Category Archives: Nick Trasente

>It’s Your Town Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 7- 4/04/11

>This edition of “It’s Your Town” Newsletter covers the Middletown Township NJ monthly workshop meeting of the Middletown Township Committee. It was at this meeting that the proposed Township budget for FY 2011 was introduced without public comment. A budget hiring has been scheduled for May.

During public comments, a number of residents living behind the new MJ’s restaurant on Hwy 35 complained about the the increased neighborhood traffic along with sound and light pollution that is being generated by cars coming and leaving the parking lot.

Also there were questions about the corrective action plan that the Township needed to be filed after a 2009 financial audit turned up irregularities.

The newsletter contains links to all the ordinances and resolutions that were presented. There are also links to the 2009 financial audit and the action plan filed by CFO Nick Trasente.

Here is a link to the >>> proposed FY 2011 Township budget

Read the Newsletter >>> Here

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Filed under 2011 budget, Its Your Town, Middletown NJ, Middletown Township Committee, MJ's restaurant, Newsletter, Nick Trasente, workshop meeting

>Middletown Special Budget Meeting: 15 Minutes Will Getcha 11.79% Municipal Tax Increase

>I wasn’t able to make it to last nights special budget introduction meeting in Middletown, I had a prior commitment that I needed to attend. However, even if I had been able to attend I may not have gotten there in time anyway, by all accounts the meeting lasted only 15 minutes. It was called to order at exactly 6pm and was over by 6:15pm, I’m told.

Given the fact that there was a major power outage just prior to the start of the meeting, which made traveling the roads nightmarish for many, it is outrageous to think that the Township would not have held up the meeting for a short while to allow people to get to Town Hall in order to hear the presentation of the amended Municipal Budget.

But I guess when you have to announce something as painful as a 11.79% increase to the municipal tax rate the sooner that you can get the meeting over with the better.

From what I have been told by a few that were in attendance, it was like mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, Town Administrator Tony Mercantante and CFO Nick Trasente had this big secret to keep. None of the 3 wanted to directly answer questions about the resolution that was introduced for the purpose of amending the proposed budget, which originally had called for a 13.87% tax increase.

When asked directly, by what percentage the tax increase to the Municipal budget was going to be, Scharfenberger kept responding “2.9%” (which has been Scharfy’s standard line). The question was repeated a few more times for clarification at which point Nick Trasente stepped in and told the questioners that the information was in the resolution document and that they were still making adjustments before the budget would be formally introduced on Sept. 7th at the next meeting (Township Workshop meeting).

At that point the meeting ended abruptly some 15 minutes after it started.

You can see the resolution for yourself >>> Here

The major change proposed to the budget is that the Township will be collecting an additional $5.3M from property taxes instead of $5.5M that was proposed earlier. So the Municipal tax rate will be increasing by 11.79% instead of 13.87% and most certainly NOT the 2.9% that Scharfenberger wants all to believe.
I hope to have audio of the meeting soon so that I can hear for myself what took place. When I have the audio I’ll post it here on the blog for others to listen to also.

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Filed under budget resolution, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, Nick Trasente, special budget meeting, tax increase, Tony Mercantante

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain: Scharfenberger "The Tax Man" Issues Middletown Tax Update

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain I say, it is simply a man who is desperate to save himself from the bitter truth and who has earned the title of the “Tax Man” by overseeing the rise in the municipal tax rate of 41.9% over the past 5 years(once the currently proposed Township budget is approved).

Over the past couple of days an email has been making its way through cyber-space, written by non other than Middletown’s appointed mayor, Gerry Scharfenberger. He is so desperate to inform the voting public that the pending municipal budget (which includes a 13.87% municipal tax increase) is the result of circumstances beyond his control, that some residents have received it 3 or 4 times.

In the email Scharfy states that “Some of the information I have heard from folks around town is based on very false and misleading data”, and that he has “…put together a fact sheet to give people the reality of all things associated with the 2010 budget…”

After reading his email, I found it somewhat lacking in true facts and misleading in it’s own right. So, what I have done is to post Gerry Scharfenberger’s email below, broken down with comments in blue, to counter some of what he attempts to “clear up” and to show that the reason for Middletown’s massive tax increases over the past 5 years is due to his poor leadership and overall mismanagement:

By Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger

The Middletown budget has been the subject of quite a bit of discussion lately. Some of the information I have heard from folks around town is based on very false and misleading data. To try and clear things up, I thought I would put together a fact sheet to give people the reality of all things associated with the 2010 budget, as well as the situation at the state level. As always, if you have any further questions or need additional information, don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, please look over the attached FAQs – they are quite sobering.
Here are the facts:

– the proposed municipal tax increase is 2.8% which means the municipal increase on a $5000 tax bill will be $140 per year, a $10,000 tax bill will be $280 per year and so on. This will go down prior to adoption, thanks to legislation the governor has signed that will allow us to make additional cuts.

The OVERALL tax increase is 2.8%. This includes the BOE and County taxes. The Township tax rate has increased 13.87% over last year. The amount raised from property taxes is depicted in the following chart. These numbers came from Township budgets or were reported in Middletown Matters.

If the Governor has allowed the Township to make additional cuts, why are they not made NOW so the budget could be reduced further?

– 98% of all of the municipalities in the state had to do estimated tax bills this year. This is due to the state budget and the uncertainty of state aid to the municipalities.

There is no uncertainty of State aid to the municipalities. The Mayor specifically lists the amount of State aid that was cut this year below at $1,564,911. The Township knows the amount of State aid it will receive. How can a budget be proposed is there is uncertainty in the amount of aid to be received?

– it is a mistake to multiply the third quarter estimated tax bill by four – THAT IS NOT THE PROPERTY TAXES FOR THE YEAR! When people get their fourth quarter bill, that will be accurate and will also be much lower than the third quarter bill.

The 4th quarter tax bill (just before the election) will be more accurate because the Township is meeting with the Local Finance Board, in Trenton today (8-10-2010) to find out just how much the Township can exceed the State cap of 4%.

– Middletown has one of the lowest tax rates in the region. While we are currently at 35 cents, Fair Haven, for example, is almost 49 cents and Little Silver is over 50 cents.

The tax rate is one of lowest in the area, but other towns’ tax rate has no bearing on what the tax rate in Middletown should be. A big reason why the tax rate has increased almost 14% this year is because the Township came up short $5.5M last year and it had to borrow money from the 2010 budget to make up the difference. This is shown in the chart above as the difference in the amount of money raised by taxes between 2010 and 2009.

– Middletown has one of the lowest worker per capita in the state (305 for 70,000 residents and 41.4 square miles) and one of the lowest spending per capita (around $880 per person).

Middletown might have the lowest worker per capita, but how other towns manage there resources are different from town to town. Plus, what other towns do with these resources should have no bearing on how Middletown uses the resources that are employed.

Below are some of the drivers of the budget and how we’ve addressed them. Get rid of binding arbitration, civil service and unions and we could really do some cutting. For now, we are legally prohibited from doing what is really needed to make deep, significant cuts.

If Middletown can’t legally make the cuts it wants to, they should plan to manage the resources on hand better. You just don’t throw up your hands and say we can’t legally do something.

While there were many factors that contributed to this year’s budget problems, the main ones were:

$1,564,911 loss in 2010 state aid. This loss comes after a $640,000 reduction in 2008, $184,000 in 2009.

Why rely on State aid to begin with? The Township should budget for no State aid and if the State should provide some type of aid, then it should be used in the following years’ budget. Notice the amount of State aid for this year compared to last 2 years. Last year the loss of State aid was touted, by Mr. Scharfenberger, as the worst thing that could happen. This year the Mr. Scharfenberger says that the Governor is doing the right thing.

$1.4 million for prior year’s salary increases from resolved labor contracts;

When a municipality goes into labor negotiations, it should anticipate an increase an budget accordingly. This was not done, obviously. What was management thinking, that the unions were not going to demand some type of increase?

$1 million increase in health care costs,

CFO, Nick Trasente, increased theses costs because the Township came up short the past 2 years. He is just doing some PLANNING to avoid future shortfalls.

$900,000 for snow and rain storms clean up,

This is a legitimate and unexpected expense.

$900,000 for unexpected retirements. Cost includes payments for unused sick and vacation time.

When the new Governor was elected, he said that there would be changes in the retirement rules. It might have been a little late in the year, but some planning could have been done to ease the shortfall. There will be many more retirements to come this year.

$1.8 million increase in pension payments mandated by the state.

Middletown knew that pension payments would have to be made this year. Middletown was told to defer last years’ payment in order to exceed the 4% State cap.

$400,000 loss in recycling revenues

The Green Initiative, started years ago by Mr. Scharfenberger, should have planned for additional recycling efforts. This has only come to pass because the State and County have implemented plans to include all paper and cardboard as part of the recycling plans. Middletown should have been a leader in this since there was a “Green Initiative” in place.

To address these, the Township Committee instituted:

40 staff/position reductions since January 1, 2010.

A total of 16 employees were layed off this year. The other 24 are people retiring because of the change in the Governors’ policy.

A 15% reduction in 2010 department funding requests.

Each department submits a “wish list” budget every year. This is reviewed the day after the election, in November. The Township Committee told the departments to cut it 15%. At that point they should have reviewed the requests and made real cuts.

Purchasing natural gas and electricity as part of a collective of 119 government entities known as the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Joint Meeting (NJSEM) instead of from the utility company. The move is slated to save approximately $160,000 this year.

This is a good measure and should be encouraged every year. Buying in bulk is almost always less expensive.

Funding the 2010 Summer Concert Series with community and business sponsors.

Sponsors for all events should be sought after. Even our Library Conservancy sponsored a concert. Do these sponsors fund the police, stage rentals, shuttle buses, etc…?

Canceling Middletown Day unless sufficient private sponsorship is found.

The concerts were going to be cancelled if sponsors were not found, too. Sponsors have funded much of Middletown Day in the past.

Closing the township’s skateboard park and mini-golf course.

The skateboard park is closed and the supervision that was on site removed. The children are still skateboarding, though.

Closing the Police Department’s Community Relations Bureau and suspending the DARE program.

This is just what the community needs; less police relations. This will only lead to an increase in crime, thus increasing the relations that the police will have with the community only in a negative manner.

Limiting lifeguards on municipal beaches to weekends only.

A lifeguard should be present if the beach is open. We wouldn’t want someone to get swept out to sea from one of those rip currents.

Continued limitation of overtime for non-essential personnel without approval of the Township Administrator.

All non-essential overtime should be eliminated. If it is not essential why is it needed? This should be a part of good management.

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Filed under budget planning, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown, municipal tax rates, Nick Trasente, tax increase

What Is Happening With The Bond For The Middletown Turf Fields?

On tonight’s agenda for the Middeltown Township Committee Workshop meeting there will be a discussion about capital improvement projects and existing bonds and what to do about them. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do with the bonds the town is sitting on, namely the bond that was issued to fund the artificial turf projects for Croydon Hall and Trezza Field.

If we can all remember back to this past January when residents of Lincroft teamed up with members of the Pop Warner Chargers football organization when they found out that the long promised field restoration for Trezza Field (the home of the Chargers) was not going to happen, instead the funds for the turf project at Trezza Field was going to be diverted to West Front Street Park,caused so much trouble for Gerry Scharfenberger and Pam Brightbill earlier this year that they decided to cancel the turf projects all together in April.

The sudden decision to cancel the turf projects left everyone stunned at the time and questioning what was going to happen with the $2.6 million bond that was issued to fund the projects. The bond’s language as written was very specific, the funds couldn’t be used for anything else other than field restoration.

The following audio clip contains comments made by Middletown Attorney Brian Nelson, Middletown Township Town Administrator Tony Mercantante and mayor Gerry Scharfenberger during Workshop meetings on February 1st and March 1st,and seems to confirm that. The audio documents what the three men had been saying about the bonded money that was to be used for the construction of turf fields prior to the sudden announcement that the field project was going to be cancelled and the bonded funds returned.

Fast forward now to the last Township Committee meeting held on July 19th.

Lincroft resident and founding member of the citizens group SONIC (which opposed the turf project at West Front Street Park), Mary Mahoney, addressed the Township Committee about the unused Turf Bond that was to be used for artificial turf fields at Trezza Field, West Front Street Park and Croydon Hall. She wanted to know what was happening with the bonded money,

was there any plans to use it for anything else, how much of it had been spent and why wasn’t it retired as of yet to save the township interest payments on it.

She seemed to have taken the the Township Committee and those that make the decisions on such things by surprise. Listen to it below:

About 1:10 into her comments CFO Nick Trasente is heard saying that the bond funds could be used for other facilities, used to pay down debt or retired, which is contrary to earlier remarks made by Township Attorney Brian Nelson and Scharfenberger, who had stated at earlier meetings and can be heard above in the 1st audio clip, that the bond had to be retired if not used for turf fields and couldn’t be used for anything else.

So, what are Gerry and the boys planning on doing with the funds from this bond? It seems that they are trying to figure out a way to apply it to the budget in order to decrease 14% tax rate increase in this years municipal budget that has not been adopted yet.

If this is a concern to anyone then you should attend tonights meeting at Town Hall, it starts at 8pm. Get there early for a good seat.

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Filed under artificial turf fields, Chargers, Gerry Scharfenberger, Lincroft, Mary Mahoney, Nick Trasente, Pop Warner, Sonic, Tony Mercantante, Trezza Field, Turf project, West Front Street

The Gloom of a 13.9% Municipal Spending Increase for Property Taxpayers

By Virginia Amend – Lincroft Village News

There is no way to put a good face on a 13.9% increase on the $64,979,576 municipal budget.

As one citizen said to Mayor Scharfenberger and the Republican majority of Pamela Brightbill, Anthony Fiore and Steve Massell, “The Republican majority owns this budget.”

That may be only partly true. Governor Christie’s actions at the State level heavily contributed to the 13.9% increase in municipal spending. First, there was the loss of $1,564,911 state aid. The anticipated pain for 2011 is that loss is then built in for future budgets.

In the “unanticipated outcomes” category Governor Christie’s threats to future pension rules, caused 23 Middletown Township employees to choose retirement in 2010 in order to be covered by the existing, more favorable pension benefits.

Another “unanticipated outcome” is the $760,000 needed to pay retiring employees sick leave and vacation day payouts. Ouch!

Not too many people remember when the Republican majority couldn’t find the funds to pay 2009 pension contribution. The temporary CFO Roth negotiated a settlement with the local Finance Board in Trenton whereby Middletown would pay 1/12 of the pension contribution in 2009 and the remaining 11 payments to be paid over the next eleven years @ 4% interest.

The budget introduced on Monday, June 23, — halfway through the fiscal year – indicated the pension increase in this budget required $1,800,000 to fund the pension increase. Healthcare costs, and two borrowings from prior year’s salary increase. The current freeze on salaries is too little, too late to pay last year’s unpaid medical bills caused. CFO Anthony Trasente to budget another $1 million to cover this year’s health costs.

All the signs were there of an out-of-control fiscal plan in the late 2008 and in full bloom in 2009. The Republican majority should have clamped down on negotiated settlements with the several unions. In this 2010 budget the township committee is faced with an increase of $1,400,000 for the As Everett Dirkson once said, “A million here, a million there pretty soon we’re talking real money.”

The only legitimate cost was the $900,000 for this post winter’s unanticipated heavy snows and and rainstorm costs which amounted to almost a million – $900,000.

But what about the massive amounts of brush and tree limbs still littering Middletown streets? As a retiring Public Works employee, a 40 year employee said, “We used to have all the brush cleaned up by March. But they laid off one public works employee and eliminated all over time. So the public works employees come in at 6:00 AM and leave by 3:30 PM.” He said the situation is made worse as residents add their own tree and shrubbery trimming adding volumes to the existing mess of brush and tree limbs.

The reserve for uncollected taxes is at a perilous low of $500,000.

Mayor Sharfenberger prides himself on being on Governor Christie’s transition team, but it must be embarrassing to them both that Middletown with 22 square miles, and 60,000 residents has the highest municipal tax rate of 13.9%. How does that fit with Christie’s proposed 2 1/2% cap? If the cap is passed by the 2010 legislature how will Middletown face a 2011 budget?

The only “big ticket” reduction would be layoffs of personnel. To date layoffs have been limited to low-salaried secretaries and aides. No voluntary freeze of higher level salaries were made this year.

As someone once said, “One time budget solutions are just a hole in your next years’ budget.”

Currently, salaries cost $25,572,304 each year. Health benefits and insurance add another $9,292,880. A serious reduction in force would reduce both these categories.

Remember, Middletown provides lifetime health benefits to retiring employees. That means double the health benefits for each position in which a person retires. No town can afford that. Freehold Township passed a resolution in December 2009 stating there would be no lifetime health benefits for all new hires. Middletown needs to do the same.

The formula for funding the libraries is dictated by State Law and costs Middletown taxpayers $3,986,437 per year. Only legislative action can modify this formula.

To add final insult to the injury of a 13.9% increase in the municipal tax spending is the proposal of CFO Nick Trasente to accelerate tax sales against homeowners which could generate a one-time solution of $2,750,000. Again, a hole in the 2011 budget.

A one-time transfer of $365,000 from the sewerage authority may indicate they are over charging and that rate could be lowered in the future. Also health benefits for this authority needs to be examined.

Mr. Trasente said there are a number of one-time revenue sources; approximately:

  1. $500,000 serial bonds
  2. $200,000 from payment of a capital bond
  3. $202,000 increase from the revaluation
  4. $365,000 sewer authority surplus

Total – $1,267,000

However these funds will not be available for the 2011. It avoids the reality that this approximate $1,267,000 will cause the 2011 budget to increase by this amount unless spending is cut, (and there is the specter of a 2 1/2 % constitutional cap.)

Mayor Sharfenberger at this budge introduction attempted to deflect the deadening reality of a 13.9% increase in the municipal budget and the financial pain being delivered to Middletown’s homeowners, by pointing to the Board of Education budget which consumes 62% of the overall budget, a common percent in many towns. In Middletown there are 17 schools and approximately 10,000 students the percent increase of the Board of Education’s budget was a tight 2.6 per cent increase in school taxes. A quality education for all of Middletown’s children is reflected in that percent.

CFO Nick Trasente, in his report, said this budget maintains all current programs and township events.

The question becomes what programs would you, the taxpayer, eliminate to lower the 13.9% increase.

Public Information Officer Cindy Herrschaft announced the introduced budget would be on the township website the next morning. Several suggestions from the audience asked whether citizens could add their remarks and suggestions.

Committeeman Sean Byrnes acknowledged the hard work under difficult pressures, that CFO Trasente had on compiling this budget. While Byrnes was the lone “no” vote on the passage of this budget, he iterated once more the need for a finance committee composed of members of the township committee and private citizens to advise the committee early in the process. He gave a 10 pt. list of ideas and times that he introduced them to anticipate the budget process earlier.

Two of the casualties of Middletown’s budget disaster is the bonding of $3 million to dredge Shadow Lake.

The other is the diverting of the bond funds to the West Front St. Park, and a further promise to turf the Ranger field instead. It almost seemed like a done deal until Middletown budget introduction painted a black – 13.9% — picture.

A reasonable question of CFO Trasente – is what has happened to those bonds.

The public budget hearing is scheduled for July 19, 2010 at town hall.

Only 16 or 17 people attended the introduction of the budget. That is sad. Each citizen is impacted by the actions of the township committee. Each homeowner will be financially impacted in 2010. The re-val is anticipated to generate 202,000 – that’s your money. 13.9% increase in spending will come from your pocket.

Inform yourself. Ask questions. Review the budget online. Suggest other cuts to bring down $64,979,576 of municipal spending.

And be prepared for reduced services too!!

Note – Since this article was first published in the Lincroft Village News, the NJ State Legislature passed a 2% property tax cap that has been signed into law by Governor Christie.

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Filed under Budget, Gerry Scharfenberger, Gov. Chris Christie, Lincroft Village News, Middletown, municipal tax rates, Nick Trasente, Pamela Brightbill, property tax cap, Steve Massell, Virginia Amend

It’s Your Town Newsletter Volumn 2, Issue 12, 6/21/10: The Budget Presentation

This is the first of two newsletters coming this week due to the fact that there were two separate Township Committee meetings held on June 21,2010 this month.

This first newsletter deals with the special budget meeting held earlier in the evening before the regularly scheduled meeting of the night. It includes the presentation of the Township budget for calendar year 2010 (which began in January) that was given by Middletown’s CFO Nick Trasente.

The second newsletter coming later in the week will deal with the regular business meeting for the month.

Please read and pass this newsletter on to your friends in Middletown. This budget will affect every homeowners pocketbook, there is a 12.87% increase in our municipal taxes for this year. The budget is 63 pages and can be found here, it has comparissons of what was spent on line items from last year and because of this, residents will be able to see where the increases in the budget are.

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Filed under budget presentation, Its Your Town, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Newsletter, Nick Trasente, township budget

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 RedBankGreen.com, 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.

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