Category Archives: budget introduction

>Let The Spin Begin: Press Release In Advance Of Budget Introduction Issued By Middletown Committee


In advance of tonights budget introduction by the Middletown Township Committee, the follwoing press release was issued a short while ago, all I can say is let the spinning begin. It seems that only in Middletown can the municipal budget be cut by nearly $4 million but the amount need to be raise through taxation increases by $1.58million. I guess I should be glad though, could you imagine what the tax increase could have been if the Township Committee didn’t adhere to the Governor’s mandate to stay under the 2% cap?…

MIDDLETOWN – The Middletown Township Committee anticipates introducing its 2011 municipal budget that is $3.87 million (5.9%) less than the Township’s 2010 budget.

“Middletown’s proposed municipal budget is very austere and in full conformance with the new 2% cap levy law despite the Legislature’s continued failure to enact the Governor’s tool kit reforms that would empower the Township to make further cuts,” said Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore.

“We are hopeful to continue to rein in spending through ongoing negotiations with the Township’s collective bargaining units with a focus on decreasing the Township’s health care costs.” “Cuts in the proposed budget include the layoffs of 26 employees, including 10 police officers, and the third consecutive year of salary freezes for the Township’s managerial employees,” continued Fiore.

“Middletown will continue to focus on core governmental functions while seeking other ways to continue to reduce costs though interlocal agreements and the Township’s solar initiative that is currently under way.”

Proposed Budget Data and Facts

  • The proposed 2011 municipal budget is $61,114,285 compared to the adopted 2010 budget that was $64,979,576.
  • The proposed budget represents an actual decrease in spending of $3,865,291 (5.9%) from the 2010 budget.
  • The largest cost drivers offsetting the Township’s $3.87 million in budget cuts are tax appeal refunds, State-mandated pension contribution increases of 22%, and costs associated with deferred charges due to numerous retirements last year.
  • The proposed 2011 budget anticipates an increase in the total tax levy of $1,357,855 which complies with the new 2% cap levy law and will cost the average Middletown homeowner approximately $5 per month.
  • The municipal budget makes up only approximately 22% of the average property tax bill, the remaining portion relates to the school and county tax levies.


Filed under 2% cap, budget introduction, Governor Christie, Middletown Township Committee, press release, Spin, Tony Fiore

>Middletown Budget Introduction and Public Hearing For New Salary (Bonus) Ordinance On Tonight’s Agenda

>During tonight’s Middletown Township monthly workshop meeting, two items are on the agenda that should be of interest to residents, the Township spending plan for 2011 will be introduced and Ordinance 2011-3027 will be given it’s public hearing.

The Township Committee, unlike prior years, will not host a special meeting tonight for the introduction of the Township’s proposed FY2011. Instead the introduction will be part of tonight’s workshop meeting and will limit resident comments and questions until the “Public Comments” portion of the meeting at end of the night.

After the budget introduction a public hearing is scheduled to take place on Ordinance 2011-3027 – the “Ordinance Amending Management Salaries and Non-Union Employees for 2011- Revised”, A.K.A “the Bonus” ordinance. For those that are not familiar this ordinance , this is the controversial ordinance that will authorize $20,000 worth of bonuses (or Stipends as mayor Fiore has now been calling them) to Middletown’s Tax Assessor Charles Heck and his assistant for work they did preparing for the Townships’ recent reassessment which was conducted by Reality Appraisal. This ordinance is scheduled for adoption at the next Township Committee on April 18th, so now is the time to speak out against it.

The meeting is expected to start at 8pm in the small conference room off the Clerk’s Office at Town Hall, so it would be wise to show-up early in case there is a large crowd interested in hearing the details behind this years budget or the proposed salary ordinance. Hopefully though, if that is the case and a large number of indiviuals show-up the meeting will be moved to the larger Court Room.

I hope to see you there.

Here is a link to tonight’s meeting agenda

1 Comment

Filed under bonuses, budget introduction, budget resolution, Charles Heck, Middletown Township Committee, proposed budget, workshop meeting

>Finally Some News About Middletown’s Proposed School Budget

>In today’s issue of the Independent which was posted online Tuesday night, comes word about the proposed Middletown School budget.

According to the article, a special school board meeting was held on March 2nd to introduce the school budget. This year’s budget would increase over last year budget by 2%, which would equate to a $2,445,064 increase in the tax levy and would support a budget that would be $145,211,537 or roughly $6.5 million more than last year.
There are a few things that were mentioned in the article that strike me in a good way and one thing that potentially troubles me.
Much of this year’s budget increase would go towards restoring some of the things that were lost after last years budget defeat. Things like capital improvements to High School North, funding for technology and the hiring back of 5.5 teachers (I wonder what happen to the other half).
What I found trouble about what was contained in the article was that it mentioned that contract talks between the MTEA and the Middletown Board of Education has reached an impasse, and now both sides are waiting to hear from the Public Employment Relations Commission to determine if negotiations should resume.
It turns out that this proposed budget was put together with the idea that the MTEA would accept a wage freeze for the 20011/2012 school year and contribute more towards their health benefits, which would help to offset a $4 million increase in health care costs.
I would hope that after the beating the MTEA took last year in the public opinion of residents, they would be slightly more lenient in their contract negotiations this year with the school system for the public good and in an effort to somewhat reform their image.
Without being involved in those negotiations however, it is hard to determine if good faith negotiations and measures have taken place between the two side. So I won’t pass judgement on either side just yet.
I am sure though, that as this impasse progresses and the time comes closer to having the School budget voted on in April, we’ll hear an awful lot more about this.
You can read the article >>> Here


Filed under budget introduction, contract impasse, Middletown Board of Education, MTEA, school budgets, Teachers

>Middletown resident seeks accurate Township budget and Municipal Tax increase information

>Press Release

Middletown resident seeks accurate Township budget and Municipal Tax increase information

(Middletown, Monmouth County NJ)-

Patrick Short a long time resident of Middletown stated today that he intends to file an “Order to Show Cause” with the Superior Court of Freehold based on an official mailing he received from the Township of Middletown on the 2010 Township budget and 2010 property tax.

Early last week, Mr. Short received an official letter that was sent to over 21, 000 households in the Middletown Township entitled “2010 Property Tax Fact Sheet”.

Mr. Short claims that official correspondence contains false and misleading information when it comes to the amount of municipal tax that will increase and that he as a resident is expected to pay in 2010.

Mr. Short challenges several passages in the official correspondence; specifically the letter reads, “This year’s final adopted budget which totals $64.7 million reflects a reduction of 40 staff positions…..”, and where the letter reads, “This budget represents a 2.67% increase in property tax.”

Mr. Short argues that the Municipal tax increase for 2010 is really closer to 13.4% and not 2.67% if the Approved 2010 Township Budget that is posted on the Township website is correct. Short compared the line item titled “Amount to be Raised by Taxes for Support of Municipal Budget, for Local tax Municipal Purposes” in the 2010 approved budget to same line item in the approved Amended 2009 Township Budget: $45,349,477.91 as compared to $40,001,112.58, resulting in an increase of $5,348,365 or a 13.4% municipal tax increase to support his claim.

At least fifty (50) residents verified Mr. Short’s claim by checking their past tax receipts.

Mr. Short would not comment on whether he felt the official letter was published for political purposes given Middletown Township’s appointed Mayor, Gerald Scharfenberger, is up for re-election this year and the fact that he has increased Municipal taxes approximately 40% since he has been on the Township Committee. Instead, Short stated that he would encourage Middletown taxpayers to check their past municipal tax receipts to see how much the Municipal taxes have increased.

As for the Township’s claimed to have reduced a total of 40 staff positions, Mr. Short stated that when he compared the 2009 Township payroll to the current 2010 Township payroll dated August 13 2009, he could only find a total reduction of 5 staff positions. “The only way the Township could come close to the numbers that they are citing of a 40 staff reduction would be to compare the staffing levels over a 20 year span, from 1990 to 2010 levels”.

Mr. Short also challenges the Township claim that reads, “The adopted budget made up for nearly $ 10 million in lost revenue in 2010.” Mr. Short found when comparing the General Revenue totals between 2009 and 2010 the revenue shortfall was just over $2 million dollars and not the $10M in lost revenue as the Township claims,

“The Township has an obligation to state the facts and not spin the information. What disturbs me is that the township used taxpayer funding to publish and distribute this false information to every house hold in Middletown. And, the local newspapers published this inaccurate information. Middletown residents are making decisions based on inaccurate information and it needs to be corrected immediately”, stated Short. Short’s intention is challenge is to have the Township of Middletown show how the figures they published and distributed were derived and ultimately have the accurate numbers published so taxpayers can make informed decisions.


Filed under budget increase, budget introduction, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, Patrick Short, press release, property tax cap, tax fact sheet, township budget

>Middletown’s Take on the Budget, with Comments

>The following press release was posted on Middletown’s website yesterday. The press release is the Township’s take on the newly adopted budget as usual it is a great spin job and very deceptive because no matter how you slice it, the municipal tax rate has been increased by nearly 12%. I would also point out that what’s in the press release is bull:

Township officials adopted an amended $64.7 million budget that reflects ongoing efforts to cut costs and keep the tax rate stable by cutting spending an additional $400,000.

“This year’s budget reflects a reduction of 40 staff positions, a salary freeze and across-the-board reductions in departmental operating budgets,” said Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger. “In sum, the Township’s amended budget represents a 2.67% increase in total property taxes in an extraordinarily difficult economic year.”

Under the amended budget, the municipal tax rate will increase 4.6 cents to 39.75 cents per $100 of assessed value. This equates to approximately $17 per month for the average Township home assessed at $435,000.

“This year, municipal taxes represent just 23% of a resident’s tax bill, with 62% being levied for schools and 15% for the county,” concluded Scharfenberger.

The adopted budget addresses nearly $10 million in lost revenue, including:

  • $1.6 million cut in state aid.
  • $1.4 million obligation for retroactive pay under resolved labor contracts.
  • $1 million in increased health care costs and nearly $1 million in deferred excess claims from 2009.
  • $900,000 for extraordinary snow and storm clean-up.
  • $1.8 million in deferred pension payments mandated by the state.
  • $1 million in property tax appeal refunds.
  • $400,000 in lost recycling revenue.

Here’s my response:

  1. Middletown knew a state cut in aid was coming, as did every half wit in the State. State revenues were down like $4.0 billion.
  2. Middletown could have easily predicted the wage increases in unresolved contracts. Unless we negotiated zero percent increases for 3 years, we knew this was coming. Again, very predictable.
  3. On health care costs, Middletown knew they underbudgeted by at least $800,000 in 2009, since they did an emergency appropriation (none of our neighboring towns had to do this). So, Middletown started $800,000 in the whole, and Middletown knew they had to increase their appropriation for 2010 by around $1,000,000. Hello. Not to hard to foresee.
  4. $900,000 for snow plowing. Middletown only budgeted $165,000. The town cut the 2009 snow budget way too much, gambling that we would not have snow.
  5. Deferred pensions. Is Scharfenberger kidding? He voted to defer the pension payment. Sean Brynes and Patrick Short voted no. He knew in May 2009 that we would have to pay this in 2010
  6. The $1,000,000 in tax appeals. I don’t know about this one, I don’t think it’s even in the budget.
  7. Recyling lost revenue is correct, hey Schary got something right.
And here’s yet another way to show how misleading this press release is:
The tax rate, last year was $0.35 per $100 assessed value. A home valued at $435,000 would be required to pay $1,526.85. I have a home with an assessed value of $420,000 and paid over $6K in taxes last year.

Under the new tax rate of $0.3975 I will have to pay $1,729.13. This is an 11.7% increase no matter how you look at it.

Using some of the figures presented below:

Last year rate * this year increase = new tax rate
.35 * .0267 = 0.359345 or almost $0.36 per $100 assessed value

This year rate – last year rate = difference or this year increase
.3975 – .35 = .0475

This year increase / this year rate = percent increase
.0475 / .3975 = 11.95%

Amended budget – last year budget = difference
64.7M – 61.8M = 2.9M

Increase in this year / total budget = percent increase in overall budget
2.9M / 64.7M = 4.48%
The numbers are definately being misrepresented at best.


Filed under adopted budget, budget introduction, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown NJ, Patrick Short, press release, Sean F. Byrnes, State aid cuts, tax appeals, tax increase


Before the beginning of last night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting the following statement from Committeeman Sean Byrnes’ was passed out to members of the press and other attendees of the meeting which addressed his feelings and thoughts about this years budget and the process that produced it:

The Middletown Township Committee will hold a hearing tonight on the proposed municipal budget for 2010. The proposed budget calls for almost a 14% increase in the municipal portion of the tax levy in Middletown. Despite the fact that the current financial downturn started in 2008, the Township Committee has taken no dramatic steps to offset a tide of revenue reductions and expense escalations that will now produce a spike in the tax levy imposed upon Middletown residents. Tonight’s meeting will be the first public meeting dedicated to the 2010 budget, even though Middletown is now 7 months into its 2010 budget year. This budget will not be approved until mid-August, since there is a waiver application to the Local Finance Board on the Township’s tax levy cap that must be approved before the budget can be approved.

To appreciate the degree to which Middletown has ignored this crisis, it is worth studying what happened in 2009 and what Middletown’s elected officials knew in 2009:

  1. In 2009, Middletown deferred pension contributions to avoid a $1.5M expense. This temporary gimmick, that the acting CFO (and former CFO of Middletown for many years) called a “fiscally foolish decision”, meant that Middletown started 2010 with a budget base that did not include that expense. In other words, we temporarily avoided an inevitable expense. Moreover, the contribution in 2010 is approximately $1.9M. Bottom line, $1.9M shortfall in pension contributions to start 2010.
  2. Middletown had to borrow $800,000 in December 2009 from its 2010 budget to pay 2009 expenses. Thus, to start 2010, we knew we were $800,000 in the hole.
  3. On the agenda for tonight’s budget hearing is a resolution to bond to pay tax appeal settlements in excess of $2.0M. The Township Committee knew as of mid-2009 that this obligation would be coming due.
  4. The 2009 Deferral of pension contributions must be paid back (with interest) over 5 years starting in 2012.
  5. The appropriation for health care expenses in 2008 resulted in a $500,000 emergency appropriation. In 2009, this account was almost $1,000,000 short (that’s why you had to borrow the $800,000 from 2010). So unless there was a decrease in health care expenses (which we know there never is), Middletown needed to come up with $1,000,000 in 2010 to offset this shortfall.
  6. Middletown had 3 emergency appropriations in 2010; it’s neighboring towns had none.
  7. In 2009, Middletown used $400,000 in revenue from an old tax appeal appropriation that was never used, but this was a one-time event, not to be repeated, meaning that we needed to come up with new revenues of $400,000 in 2010 to offset this loss.
  8. Middletown knew that there were outstanding collective bargaining agreements that would result in increases for prior years that would generate several hundred thousand dollars in additional cost.
  9. Middletown also knew that police officers had slowed their ticket writing costing the Township several hundred thousand dollars in revenues.
  10. By February 2010, Middletown knew that snow plowing costs might well exceed what was appropriated.

Despite these unprecedented events, the Township failed to act. In mid-December 2009, Committeeman Byrnes warned in a press release that we were facing a $5.0M shortfall and that we needed revised spending plan. The tax levy increase in the proposed 2010 budget is $5.0M. We still have not had a public meeting to discuss the budget.

Although the 13% increase is bad enough, the situation is actually worse. The proposed 2010 budget includes over $1,000,000 in one-time revenue that will disappear in 2011. We also have no mechanism in place to estimate the increasing burden that retirees place on our health care costs. Indeed, Committeeman Byrnes suspects that the big jumps in the last few years are due in part to retiree health care expenses. We have also reduced our surplus to almost nothing over the last few years. We are living on borrowed time. Governor Christie’s tool kit will help, but it is not a magic bullet. More important, we must have a plan for how to use the tools.
The majority of the Township Committee has yet to come to grips with the financial reality facing New Jersey municipalities. The cuts that must be made will be severe and will change the nature of the services delivered by all municipalities. They will eliminate many discretionary programs and focus our efforts on the core governmental services that must be provided to citizens. Until we accept that fact, taxes will continue to rise beyond what our citizens can afford.

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Filed under budget introduction, budget planning, Middletown Township Committee, Sean F. Byrnes, tax increase


I wasn’t able to attend last night’s Middletown Township Committee meeting due to a death in the family. I knew that it was going to be contentious and a spectacle to observe, and according to an article posted on the by Dustin Racioppi it seems to have been just that, below is a small snippet of what he wrote:

“…A pending review of the 2010 spending plan at the state level pushed back the adoption date to mid-August. Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said the Local Finance Board, which reviews municipal budgets for compliance with state laws and regulations, is backlogged, and Middletown is set to have its done by August 11.

Meantime, the township committee held a public hearing on the $65 million proposal, which would increase average tax bills by $211 annually.

As usual of late, the governing body took a beating from the public.

“Everything we buy goes up, but everything coming in goes down,” resident Angela Bennik said. “At the end of the day, when our tax bill comes in, it’s up.”

Bennik later said she’s disappointed with how the town has been run, without a budget in place for most of the year and, in tough economic times, an increase to boot.

“The town should be run like a family,” she said. “I go out to get groceries. If I can’t afford it, tough, you can’t eat. You can’t spend what you don’t have.”

There’s also a sense of frustration that the municipal portion of tax bills skyrocketed over last year, up 13 percent.

“I have wants and I have needs. I can’t have all my wants,” Sandra Craig Barry said. “You are asking us to sign off on a 13-percent increase. We just can’t do it anymore.”

“Not really,” Scharfenberger interjected. “It’s going to be cut down from there.”

Scharfenberger says pending measures, like spreading out retirement pension and benefits payouts, will drastically alter the spending plan when it comes back for adoption next month…”

It seems like they had themselves one hell’va, rip roaring , good time last night! But after reading Racioppi’s column I am left with a few questions for our acting mayor Gerry Scharfenberger.

First of all, Scharfenberger is quoted as saying that the tax increase will not be 13% or above because it will be cut down from there… really, by who? Is Scharfenberger and the rest of his GOP majority buddies waiting for the Local Finance Board to make cuts to the proposed increase for them, therefore skirting their own responsibilities over the budget? It would seem that way.

If that is not the case and Gerry and his friends are trying to spread out pension payments and other cost to limit the 13% tax increase then why wasn’t this plan presented last night with the corresponding savings to the tax rate? They have had nearly a full month since the budget was first introduce to the public on June 23rd, why wasn’t anything new presented last night?
Lastly, according to Scharfenberger, the online suggestion box at the Township’s website is not bearing the fruit that they had hoped it would, so it seems the majority that controls the Township Committee, is out of ideas of their own on how cut costs.
A quote from the article has our mayor stating,

“I would prefer people say what they could do without, we have to hear that. We can’t just surmise it, and then there’s a lot of people on the other side.”

This quote is a classic example of a “cop out” if I ever saw or heard one. As our mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger needs to have a backbone and lead… or step down. Make the tough choices you were elected to make and stop looking to others in order to make yourself and others look good. It is a sign of weakness and unbecoming of an elected official.
You can read Dustin Racioppi’s full article >>>Here


Filed under budget introduction, Dustin Racioppi, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee,, tax increase

Middletown’s Budget Will Not Be Adopted Tonight As Planned

As part of tonight’s Middletown Township Committee meeting, it was planned for the budget that was introduced at the June 23rd introduction meeting to be adopted. Instead of adopting the budget however, it will be on the agenda once again as item for discussion.

The reason behind not adopting the budget tonight after 7 months and relying on yet another temporary budget appropriation to get the township through the month of August is simple. The Township was late in it’s application for approval to the State Local Finance Board, to exceed the 4% State mandated cap on it’s municipal budget.
The budget that was introduced to the public back on June 23rd called for an increase in the municipal tax rate of over 13% and will need approval from the Local Finance Board before being adopted. The hearing with the local finance board is not scheduled until August 11th.
It is be up to the Local Finance Board to accept or reject Middletown’s budget before it can be adopted by the Township. If it is rejected on the basis of being to excessive, then Middletown will need to go back to the drawing board and make further adjustments to it, which could lead to additional layoffs or service cuts in order to lower the propose +13% tax increase.


Filed under budget introduction, Local finance board, Middletown, tax increase, Township Committee

You Can Fool Some Of The People Some of The Time, But…

Two more local media members have chimed in on the the smoke and mirror attempt by the Middletown Republicans lead by Gerry Scharfenberger, his fellow GOP members on the Township Committee and new CFO Nick Trasente, to whitewash, sugarcoat and flat out mislead the public with Monday night’s budget introduction.

As I said earlier, Trasente did a great job at towing the proverbial company line,making it seem the local tax burden was only going increase by 2.8% when in actuality the municipal tax rate will skyrocket by more than 13% once this budget is adopted.

The reporters for both the Independent and, Andrew Davidson and Dustin Racioppi with their articles Township proposes tax increase of 13 percent and BUDGET INCREASES, BUT BY HOW MUCH? did a great job at seeing through the rouse and I recommend that both articles be read.

1 Comment

Filed under budget introduction, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown GOP, Middletown Township, Nick Trasente,, tax increase, the Independent

Middletown’s Budget Introduction Was A Farce And Blatant Attempt to Mislead The Public

Last nights special meeting to introduce the FY 2010 municipal budget was, to put it mildly, a farce and a blatant attempt to mislead residents and those in attendance into believing that all was well.
Middletown’s CFO Nick Trasente, presented a powerpoint slide show that did more to highlight how great Middletown’s FY 2011 budget would be as apposed to how dire a situation the Township was in this year. The spin attempt was mind-boggling and for anyone that had actually read or saw the proposed budget it was mind-blowing!
Trasente tried hard to spin the numbers in a positive way, he presented slides that tried to explain what the budget wold do, what were the cost drivers behind it and items that would not be in the 2011 budget, but he neglected to add that many of these items were not going to be one shot budget increases like he was inferring. Somethings like the retro active pay increase of $1.4M for the police and the $1.8M payment to fulfill the town’s pension obligations would be ongoing.
The biggest snow-job of the whole presentation was when Trasente presented the slide that introduced the proposed tax increase.
The Middletown tax rate will rise from 35 cent per $100 of assessed value to 39.85 cents, for an increase of 4.85 cents. This increase will mean that the average township home that is assessed at $437K will have their property tax increase by $211 a year. In order to make this increase seem palatable to residents, Trasente stated that the percentage increase in the overall tax bill for 2010 would only be 2.8%. It wasn’t until Committeeman Sean Byrnes questioned Trasente that the true tax numbers came to light.
Byrnes asked for clarification on the 2.8% budget increase and whether or not this increase was reflective of only the municipal tax rate or did it include the County and school taxes as well, at which point Trasente sheepishly admitted that the rate included all three.
Byrnes then went on to state that the true municipal tax increase to residents was closer to 13% and pointed out that there was no reason to believe, despite Trasente’s rosie picture of next years budget, that it would be any better.
Nick Trasente did mention however that as of this point the budget was not finalized, there still could be changes to seeing that the budget will not be officially adopted until mid July giving Committee members plenty of time to solicit ideas from the public and make further cuts like the elimination of Middletown day as an example.
If you want to read a different take on last nights meeting then you can read about it HERE. Kevin Penton of the Asbury Park Press was the first to have an article posted on he subject and while it lacks a few details about what went on, I have to give him kudos for seeing through the attempt at sugarcoating the budget presentation while attempting to present the facts.


Filed under Asbury Park Press, budget introduction, Middletown Township, municipal tax rates, Nick Trasente, Sean F. Byrnes, tax increase