Category Archives: Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee

Leaders Lead Gerry or They Get Out Of The Way; Now’s The Time For A Budget Advisory Committee

Gerry Scharfenberger may be able to talk a good game in order to give the impression that he is always on top of the situation, but all he really ever does is blow and bluster a lot of hot air that makes people turn their heads and look the other way. Good examples of this was his recent handling of the school budget and how he has thus far refused to consider the idea of establishing a budget advisory committee that could help formulate and propose the fiscal budgets for not only Middletown but also the Board of Education. It would rely on shared services and greater cooperation between the two governing bodies and would save the Township tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars now and in the future.
Democratic Committeeman Sean Byrnes has been proposing for the past 3 years that the Township set up some form of financial advisory committee that could sit down, look at, discuss and propose ideas to the Township Committee that could help shape and steer the budget processes in order to find potential fiscal issues or problems that would hamper the budget process that would prevent the Township from having a fiscal budget in place by January 1st each year as opposed to 5,6 or 8 months into the calender/fiscal year.
Each time Byrnes has presented his idea for some type finance committee he has been rebuffed by Gerry Scharfenberger and his fellow GOP members on the Township Committee with Scharfenberger’s excuse always being the same, that he thinks it’s every committee persons job to look at and take responsibility over budget issues, even though it is inefficient to do so.
Byrnes’s latest proposal for a finance committee is a sound one and makes a lot of sense. It would be a joint budget revue and advisory committee that would include members of the Middletown Township Committee, members of the Middletown Board of Education and residents with budgeting expertise, for the purpose of making recommendations for sharing services, consolidating functions and for opportunities to consolidate maintenance and recreation functions. The goal of the committee would be reduce budget spending of each body by 2.5% in budget year 2011.
Committeeman Byrnes discussed his new proposal at the May 3rd workshop meeting where it received cool support from Gerry Scharfenberger and Committeewoman Pam Brightbill, who had earlier that met with members of the Board of Education to discuss the failed school budget. Gerry and Pam both stated that much of what Byrnes had proposed was discussed already earlier in the day when they met school board members, so it was not necessary.
Byrnes stated that he would introduce a resolution at the regular May 17th Committee meeting regardless so that the discussions could be ongoing and not brushed aside when it seemed that now was a perfect time to engage the Board of Education is serious talks concerning shared services.
Committeeman Byrnes stayed true to his word and moved that his resolution for a budget review and advisory committee be introduced and considered for adoption, unfortunately no other member of the committee would second the introduction so the motion failed and the resolution was dropped from further discussion.
Having a budget advisory committee is not a new or novel idea, many non-profits and Fortune 500 companies have them as well as other governing bodies, the Republican controlled Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders being one of them. They introduced their financial committee earlier this year and are very happy. So why do the republicans in Middletown continue to fight such a common sense idea? I can only speculate that the reasons against a finance committee of any kind is because outsiders would have access to the Township ledgers and would be able to see where and to whom all of the money goes, which would lead to questions and lack of control over township business that the ruling GOP have enjoyed for more than 25 years.
Gerry, you can’t wait for Trenton to bail Middletown out of the mess we are in. Leaders lead or they get out of the way, it’s that simple.
Below is the resolution that Committeeman Sean Byrnes introduced to the Township Committee on May 17th and failed to receive support from other committee members:
RESOLUTION TO CREATE A BUDGET REVIEW ADVISORY COMMITTEE

WHEREAS, the Township Committee is mindful of the difficult economic climate facing residents of the Township of Middletown and the hardships associated with any increased tax burden facing citizens of the Township of Middletown; and

WHEREAS, the Township has recently hired a new Chief Financial; and

WHEREAS, the voters of Middletown, recently rejected the budget proposed by the Middletown Township Board of Education, despite the Board of Education having undertaken substantial cuts in line item spending; and

WHEREAS, the State of New Jersey, the Township of Middletown and the Board of Education face a financial crisis unprecedented in recent times, and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee anticipates that municipalities and school boards will continue to operate in an austere budget environment where citizens demand efficiency, small government and the elimination of unnecessary or discretionary services, and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that closer cooperation with the Board of Education will be necessary to meet the financial challenges ahead, and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that consolidation of certain functions performed by both the Board of Education and the Township Committee should be seriously considered and adopted where appropriate; and that the process of developing these recommendations should be open to the public; and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee believes that shared services within the public entities within Middletown and with neighboring municipalities and boards of education must take place and that the size of Middletown Township leaves it well-suited to lead these efforts; and

WHEREAS, the Township Committee seeks to pursue all opportunities to improve efficiency, eliminate unnecessary spending and reduce the burden on its taxpayers;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Township Committee of the Township of Middletown that the Township does hereby authorize and call upon the Board of Education to jointly convene a Budget Review Advisory Committee consisting of 2 members of the Township Committee, three members of the Board of Education and 2 members of the community with strong financial experience, preferably in a Fortune 500 environment, to meet regularly over the next 6 months and thereafter make recommendations to the Township Committee and the Board of Education for sharing services and consolidating functions. This Budget Review Advisory Committee will look specifically for opportunities to consolidate maintenance and recreation functions. The Budget Review Advisory Committee shall have a specific goal of reducing the combined spending of the Township Committee and Board of Education by 2.5% for fiscal year 2011


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Filed under budget planning, Gerry Scharfenberger, Midddletown Board of Education, Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee, Sean F. Byrnes

Who is Behind The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee ?


Has anyone noticed the signs popping up all over Middletown like the one posted to the right?

The signs are from a group calling themselves the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee.
I wasn’t familiar with this group until I saw these signs spring up along the roadside and decided to ask around to see if anyone could enlighten me.
I was informed by a friend who just happens to know the Chairperson of the committee, that The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee is a group who supports the BOE with their budget plans. They try and get public support so the budget gets passed and the signs reflect what Trenton is doing by taking back the surplus money that the BOE wanted to use for tax relief and new programs.
My friend reached out to the Chairperson of the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee on my behalf for more information and I was sent the following statement:
The Middletown school budget has traditionally been built applying funds called Budgeted Tax Relief. These are funds that may be “left over” (surplus) from previous years’ budgets due to economies put in place during the school year. The funds that were squeezed out of that budget were returned to the taxpayers as tax relief to fund next year’s budget (hence the title “budgeted tax relief” and not surplus). So the “tax relief” funds arises from the District being able to save X amount of dollars of the previous budget by implementing cost-saving measures (such as a good year’s negotiations for medical coverage, installing efficient utility systems, etc.), and those savings are used when crafting the next year’s budget to “relieve – basically lower” the levy of local taxes to a level the taxpayers hopefully find acceptable.

Part of budgeting would also normally include allocating a portion of any remaining funds to the “capital reserve” fund to support future capital improvements (infrastructure, systems, fields). The state has taken .5M of Middletown’s accumulated capital reserves.

With the state taking the tax relief and reserves, the District has to rely on “real tax dollars” from this year, as well as pulling remaining capital reserve. Keep in mind that the State often imposes mandates on Districts without funding them. What this means is when the state says “you must have full-day kindergarten,” and there are specific regulations as to the physical structure of a kindergarten classroom, a district must fund that out of somewhere.

VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: 84% of the funds that the Governor authorized to withhold from Middletown are local taxpayer dollars. Senator J. Kyrillos, at the Middletown BOE Forum last week, admitted he had no idea the funds that were taken were predominantly funded by local taxpayer dollars. It appears he assumed that the funds were 100% state aid dollars held in reserve and therefore the state was still funding the approved budget by withholding committed funds and saying “keep the funds you already have from us.” For the 2009-2010 school budget year Middletown was supposed to receive only 16% in state aid (versus 41% average across the state). The checks have now stopped, and Middletown has been directed to use our $2.3 million tax relief and $.5 million capital reserves to cover the state’s shortfall. IF THE STATE IS WITHDRAWING STATE AID, THEY SHOULD ONLY BE TAKING 16% of $2.8 MILLION, NOT ALL OF IT. 84% OF THAT IS MIDDLETOWN DOLLARS RAISED FOR MIDDLETOWN CHILDREN!!

WE PAID OUR STATE TAXES. WE PAID OUR LOCAL TAXES SPECIFICALLY FOR MIDDLETOWN. NOW OUR STATE TAXES ARE GONE, SO OUR STATE AID IS GONE, AND THEY WANT OUR LOCAL REAL ESTATE TAXES TO SUPPORT THE ENTIRE STATE!

So where does Middletown stand right now? Based on the funding the state has withdrawn, and assuming that the state aid of 16% from last year is not reduced (highly unlikely), and also assuming that the Middletown taxpayers vote to pass the current budget on April 20th, we can expect to lose 36 teachers (in addition to 28 other positions ranging from Administration to Facilities). That is the “best case scenario” as we stand right now. If the Middletown voters vote to not pass the budget, the budget is presented to the township committee who can vote to cut the budget further, resulting in even more cuts.

The worst-case scenario is that the state follows through on a full 15% cut to Middletown’s current funding, which would result in a potential loss of over 80 teachers, additional positions, and program cuts! If the Middletown voters will not pass even that budget, additional positions and programs will have to be cut to make up for a potential township cut.

Think about the impact of 80+ families in Middletown and the surrounding areas losing their income. This is not an issue just affecting Middletown; this situation is happening across over 600 districts in this state. Lost jobs equals loss of income tax and sales tax to the state. Lost jobs equals unemployment, and the state has said the unemployment system is bankrupt. Lost jobs equals loss of property tax when families leave NJ for a cheaper place to live.

The Middletown Budget Awareness Committee, Inc.

Relevant documentation:

BOE forum presentation and spread sheets @ http://www.middletownk12.org/superintendent/files/FINAL%20Presentation%20without%20NOTES.pdf.

The text of the speech given by President Laura Agin of the Middletown Board of Education @
http://www.dollarsandsense.bz/.

In my opinion, this is a fight that parents with school kids need to get involved with and support the Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee and the Middeltown Board of Education. Not only will there be a lay-off of teachers and supporting school staff,l but there will be after school programs cut as well with little or no money for new books or other essential supplies available for the students use.

And if that wasn’t bad enough after all the $2.8 million in budget cuts are over with, the School Board will still have to raise the tax rate just to maintain what is left for next year.

Middletown needs this money to maintain what they have and hopefully the Christie Administration will come to their senses and realize that by taking surplus money away from
school districts across the state to plug his own budget gap is wrong and will return the portion of the surplus that was not directly due to aid payments from Trenton.

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Filed under budget cuts, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Kyrillos, Middeltown Board of Education, Middeltown Budget Awareness Committee, School cuts, Trenton