Last week Middletown special financial consultant Bob Roth re-introduced the FY 2009 budget to the Township Committee. The budget, which seems as though it was put together by the use of smoke and a mirror will be voted on and approved tonight.
The budget relays on 1 shot gimmicks such as reducing the surplus reserve for uncollected taxes and deferring a portion of the townships pension obligation, so instead of a 9.2% tax increase that was proposed back in April the new tax increase to the municipal rate will be 5.8%, and we have the State to thank for it.
After months of telling the public how hard and how tirelessly they were working on the budget, meeting department heads over and over again to ensure that their budgets fell in line with township priorities, the Republicans on the Township Committee lead by Mayor Brightbill and Deputy Mayor Scharfenberger left the decision making to the state because they could not find any budget cuts or savings themselves!
The junior Committeeman, Republican Tony ”the Fibber” Fiore went as far as saying that the only area in the budget left open to the Committee in which to cut costs, was emergency services and to lay-off or furlough police officers and staff.
What a stupid thing to say!!
How could you possible say that the only place left in the budget in which to cut costs would be to trim the police department? Fiore’s statement from the dais last week was not only a head shaker, but also an outrageously gross attempt to place blame on others for the Republican’s failures to produce a budget that was inline with the realities of the day.
There were and are numerous areas and line items throughout the FY 2009 budget that could have been cut or trimmed in order to lessen the financial impact on residents if the Republicans truly wished.
Fiore, for all of his efforts and work that he put into the budget could not even implement any of his infamous ideas from the 8-point plan that he introduced back on February 2nd. Other than the suspension of the township committee’s yearly stipend, none of his ideas listed below were worthy enough for consideration:
1. Suspend the entire Township Committee’s salaries.
2. Freeze all non-essential hiring not required by law.
3. Freeze all union and non-union salaries.
4. Evaluate all non-essential, non-revenue generating programs for elimination.
5. Seek out additional shared service arrangements.
6. Sell surplus township property and assets.
7. Eliminate all non-essential Township subscriptions and dues payments.
8. Eliminate all conference and travel expenses unless required by law for continuing education requirements.
Now, how can someone have the nerve to sit in front of others and say with a straight face that the only remaining area in the budget in which to cut or reduce would be police manpower? Were the other 7 out of 8 recommendations that Tony Fiore proposed deemed to essential by his fellow Republicans and therefore taken off the table?
I have a several budget savings ideas, in no particular order, that I would like to recommend to Tony Fiore and his Republican colleagues to consider before the next time they infer that the only option left open to the Township Committee is to cut the budget by reducing the size of Middletown’s police force:
1. Privatize the Cultural Arts Center or change its mission to allow for-profit organizations to rent and utilize the building.
2. Reduce the number of township supplied employee cars.
3. Reduce the operating hours for the Kanes lane recycling facility.
4. Privatize a portion of public works.
5. Fund Middletown Matters by sell advertisments instead of by tax payer dollars.
6. Consolidating purchases, printing and advertising.
Based on the horrible outcome of this year’s budget process to the residents of Middletown, it is essential that the Township Committee establish a Budget/Finance Committee that would interact with township personnel well before the end of the calendar year and make specific recommendations to the Township Committee on budget matters. To leave important budget issues up to the State, like was done with this years budget, is irresponsible.
And to suggest that the only option left to the Committee to reduce spending is to lay-off township police officers, is just plain stupid.