Category Archives: budget adoption

Secret Public Hearing at the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) Board meeting of December 7, 2011

by guest blogger Linda Baum

This was the second TOMSA Board meeting I’ve attended, and like last month, I was the only member of the public there.

The meeting started promptly at 7:30 p.m. — I made it there just in time — and the first thing on the agenda was a public hearing on TOMSA’s 2012 budget. Huh?? I knew nothing about it and hadn’t even had a chance to read the words “Public Hearing” on the agenda sheet when Executive Director Pat Parkinson asked if there were public comments. He never announced that it was a public hearing, so I didn’t know. He just awkwardly asked if there were comments. How am I supposed to comment on a budget I haven’t seen at a hearing I didn’t know about? I was caught by surprise and said nothing – a free pass they won’t get next time – and the Board quickly moved to adopt the budget by unanimous vote while I was still scratching my head.

I wondered why nobody told me about the public hearing since I know a few people who regularly check the public notices in the paper. In fact, hat tip to ‘B’ for letting me know about a Dec. 2nd notice in the APP changing the TOMSA Board meeting date from Dec. 8th to Dec. 7th. That notice said nothing about the public hearing. I did an online search for a notice that did, and found none.

Because the public wasn’t notified of the hearing in line with statutory requirements, the budget is subject to legal challenge. I intend to press this issue in order to get another hearing scheduled. I want the opportunity to review the budget (and, oh yeah, obtain it) and to prepare prior to the hearing. You may be wondering why I don’t just use the public comments period at the end of the next Board meeting to discuss the budget. Because hearings are a better forum for obtaining information – different rules apply to them. For one, there’s no time limit, so you will get all of your questions in, while public comments following a meeting may be limited to just a few minutes. Of course, even at hearings there’s no guarantee you’ll get any answers.

If you’re behind on your sewer bills, now’s the time to pay up. There will be an accelerated tax lien sale on December 20th for sewer fees that were due by the end of June 2011. Between 300 and 400 households (or businesses) will be affected.

This is the second year that TOMSA, which operates on a calendar year budget, has done an accelerated tax lien sale. December 2010 was the first one. Prior to that, sales were held each April, including a sale in April 2010. So there were two such sales in 2010, which coincidentally is the first year that TOMSA transferred surplus revenue to the Township – transfers were $365K in 2010 followed by $368K in 2011, per the Township’s 2011 adopted budget. TOMSA’s switch to an accelerated sale schedule in 2010 gave them a one-time boost in extra revenue for that budget year that made up for some of the Authority’s forfeited revenue that year.

One other observation. Late payers caught unaware by the accelerated sale schedule in 2010 may have found themselves with an unexpected lien on their properties and owing far more than they anticipated.

If you read my post on the November 10th meeting of the TOMSA Board, you may recall that there was a lot of discussion about the excessive fees TOMSA was charging for OPRA requests. Well, there’s news. Since then, TOMSA’s OPRA request form has been revised to list the correct fees per the 2010 amendment to the OPRA law, which lowered fees to just 5 cents for letter-size copies and 7 cents for legal, effective 7/1/10.

I mentioned at the December 7th meeting that TOMSA may owe a refund to people who have submitted OPRA requests since 7/1/10. Executive Director Pat Parkinson quickly replied that there haven’t been any requests. No OPRA requests in a year and a half??? I said that seemed unlikely, and some guy at the table actually had the nerve to mock me as if Parkinson’s word is law and I should believe what I’m told. (It was that Brian Nelson-esque fellow I mentioned in my last post. I’ll have to get his name next time.) Well, I’ve done some checking around, and I now know of at least 2 OPRA requests submitted to TOMSA in that timeframe.

A couple of days after the Board meeting, I submitted my own OPRA request to TOMSA. One of the things I asked for is a list of persons who have submitted an OPRA request since 7/1/10. I figure those folks might like to know they have a holiday bonus coming. Mr. Parkinson handles all OPRA requests personally, so it will be interesting to see what I get.

I’m learning that Parkinson has almost complete control over all public communication outside of regular customer service. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the clerical staff even records when an OPRA request comes in – stuff just gets passed right along to Parkinson. If you call and ask for anything more than the most basic information, you will be referred to Parkinson. Other people either don’t know the answers or appear to be under a gag order. Surely, professionals such as the manager or staff accountant have knowledge enough to respond to many questions, but they won’t, and the clerical staff will tell you as much. “You’ll have to speak to Mr. Parkinson,” they say.

One of the capital projects discussed at the meeting had to do with “digging out” manhole covers that had been buried under dirt, tar, or other material over the years. Some were covered during construction operations, some just by the accumulation of foliage. I asked if TOMSA was going to seek reimbursement from any parties whose work projects caused the manholes to be covered in the first place, like the County, the Township, or private contractors. I was thinking, in part, that there might be insurance liability coverage available. Parkinson replied that the projects were done 15 years ago and that TOMSA has no plans to seek recovery. He said that TOMSA now has its people stationed at work sites to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Fifteen years doesn’t strike me as all that long ago. TOMSA was formed in the 1960s, so they’ve been around long enough to have had procedures in place in the 1990s to ensure that manholes weren’t buried during construction projects and, if they were, to be informed and to remediate in a timely manner.

Because TOMSA won’t be seeking possible recovery from the at-fault parties, rate-payers will bear the cost. Even if this is a relatively small project for which TOMSA has money in its budget, it means there is less money for other projects or less surplus to offer the Township for tax relief.

More on manholes: An interesting revelation was made at the Planning Board meeting just this past Wednesday, December 14th. An engineer was making a presentation about infrastructure in and around the Bamm Hollow site, where 190 homes are to be built. He mentioned that the sewer system currently in place is overloaded to the point where sewerage is leaking out of manholes, and that TOMSA is currently sealing manholes to prevent the leakage.

I have to wonder, now, if some of the manholes to be uncovered as part of TOMSA’s “access recovery” project were sealed by TOMSA itself.

There was an update at the TOMSA Board meeting on the Monmouth County Improvement Authority’s solar project, in which TOMSA, the Township, and the Board of Education are participating. The MCIA received only one bid for 16.9 cents per kilowatt hour and the bid was rejected by the MCIA as too high. No word yet on the next move by the MCIA or any of the participants.

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Filed under Bamm Hollow redevelopment, blog post, budget adoption, Linda Baum, manhole covers, Middletown Planning Board, Middletown Sewerage Authority, OPRA requests, Patrick Parkinson, public hearing, TOMSA

It’s Your Town – Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 14- 7/13/11: 2011 Budget Adoption

There was a special Middletown Township Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 13,2011 to adopted the FY2011 Township budget. The Committee held a Public Hearing to amend the municipal budget before adoption, after which the Committee voted to adopt a budget for the 2011 calendar year. You can read all about it in the new edition of It’s Your Town newsletter

This was another quick meeting with no comments from the Committee members except for Mayor Fiore, who said he was very proud of the budget produced this year.

To say that there was a handful of residents in attendance is an over statement, if you took out the reporters that were there only less than 10 people showed up. Do you think the 5pm starting time had anything to do with this? Something as important as a budget adoption could have waited until this evening when Middletown holds it regular monthly meeting in the court room.

Included in this budget is a property tax increase of about 3% over the 2010 increase of 13.85%.

It was stated that quarterly tax bills that reflect the new tax rate should be mailed out in about a week or so after the budget adoption, so you can expect your bills anytime now.

You can read this edition of It’s Your Town newsletter and see a copy of the 2011 adopted Middletown Budget….Here

Once you read the news letter and take a look at the budget, you’ll then be prepared to ask a few questions tonight if you are planning to attend the regular Township meeting at 8pm tonight at Town Hall.
Two things in the budget that quickly stood out to me were interest payments on bond debt, which has increased by nearly $400K over last year and the lack of an adequate surplus of funds built into this years budget. Surplus funds in this years budget have been diminished to $600K , which is extremely low, In years past that number has been as high as $4M. Last years surplus was over $1M and by the end of the FY 2010 it had been exhausted.
By the end of the year will the Township need to borrow money from the 2012 budget to make up for a shortfall as they had had to do at the end of 2009?

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Filed under bond debt, budget adoption, interest payments, Its Your Town, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, resolutions and ordinances, special budget meeting, surplus funds

>New Jersey Policy Perspective President Deborah Howlett’s statement on the FY2012 New Jersey state budget

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July 1, 2011

Governor Christie’s profligate use of the line item veto on the state budget enacted by the Legislature this week did serious damage to virtually every constituency imaginable in this state – except for corporations and the super-rich.

Christie red-lined a litany of critical funding needs: health care for working families; tax credits for low-wage workers; after school programs for inner-city youth; legal counsel for indigent defendants; drugs for people with AIDS; college scholarships for gifted middle-class students; a resource center for Hispanic women; protective services for abused children; postpartum education; legal clinics; libraries; museums; mental health services; technology and even public television programming. The list is as long as it is damaging.

Unlike responsible governors in states such as Connecticut and California, Christie chose only to make cuts in services to balance the state budget. He refused to sustain the critical investments in New Jersey’s social infrastructure that have allowed all of its residents to enjoy a broadly shared prosperity.

The only winners in the governor’s budget are corporations that will continue to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax subsidies; those wealthy residents whose yearly income exceeds $1 million; and a governor who continues to choose partisan politics over sound public policy.

It’s now up to the Legislature to right these wrongs by over-riding the governor’s veto, line-by-line if necessary.

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Filed under budget adoption, Gov. Chris Christie, line item veto, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Budget

>It’s Your Town Newsletter Volumn 2, Issue 19, 9/7/10; Budget Adoption Meeting

>There were two Middletown Township Committee meetings that took place Tuesday night 9/7/10. This edition of It’s Your Town Newsletter contains information from the first and most important meeting, the budget adoption meeting, where the 2010 budget was finally voted on.

Attached you will find meeting agendas, the resolution that amended the budget that was introduced in June and a copy of the final amended budget.

The second newsletter that covers the main Middletown Township Meeting will be published and available shortly.

Read the newsletter >>> Here

If you would like to have this newsletter sent directly to your inbox send your request to itsourtown@yahoo.com

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Filed under budget adoption, Its Your Town, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, resolutions and ordinances, special budget meeting