Category Archives: civil service

>Sweeney: Gov. Christie’s tools aren’t the sharpest in the shed

>NJ Senate President Stephen Sweeney has written the following article that appears online this morning on NJ.com. It’s a must read for anyone who thinks that Governor Christie’s “Tool Kit” is the be all, end all solution that will control the rise of property taxes in the state.

Of the 33 bills in the Governor’s “tool kit”, Sweeney rightfully points out that some of them overlapped and were combined to form 24 and later reduced again to by the Governor when he finally realized that proposals about higher education would do nothing to lower property taxes, leaving 20.
Sweeney points out that the Legislature has passed 8 of the 20 bills thus far, the 2% cap on property tax increases and arbitration reform for police and fire contracts being the key pieces passed. While 2 other bills dealing with civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts were passed by the Legislature but vetoed by the Governor. Sweeney then goes on to tell how many of the remaining “tool kit” reforms will do little to bring down property taxes.
So the next time anyone has to hear Republicans in Middletown chastise Democrats in Trenton for not acting on the “tool kit” and saying that these reforms are necessary so that they can control themselves from overspending, I think Sweeney’s article should be read into the record and see what comments, if any Tony Fiore, Gerry Scharfenberger or the others have to say:

The governor has blamed everything and everyone for the highest property tax increase in four years. He continues to state that if only his “tool kit” were passed, New Jersey’s property tax problems would magically disappear.


Closer scrutiny of the governor’s kit proves his claims are false and are merely meant to distract from his own culpability in property tax hikes. The governor cut more than $2.4 billion in funding to schools and municipalities last year. That is why your taxes are going up. The tool kit will not make up that shortfall.

There are reforms that must be implemented, such as pension and health benefits reforms, which I have supported since 2006. I am committed to getting those done. But those reforms are not — and never were — part of the governor’s proposed tool kit.

First, let’s have truth in numbers. The governor started by saying there were 33 bills in the tool kit. Actually, there were 24 after items were combined. Now the governor says there are 20, because he finally realized that four proposals dealing with issues at colleges and universities have absolutely nothing to do with property taxes.

The Legislature did pass eight tool-kit items. First was the creation of the 2 percent cap on annual property tax increases, which the Legislature lowered from the 2.5 percent cap the governor initially proposed. Second was arbitration reform for police and fire contracts, which was heralded across the state by local officials as key to reining in property taxes.

Two others — comprehensive civil service reform and a cap on sick-leave payouts for public employees upon retirement — were passed and sent to the governor, who vetoed them. We have no reform in these two areas because the governor chose to kill reform.

Civil service needs to be reformed and modernized, but abolishing it will not lower property taxes. Only one-third of New Jersey towns are bound by civil service rules, and those towns actually have lower property taxes per capita than towns without civil service. Civil service was established to protect against political corruption and nepotism. It is puzzling that the governor wants to completely eliminate this protection.

Sick-leave payouts should be capped, but the governor vetoed a bill to do that because he wants to take away benefits workers have already earned. That may be a nice talking point, but it won’t stand up in court. And it would create a flood of new retirements as workers cash out before the law would take effect. If the governor got his way, this tool would actually cost taxpayers even more.

Two other parts of the tool kit are already in comprehensive shared services legislation I am sponsoring with Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, which goes far beyond what the governor envisioned, and which will move through the Legislature later this spring.

These are the only parts of the tool kit that will save you money on your property tax bill. We did them. The handful of remaining bills that the governor clings to won’t save you anything.
One would cap spending on state government operations — which already exists under law, and even if it did not, would have no impact on local property taxes. Another would allow local governments to use furloughs to save money — which they already can do as long as furloughs are negotiated.

Another bill to centralize all power over civil service decisions in the Civil Service Commissioner (read: czar) would only consolidate the governor’s power and do nothing to lower property taxes.

One bill would move school and fire commission elections to November — a move whose total property tax savings, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Service, would be “minimal.”

Others would change the way some employee discipline measures are handled (OLS estimated savings: $140,000), require the mailing of only one sample ballot per household (OLS estimated savings: $1.4 million), and allow municipalities to offset property tax delinquencies against state income tax refunds (OLS estimated net savings: zero).

The governor’s rhetoric does not stand up to simple math. The tool-kit bills that haven’t yet been passed offer no real help from New Jersey’s crushing $25 billion property tax burden.

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Filed under 2% cap, arbitration reform, civil service, Gov. Chris Christie, NJ State Senate, NJ.com, property taxes, Stephen Sweeney, tax saving tool, toolkit

Scharfenberger Videos Are Just Another Example Of His Ignorance Of Facts.

Have you seen the two videos of Middletown’s acting mayor Gerry Scharfenberger being interviewed by another local blogger? The videos were made a number of weeks ago, just before the 4th of July holiday, so if you have not you can seem them, you can do so >>> here and here .
These videos are a classic examples of how Gerry Scharfenberger ignores the truth to promote his own agenda.
Scharfenbeger stated in the first video that the 13% increase in the municipal tax rate stated by Committeeman Sean Byrnes at the budget introduction meeting was not accurate, which is untrue.
In 2009 there was $40,001,112.58 raised by property taxes and this year (2010) there will be $45,549,733.91, the difference being $5,548,621.33. If you divide this difference by the 2009 amount and multiply it by 100 you will get the percentage increase for 2010, which is 13.87%. Byrnes was rounding down to 13%.

Scharfenbeger mentioned about how the lack of state aid was a factor behind the increase in the municipal tax rate. In 2009 Middletown lost, I believe $800K in state aid and Scharfenberger stated that then Gov. Jon Corzine was strangling the municipalities. In 2010 Gov. Christie has shorted Middletown twice that much,$1.6M. Now, Scharfenberger has stated that Gov. Christie is doing what is necessary to set the State on the right course, but he had no plan to deal with the loss of aid. The mayor had to have seen this coming just by the shear climate of the economy and planned appropriately for it.

This brings up a point that I am surprised others haven’t talked about much; why should Middletown rely on State aid to begin with? Middletown is larger enough and should be supporting itself, not looking for handouts from the State or Federal Governments. If aid comes down from the State it should be applied to the town’s surplus and the following years’ budget.

When asked about the adoption of the township budget and why after 6 months into the year a budget had not been adopted yet, our acting mayor stated that each month thus far Middletown has been operating with a temporary budget that has been kept to within 75% of what was expected to spent each month.

If that’s the case, why not make a yearly budget to do the same? A budget could have been made in January to include 90% of what was expected to be spent. That would leave 10% to go toward surplus. Why put off the enevitable? Given this statement Gerry expected a 13% increase, therefore he saw it coming.

In the second video, the mayor talks about unfunded mandates like COAH and opting out of the civil service system. Scharfenberger stated that millions have been spent over the years on lawyers fees to to fight lawsuits on COAH, but the reality is, if the Middletown was COAH compliant for all of those years then most of the lawsuits would not have taken place. As a matter of fact, if Middletown was compliant in many other areas of the law, then lawsuits would not have had to be fought. Many times Middletown has enabled the lawsuits to continue only to have the lawyers profit.

In wishing to opt-out of the Civil Service system, Scharfenberger stated that shared service agreements can’t be reached with other towns that do not have civil service employees. He says that because of civil service requirements agreements between Middletown and other towns are nearly impossible. Now I might be wrong in presuming this but, if an agreement can be made between two municipalities whether they are civil service or not, that complies with the civil service contracts, it should be acceptable to the non-civil service employees from another towns.
Finally, the mayor claims that he had no idea of what the Governor was going to do, which has to be the furthest thing from the truth. After all, Scharfenberger was on the Governors’ Transition Team writing policy for what the new Governor was going to do and he loves to tell everyone that he is in constant contact with him or Lieutenant Gov. Guadagno.
So to be taken by surprise or caught off guard by anything coming from Trenton has to be taken with a grain of salt and chalked up as nothing more than the continued issuance of half-truths an blubbery from him, in order to promote his own self interests.

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Filed under civil service, COAH, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, Kim Guadagono, Middletown, municipal tax rates, video, YouTube