Category Archives: Arts Center

An Open Letter to Middletown Residents From Carol Fowler

I am a mother of two whose family goes back four generations in Middletown and whose children were educated in our Middletown schools. For the first time in my family’s history, I see families being priced out of our Township, because of our soaring taxes. As our incomes have remained flat, we have seen steady, significant municipal tax increases exceeding 40% in the last 6 years. If you believe every municipality has experienced these increases, think again. While many of our surrounding towns have had minimal or no increases in taxes, over the last six years, our elected officials have burdened our citizens with a dramatic tax increase unmatched by our surrounding communities. Many members of the next generation of Middletown children cannot afford to live here. Poor management of our local government produced these unnecessary tax hikes. I am running for office to reverse this trend.

We must start by reducing taxes by cutting our debt, which has mushroomed over the last decade under the current regime from $48million to $72 million. Over the last decade, our Township Committee has overspent its way through an $8 million dollar Arts Center, bonded for $2.5 million for turf fields for our kids that disappeared somewhere in the Town’s budget, and paid the same politically connected engineering firm to work on every Township engineering project without competitive bidding for the last 30 years or more.
We must also cut spending, consolidate services with the Board of Education and neighboring towns and look for partnerships with private and non-profit entities. We must continue the trend initiated by the efforts of my Democratic predecessors Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short to privatize more of our brush collection, and open up our professional contract awards to competitive bidding. For the last few decades, I’ve been an executive officer of our volunteer first aid squad. I’ve recorded many business meetings and, when a purchase is necessary, three bids are sought and then voted on. Why can’t our Town do the same for professional services that cost taxpayers well over $1,000,000 per year?
These steps are easy to grasp, but have eluded the current regime, because these steps would threaten the cozy, lucrative relationship enjoyed by the professionals retained by our elected officials to serve this Township. You may not be aware of how your Township is being run, because the Township Committee steadfastly refuses to televise its meetings. If you visit the websites of similar-sized or even smaller municipalities (e.g. East Brunswick, Rahway), you will find complete coverage of their regular meetings, where any citizen who wants to can see how their tax dollars are being spent. What do we have to hide? How come we broadcast events form the Arts Center, concerts in our parks, but not our Town meetings?
Walking our township, I’ve seen with my own eyes that we have seniors who can barely afford to purchase food, as well as victimized homeowners who lose everything when a tropical storm sweeps through, with no solution in place to their long time flooding predicament. Our town’s Senior Center has a very good food program, yet the recreational side of it is not as attractive to seniors, who pay a nominal non-resident fee to attend the more enjoyable Keyport Senior Center. Why can’t we have equally attractive senior programs at our own Center?
I want to restore this town to what it was — a reliable and affordable place to live. But I also insist that we keep in step with what our neighboring communities offer to residents. Our recreational facilities and our overall Recreation Department lag far behind the thoughtfully planned recreational centers available to resident of townships far smaller than Middletown. When elected leaders take your hard-earned money for taxes, you need to know that they will spend it wisely. The current regime has failed miserably, and I hope you will consider a vote for change.
Carol Fowler
Middletown Democratic Candidate for Township Committee

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Filed under Arts Center, bonding debt, Brookdale Democratic Club, Carol Fowler, high taxes, letter to the editor, Middletown Township Committee, Senior Center, televised meetings

Taxpayers First ??? Not in “Your Middletown”

by guest blogger Linda Baum

If you’ve been driving anywhere in Middletown, you can’t miss the big red and white signs that claim Mayor Fiore puts “taxpayers first”. That’s been the line for years now. That the Republican majority continues to use it shows their arrogance. Sadly, they have managed to keep so many of us in the dark.

I suppose they should feel confident. Remember last year when our Republican-controlled Town Committee left you with the impression that a 13.4% municipal tax increase was just 2.8%? They had at their disposal all sources of communication coming out of Town Hall – the town’s own newspaper, press releases, robocalls, and a tax information sheet all delivered straight to your home and paid for with your tax dollars. You were probably scratching your head back then. And I bet, like me, for a while you were uncertain of your own basic math skills. And that was the idea – not to inform, but to mislead. That is not how you serve taxpayers. What they did was deliberate and dishonest, and completely self-serving.

The Republican party’s control over information in Middletown has gone on for years. If you have ever asked a question at a Town Committee meeting, you may have experienced that first hand, and it has never been more true than it is now that an all-Republican committee sits on the dais.

Residents have just two opportunities each month – the first and third Monday — to connect with our representatives, but they don’t seem to want to talk to us. If you’ve been brave enough to stand at the microphone and ask nearly anything, you’ve most likely been made to feel like an annoyance. You’ve got just five minutes – that’s the rule. Use it or lose it, and no second chances after you sit down. If you aren’t satisfied with the answer you get, they may invite you to stay after the meeting when no one else is there to hear them. Or you can always try again at the next town meeting, if you don’t mind being scolded for being repetitive. I was, and my question went unanswered to boot.

It would be downright comical if it weren’t true. If you don’t believe me, then grab your popcorn and come down to Town Hall. You’ll have to catch the live show because town meetings aren’t televised in Middletown like they are in so many other towns. That’s for lack of funds, supposedly, but let’s see what the story is in 2014 when $200,000 in grant money becomes available from Comcast specifically for that purpose. What excuse will our Republican majority give then for continuing to keep us in the dark?

You won’t find much information about what was discussed at meetings in the Town’s meeting minutes, either. If you really want to know what happened, read “It’s Your Town Hall”, newsletter that are written by town resident Don Watson, who took it upon himself to attend town meetings and to keep others informed about what’s going on. If you want to be included in his distribution, send an email to Itsourtown@yahoo.com.

If taxpayers were really first, governmental proceedings would be accessible to all residents no matter what their schedule or ability to attend meetings, including those who are disabled or have limited mobility. And by the way, those folks are still waiting for the Township to fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Money is lacking, town officials say, among other reasons given for delays. However, since that law was enacted, our republican-controlled town committee has poured money into a host of costly unnecessary projects when better less-costly alternatives existed – the Pool Club and Arts Center are examples. Taxpayers are not only paying the debt for these purchases, but hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual upkeep as well.

And did you know that the town’s appointed engineer – the same firm now for 40 years –pockets about $1 million dollars a year in taxpayer funds awarded to them as no-bid contracts? Think how much tax relief could have been provided by putting those engineering contracts out to competitive bid. That’s money that could have been returned to you or used for other purposes. If taxpayers were really first, our republican majority would have done just that. Instead, members of that same engineering firm can be seen celebrating with republican candidates every year on election night. If it sounds like pay to play, that’s because it is. And you’re paying for it.

Somebody is first in Middletown, but not taxpayers. Not in a very long time. On November 8th, you can change that.

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Filed under americas with disabilities act, Arts Center, Middletown NJ, municipal tax rates, Robo-calls, Swim Club, tax increase, tax payers first

Middletown To Introduce Budget Wednesday; Is A 15% Tax Increase Possible?

According to Middletown Township’s website the Township Committee will hold a special meeting on June 2, 2010 at 7 p.m for the purpose of introducing the 2010 Municipal, Utility and Solid Waste Budgets. The meeting will be held at the Middletown Arts Center, 36 Church Street, Middletown.

I am not making this up, I hear that the Municipal Budget looks pretty ugly and could contain a possible tax increase of 15% or more. But don’t fret just yet, there is also a good possibility that the meeting will be postponed due to scheduling conflicts amongst committee members, a quorum may not be possible for Wednesday night.

But if the meeting does go on as scheduled, how could Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger and Deputy Mayor Tony Fiore even consider voting to introduce a budget with such a tax increase?
After all of his posturing and grandstanding about Governor Christie and his “Tool Box” while attempting to follow the lead of the governor by demonizing Middeltown’s teachers and cutting the already defeated Board of Education budget by an additional $2 million dollars, after $11 million had already been stripped away from it by the governor, Scharfenberger would be foolish to think that residents would ever take him serious again on budget issues.
If this budget is introduced as is, the Middletown GOP will finally be seen as the tax and spenders that they really are. Remember last year Gerry and his friends raised the tax rate by 5.2% which pushed the tax rate up 16% over the past 4 years, can Middletown afford that kind of tax increase in just one year? I think not!
If this 15% figure is true (which it could be true due to the $5 million budget defect that exists) then Scharfenberger, Township Administrator Tony Mercantante and our new CFO Nick Transente will have some explaining to do and will have to come up with some very good answers as to why they weren’t able to keep the increase close to Christie’s proposed budget cap.

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Filed under Arts Center, budget deficit, budget meeting, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Board of Education, Middletown Township Committee, municipal tax rates, Nick Transente, Tony Mercantante