10 yr. Treasury bonds around 2% borrowing costs; there has never been a more opportune time to invest in these types of projects to put New Jersey back to work.

3. Property Tax Reform: Find a more equitable funding stream for schools and remove school tax from local property tax.
Currently, approximately 60% of one’s tax bill goes to school funding while the rest is divided between local municipal and county tax. The problem is, only people who own property pay this tax. I believe we can find a more equitable way to fund schools and lessen the burden that is currently being shouldered by only the homeowner. I would like to see if New Jersey can adapt a model that is currently being used in Michigan where school tax is funded on earned income from all residents and not just homeowners who own property. Not only would there be more contributors but it would be equitable since the amount paid would be based on one’s earned income rather than the value of the homeowner’s property. Michigan couples this approach with a sales tax that is dedicated to funding schools. The sales tax captures revenue from all residents, as well as, those traveling in and out of their state. In addition, the sales tax captures the undocumented income that is only seen when it is spent. Removing school tax from property tax and having it supplemented based on income and a dedicated sales tax would especially provide relief to those property owners with fixed incomes who struggle with property taxes increases and which often forces them to sell their property.

Patrick Short is the owner of – Patrick Short Consulting Services-specializing in Project Management

MA – National Security-Strategic Planning & Decision-Making), Naval War College, Newport, RI
MS – Contract Acquisition Management, Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne Fl
MA – Management and Human Relations, Webster University, St. Louis, Mo.
BS – Applied Sciences and Engineering, US Military Academy, West Point, NY
• Taught Economics at the College Level
• Recognized by the State of New Jersey for Community Services
• Chairman, “Nick Rowe Memorial ” Committee; Union Beach
• Deputy Director, Concerned Civic Associations of Middletown
• Vice President; Concern Citizens of Middletown
• Board of Governor’s-West Point Society of New Jersey

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Filed under 13th Legislative District, Democratic Candidate, Patrick Short

NJFMBA District 11 Commercial In Support Of Democrats Santiago, Gopal & Horgan

The New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association is this 30 second campaign ad for the 11th Legislative District Candidates Ray Santiago, Vin Gopal and Kathy Horgan. It will be running all week long on News 12 New Jersey.

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Filed under 11th Legislative District, Kathy Horgan, News 12 NJ, Ray Santiago, Vin Gopal