Category Archives: Budget Battle

>AS A Matter Of Fact…Democrats make a statement with budget plan of their own

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June 27th, 2011 | Published in NJPP Blog: As a Matter of Fact …

Democrats have done an unexpected thing. With just days to go before a budget must be enacted, they have introduced their own budget – a “this is what we stand for” budget – with a companion millionaires’ tax to restore at least some of the Christie administration’s proposed program cuts.

That they did this shouldn’t be a surprise.

It’s common practice for the party that controls the Legislature to draft and sponsor the state budget. The Democrats control both houses just as they did last year.

But last year the majority party ceded budget power to the Republican minority, who produced a bill that closely resembled Governor Christie’s March 2010 proposal. Many expected the same to happen this year, so it’s somewhat surprising Democratic leaders have proposed a spending plan of their own.

Here’s what is being proposed [The actual list of changes has not been posted publicly although the press has been briefed and Senate President Sweeney’s office confirmed details]:

MORE REVENUE

$913 million from higher than expected revenue estimates: In March 2011, Governor Christie’s proposed budget planned to spend $29.4 billion in FY 2012. In May, when revenue projections were updated, the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimated that collections for the current year and next would be $913 million more than the Governor’s original March estimate. The estimate assumed the current tax structure would remain the same.

$550 million from the reintroduction of the millionaires’ tax: Last year, the legislature passed a millionaires’ tax bill that increased taxes on taxpayers with incomes over $1 million. Governor Christie vetoed the bill. The legislature could not override the veto. In this year’s bill, the additional tax revenue would be tied to additional aid for wealthier suburban schools. Part of the logic is that Republican legislators might be willing to vote for a bill to raise income tax rates on their wealthier constituents if that additional revenue stays in the wealthier school districts.

$300 million in funding shifts from programs that have unused balances: Not all programs spend their entire appropriation every year. Unspent funds either lapse and become unavailable to the program or they rollover and become part of the same program’s spending in the following year. This year the legislature has determined that $300 million is available to be cut from programs that have been over-funded in the past and added to programs that need additional support.

AMONG THE DEMOCRATS’ PRIORITIES

School Aid: The democrats’ bill would add at least $1.1 billion to school spending. Senator Sweeney said this includes the Supreme Court-mandated $500 million for the state’s poorest, urban districts and $600 million for defunded suburban school districts. Something to keep in mind is that the original Millionaires tax enacted in 2004 was tied to property tax relief for senior citizens. That connection made the bill palatable to some Republican legislators who represented senior citizens who would benefit from the property tax relief but would not be subject to the higher tax rates.

Property Tax Relief: It is said the bill would double Homestead Property Tax Rebates – not triple them as Christie said he would do.

Money not spent on the Homestead Property Tax Rebates would be used to unfreeze the Senior Freeze program, allowing new seniors to participate and raising the amount rebated. This program freezes property taxes for people over 65 who earn less than $80,000. In the current fiscal year, only seniors already in the program were eligible for the rebate and the amount was limited to the amount received in the prior year.

It is said an additional $50 million would be made available to communities with understaffed fire and police departments – aiding Newark, Camden and other communities with high crime rates.

Health Care: It is said the bill would restore $7.5 million in ideological cuts to women’s health clinics and $300 million for NJ FamilyCare and Medicaid to allow working parents to continue to obtain affordable health care coverage.

WILL THIS WORK?

By law, New Jersey must pass a budget by the end of the day on Thursday, June 30th. Passing a budget on time is a deadline the state has always taken seriously.

It is impossible to know now how the negotiations are going – if the Democrats will be successful in their attempt to share the sacrifice among all income groups and help the poor and middle class in this state. The governor vetoed a millionaires’ tax last year and has said he will veto it again. It seems unlikely Republicans would join Democrats to over-ride the governor’s veto, especially in an election year, although redistricting has left some Republicans in more Democratic districts.

In battles of the budget, the New Jersey governor holds most of the cards. He alone has the power to determine revenues and set the limit on funds available for programs. If Governor Christie doesn’t agree the state will collect an additional $800 million next year or if he vetoes the Millionaires’ tax and the legislature can’t over ride the veto, that’s money the legislature can’t spend. In addition, New Jersey’s governor has line-item veto power. Any program he doesn’t want funded can be reduced or eliminated. If this happens, the legislature’s only recourse is to override that veto if two-thirds of the legislators support the override.

The only successful override of a governor’s veto was in 1992. Governor Florio vetoed the entire budget passed by the then Republican-controlled legislature. The Republican budget had cut $1.1 billion from Governor Florio’s proposed $15.7 billion budget. At the time, the Republicans had a 27-to-13 majority in the Senate and a 58-to-22 majority in the Assembly. The override passed both houses with no votes to spare. (It was opposed by all Democrats and, in the Assembly, two Republicans.

Democrats now have a 24-to-16 majority in the Senate and a 47-to-33 majority in the Assembly, making veto overrides more difficult. So far none have been successful. Perhaps it will be this budget – this statement of what New Jersey ought to stand for – that will be the first success.

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Filed under As a Matter of Fact, Budget Battle, Democratic Budget, Democratic priorities, Gov. Chris Christie, Health Care, higher revenue, Millionaire'sTax, New Jersey Policy Perspective, property tax relief

>President Obama’s Weekly Address 4/9/11: President Obama on the Budget Compromise to Avoid a Government Shutdown

>After weeks of negotiations, President Obama and leaders from both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress found common ground in an agreement about the United States’ budget. This means the government will remain open to serve the public, including small businesses who need need loans to grow, families who’ve applied for mortgages and others who are visiting national parks and museums. It also means that hundreds of thousands of Americans – including brave men and women in uniform – will get paychecks on time.

In his Weekly Address, the President discusses the importance of the bipartisan budget agreement that represents both a significant investment in the United States’ future – and the largest annual spending cut in our history.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/all/modules/swftools/shared/flash_media_player/player5x2.swf

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Filed under Budget Battle, Congress, government shutdown, John Boehner, President Obama, US Sen. Harry Reid, weekly address

Scharfenberger Admits "… a budget shortfall of several million dollars in the coming year."

Not many surprises happened yesterday at Re-Organization day in Middletown other than re-appointed mayor Gerry Scharfenberger admitted during his address that the Township was facing “… a budget shortfall of several million dollars in the coming year.”

This statement is really quite out of character for our mayor because for the past couple of months Committeeman Sean Byrnes and former Committeeman Patrick Short have been warning everyone about this on coming problem,while Scharfenberger and his fellow GOPer’s have accused the Democrats of playing “Chicken Little” .

Last months workshop meeting received a lot of headlines in local papers because Byrnes and Short would not vote for borrowing money from 2010 ‘s budget for an emergency appropriation to pay for medical claims in 2009 without first seeing a plan on how the township planned on closing, in Byrnes’s estimation, a $5 million budget shortfall 2010. Byrnes stated during the workshop meeting that layoffs throughout all departments would be necessary without some type spending plan for the coming new year.

They ultimately voted to approve $800,000 of the emergency appropriation to pay the medical claims and deferred the remainder to discuss at the next meeting with the stipulation that the township needed to come up with some sort of spending plan before than.

At the December 21st Township Committee meeting Byrnes and Short once again refused to borrow money from 2010 to pay for the outstanding claims because nothing was presented during the two week period since the previous meeting to show them that the township was taking seriously the looming budget crisis.
Now upon his re-appointment as mayor he admits that there is a looming crisis and wants to assure everyone that he will do everything in his power to make the best of it by “…a continued freeze on all township salaries, the potential sale of unneeded township assets, increased worker contributions to health benefits, new interlocal agreements and the sale of the township swim club.”
We’ve heard all this before from Scharfenberger and his GOP buddies, the only new proposal here is to sell the swim club and that was proposed 3 years ago by Patrick Short.
Last February Patrick Short and Sean Brynes submitted budget cutting ideas to the Township Administrator and the CFO and many if not all were rejected out of hand.
Last week Sean Byrnes issued a press release to highlight some additional proposals that he believes would save the township money for 2010 and years to come. They are practical and make sense. Maybe the Committee can use these proposals as a starting point when they begin to formulate the 2010 budget and not let partisan politics get in the way of doing what’s right for the residents of Middletown.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Budget Battle, budget cuts, Budget Shortfall, Democrat, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, Middletown Republicans, Sean F. Byrnes, tax increase, the Independent

Thanks to GOP, Middletown Has Become Unaffordable

Check out Pat Walsh’s post “Thank you Middletown GOP for making it completely unaffordable to live in Middletown!” over at her blog, Middletown Musings, she has some very good (and I don’t mean in a nice way) things to say about the 9.2% budget increase that Pam, Gerry and Tony are pushing on to the residents of Middletown.

Democrats have been warning Middletown for years now about the reckless spending habits of the Middletown GOP.  
We’re all having a rough time balancing our own checkbooks and have had to cut expenses in this current economic enviroment the country is in, unfortunately the Republicans in town fell otherwise and refuse to cut spending and are increasing the size the  local government by going on a hiring binge again, word has it that the township is looking to fill several positions within Parks & Rec. and Public Works. 
If you are looking for a nice cushy job send your resumes now! 
 

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Filed under Budget Battle, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, Middletown GOP, Pamela Brightbill, tax increase, Tony"the fibber"Fiore

>In Middletown’s“Battle of the Budget” Democrats Proposed True Budget Savings Of $3Million,While Brightbill,Scharfenberger and Fiore have No New Ideas

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Since Monday nights Middletown workshop meeting, where the junior Republican Committeeman, Tony “the Fibber” Fiore, presented an 8 point plan to limit the Township budget by representing previous democratic proposals as his own, Democrats on the Middletown Township Committee, Patrick Short and Sean Brynes have made public their proposals for limiting spending and cutting taxes.

In a letter sent to Township CFO Richard Wright and then acting Township Administrator Fred Jahns on April 5th of last year, Short and Byrnes listed their ideas, that if followed, had the potential to save the tax payers of Middletown almost $3 Million.

The following is the text of that letter and according to Committeemen Short and Brynes as far as they are concerned, the proposals that are outlined below are still relevant one year later and on the table for open and honest discussions:

Sean and I have reviewed the proposed Middletown Budget for 2008 and have identified where further budget reductions could be made. Attached is a copy of a worksheet that captures our recommendations.

The attached worksheet is in a matrix format. From top left to bottom left is a list of Budget Line Items. Across the top, from left to right, is the Line Item Description, Budget Account Number, the Administration’s Recommended Budget Level, Proposed Reduction (further budget reductions made by Sean and I), and Remarks (that provide justification for our reductions). Columns F-I have been added to compare the 2007 Salary Levels to 2008 Salary Levels by providing the salary difference and percentage % of differences. Column J-Savings is a column that totals the savings from each of the proposed reductions and a place holder has been established for any reductions made to a salary line.

As result of our recommended changes, a sub-total of $1,913,652.00 could be obtained (see bottom right side of page 6). And, an additional $654,540.06 could be recognized if salaries were not increased to the levels that are currently specified within the 2008 budget; thus resulting in an opportunity for an overall savings total of $2,568,192.06 if all of the proposed budget reductions were taken into account.

In addition, Grants and their associated costs have been separated within the worksheet so an examination can be made to determine if they are worth pursuing based on need, cost, and success rate.

Lastly, Sean and I have provided a list of observations and further recommendations for your consideration:

1. Wean Middletown Township off Municipal State aid so Middletown becomes self reliant and budget can be approved far earlier than under existing process
2. Cut back on donations, subsides, dues, subscriptions, travel, overtime, operating expense, misc. expense and cap training across the board. Question the Salary Wages level increases across board.
3. Restrict non essential spending until the budget is approved (note 30% of budget has been spent)
4. Restrict non essential O/T until the budget is approved
5. Restrict non-essential Travel. All travel must be approved by administrator
6. Any surprised money obtained from the State should go directly into Tax Relief
7. Note: Total Debt payment = $8.48M (This has contributed to our current situation)
• Debt Principal $4.8M
• Debt on NJEDA $13,220
• Debt Service $2.3M
• Debt Service-Green Trust $92,550
• Debt MCIA $1.3M
8. Examine if capital improvements can be spread over two year period (Note: capital improvements of $3.45M which includes NJDT grant of $175K, could be spread over a two year period, thus providing some savings
9. Examine need for employee cars
10. Examine if telephone providers could be competed or packaged
11. Charge back services to the Arts Center
12. Conduct study to determine cost advantages of privatizing the Arts Center
13. Apply 3.125% Administration fee to library
14. Consolidated services with library
15. Consolidated services with Schools
16. Increase municipal tax associated with hotels etc.
17. Compete multiple fuel source provider
18. Eliminate positions not filled since November
19. Obtain independent financial consultant to review and make recommendations
20. Reduce the number of days recycle facility is open (7 days to 5 days)
21. Consider Mayor’s secretary position as a shared resource; part time or eliminate
22. Consider part time vs. OT for Police clerk
23. Consider part time vs. OT for Court Clerk
24. Fill administrator’s position with assistant or delay backfill of person filling administrators position until next year
25. Examine if there is a benefit to consolidating the zoning and planning board
26. Review blank purchase order purchases
27. Establish management control over attorneys and engineers; Gain planned work by each before authorization is provided
28. Retain full-time attorney to perform many of the recurring tasks done by outside counsel
29. Develop an “In source” engineering plan
30. Examine funding for grants based on success rate, likelihood to obtain, necessary or nice to have criteria
31. Conduct special audit of vehicle maintenance; Consider state contract or compete maintenance based on consolidated volume;
32. Note: Reserve for Uncollected Taxes = $4.M
33. Consolidate Printing & Advertising
34. Develop an approach to get the budget out to the people for review at the same time that committee members review the budget and before budget is introduced (Reason: to stimulate thought to save $)
35. Establish Budget Committee of two Township Committee members who begin interacting with staff well before end of calendar year and make specific recommendation to full Committee on budget
36. Study privatization of segments of Public Works mission
37. Additional revenue may be generated by:
38. Development and lease of concession at Municipal parking lots
39. Optimizing taxes received per zoned property

Thank you,

Sean Byrnes
Patrick Short

Note From Committeeman Patrick Short:
We are working to do the same for this year but we have not received a credible base line to do the lower level analysis (i.e. Parks and Rec is asking for an 18% increase.. totally in the wrong direction). That is why we have stated that the board should establish the target budget line and pass that down to the departments. At the higher level we have expressed our thoughts similar to what Tony F stated last night to include freeze of OT except for PD and emergency services; establish 10% reduction on last year’s operating expenses until budget is approved. Keep in mind for two years running with these temporary budgets with no constraints attached enabled the departments to expend 40% of the total budget before the budget was approved.

These are the type of savings that were dismissed as inconsequential and frivolous last year by the former mayor. Now that they see it is necessary to take some type of action they adopt these ideas as their own because they make the most sense. It is time for the Committee to take on the leadership role that they were elected to do, instead of being subject to those that they are suppose to be leading.

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Filed under Budget Battle, Democrats, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township, New Jersey, Pamela Brightbill, Patrick Short, Republicans, Sean F. Byrnes, Tony"the fibber"Fiore

In Middletown’s“Battle of the Budget” Democrats Proposed True Budget Savings Of $3Million,While Brightbill,Scharfenberger and Fiore have No New Ideas

Since Monday nights Middletown workshop meeting, where the junior Republican Committeeman, Tony “the Fibber” Fiore, presented an 8 point plan to limit the Township budget by representing previous democratic proposals as his own, Democrats on the Middletown Township Committee, Patrick Short and Sean Brynes have made public their proposals for limiting spending and cutting taxes.

In a letter sent to Township CFO Richard Wright and then acting Township Administrator Fred Jahns on April 5th of last year, Short and Byrnes listed their ideas, that if followed, had the potential to save the tax payers of Middletown almost $3 Million.

The following is the text of that letter and according to Committeemen Short and Brynes as far as they are concerned, the proposals that are outlined below are still relevant one year later and on the table for open and honest discussions:

Sean and I have reviewed the proposed Middletown Budget for 2008 and have identified where further budget reductions could be made. Attached is a copy of a worksheet that captures our recommendations.

The attached worksheet is in a matrix format. From top left to bottom left is a list of Budget Line Items. Across the top, from left to right, is the Line Item Description, Budget Account Number, the Administration’s Recommended Budget Level, Proposed Reduction (further budget reductions made by Sean and I), and Remarks (that provide justification for our reductions). Columns F-I have been added to compare the 2007 Salary Levels to 2008 Salary Levels by providing the salary difference and percentage % of differences. Column J-Savings is a column that totals the savings from each of the proposed reductions and a place holder has been established for any reductions made to a salary line.

As result of our recommended changes, a sub-total of $1,913,652.00 could be obtained (see bottom right side of page 6). And, an additional $654,540.06 could be recognized if salaries were not increased to the levels that are currently specified within the 2008 budget; thus resulting in an opportunity for an overall savings total of $2,568,192.06 if all of the proposed budget reductions were taken into account.

In addition, Grants and their associated costs have been separated within the worksheet so an examination can be made to determine if they are worth pursuing based on need, cost, and success rate.

Lastly, Sean and I have provided a list of observations and further recommendations for your consideration:

1. Wean Middletown Township off Municipal State aid so Middletown becomes self reliant and budget can be approved far earlier than under existing process
2. Cut back on donations, subsides, dues, subscriptions, travel, overtime, operating expense, misc. expense and cap training across the board. Question the Salary Wages level increases across board.
3. Restrict non essential spending until the budget is approved (note 30% of budget has been spent)
4. Restrict non essential O/T until the budget is approved
5. Restrict non-essential Travel. All travel must be approved by administrator
6. Any surprised money obtained from the State should go directly into Tax Relief
7. Note: Total Debt payment = $8.48M (This has contributed to our current situation)
• Debt Principal $4.8M
• Debt on NJEDA $13,220
• Debt Service $2.3M
• Debt Service-Green Trust $92,550
• Debt MCIA $1.3M
8. Examine if capital improvements can be spread over two year period (Note: capital improvements of $3.45M which includes NJDT grant of $175K, could be spread over a two year period, thus providing some savings
9. Examine need for employee cars
10. Examine if telephone providers could be competed or packaged
11. Charge back services to the Arts Center
12. Conduct study to determine cost advantages of privatizing the Arts Center
13. Apply 3.125% Administration fee to library
14. Consolidated services with library
15. Consolidated services with Schools
16. Increase municipal tax associated with hotels etc.
17. Compete multiple fuel source provider
18. Eliminate positions not filled since November
19. Obtain independent financial consultant to review and make recommendations
20. Reduce the number of days recycle facility is open (7 days to 5 days)
21. Consider Mayor’s secretary position as a shared resource; part time or eliminate
22. Consider part time vs. OT for Police clerk
23. Consider part time vs. OT for Court Clerk
24. Fill administrator’s position with assistant or delay backfill of person filling administrators position until next year
25. Examine if there is a benefit to consolidating the zoning and planning board
26. Review blank purchase order purchases
27. Establish management control over attorneys and engineers; Gain planned work by each before authorization is provided
28. Retain full-time attorney to perform many of the recurring tasks done by outside counsel
29. Develop an “In source” engineering plan
30. Examine funding for grants based on success rate, likelihood to obtain, necessary or nice to have criteria
31. Conduct special audit of vehicle maintenance; Consider state contract or compete maintenance based on consolidated volume;
32. Note: Reserve for Uncollected Taxes = $4.M
33. Consolidate Printing & Advertising
34. Develop an approach to get the budget out to the people for review at the same time that committee members review the budget and before budget is introduced (Reason: to stimulate thought to save $)
35. Establish Budget Committee of two Township Committee members who begin interacting with staff well before end of calendar year and make specific recommendation to full Committee on budget
36. Study privatization of segments of Public Works mission
37. Additional revenue may be generated by:
38. Development and lease of concession at Municipal parking lots
39. Optimizing taxes received per zoned property

Thank you,

Sean Byrnes
Patrick Short

Note From Committeeman Patrick Short:
We are working to do the same for this year but we have not received a credible base line to do the lower level analysis (i.e. Parks and Rec is asking for an 18% increase.. totally in the wrong direction). That is why we have stated that the board should establish the target budget line and pass that down to the departments. At the higher level we have expressed our thoughts similar to what Tony F stated last night to include freeze of OT except for PD and emergency services; establish 10% reduction on last year’s operating expenses until budget is approved. Keep in mind for two years running with these temporary budgets with no constraints attached enabled the departments to expend 40% of the total budget before the budget was approved.

These are the type of savings that were dismissed as inconsequential and frivolous last year by the former mayor. Now that they see it is necessary to take some type of action they adopt these ideas as their own because they make the most sense. It is time for the Committee to take on the leadership role that they were elected to do, instead of being subject to those that they are suppose to be leading.

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Filed under Budget Battle, Democrats, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township, New Jersey, Pamela Brightbill, Patrick Short, Republicans, Sean F. Byrnes, Tony"the fibber"Fiore

>Opening Salvo In Middletown Budget Battle Misses Mark

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In an obvious attempt at one-upmanship Monday night February 2nd at the monthly workshop meeting, the Middletown Republicans fired the opening salvo in this years “Battle of the Budget”.

Towards the end of a long and tedious meeting, which ended at 11:30 pm, the newest member of the Township Committee, Republican Tony “the Fibber” Fiore, introduced his 8 point plan for controlling spending. Unfortunately for the residents of Middletown, the Fibber’s plan contains nothing new or bold. Democrats Patrick Short and Sean Byrnes have proposed seven out of the eight points outlined by Fiore before in one form or another.

Only the first of the Fibber’s proposals (listed below) is worth discussion, even though the impact to the budget of suspending the salaries of the Township Committee would be minimal and purely symbolic:

(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; and
(8) Eliminate all conference and travel expenses unless required by law for continuing education requirements.”

For a team that promised “New Ideas”, to put “ Tax Payers First” and to “Cut Wasteful Spending and Lower Our Property Taxes”, Mayor Brightbill and Tony “the Fibber” Fiore have taken the ideas of their Democratic counterparts for themselves in order to make it seem as if the Republican majority on the Township Committee truly care and understand the current economic hard times the Township of Middletown faces.

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Filed under Budget Battle, Democrats, Middletown Republicans, Middletown Township, Pamela Brightbill, Patrick Short, Sean F. Byrnes, Tony"the fibber"Fiore, Township Committee, workshop meeting