Category Archives: property tax cap

>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

>Letter: Fed Up With "Tax Man" Scharfenberger

>I’m fed up in Middletown. How much more does the Township Committee majority think we homeowners can take?

Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger, the “tax man,” went to Trenton to get dispensation for his unconscionable increase in taxes.

The state has a 4 percent cap on tax increases, but thanks to his connections in Trenton, he was allowed to increase them more than 12 percent.

Scharfenberger would like us to believe the increase is only 2.8 percent. This is a smokescreen that lets him hide behind the actual increase. Don’t be fooled.
It’s time to retire the tax man with your vote for Sean Byrnes and Mary Mahoney, who better understand the pressures on Middletown homeowners.

Byrnes is the only serious financial voice on the Township Committee. He voted down this unprecedented increase in taxes because he felt the township could have done a better job in planning this year’s budget.

Marilyn Tuohy

Leave a comment

Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, letters to the Editor, Middletown, property tax cap, Sean F. Byrnes, tax increase, tax rate

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.

1 Comment

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

NJPP Monday Minute 7/12/10: The Cap: Is it really a solution to high property taxes?

Today the State Assembly passed the latest version of New Jersey’s newest attempt at a property tax limitation: a 2.0 percent hard cap on property tax levy increases that provides just four exemptions for exceeding the limit – health care costs, pension costs, debt and unforeseen crises. The bill represents a compromise worked out between Gov. Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The Governor had been pushing for a 2.5 percent cap that would be written into the state constitution, which would virtually guarantee the cap would never be changed. The Governor also wanted to allow for only one exemption (for debt service) and wanted a 60 percent voter referendum to override the cap.

The amended legislation lowers the cap to 2.0 percent, but includes the additional exemptions listed above and requires a simple majority to override the cap. It also would be a statutory change, not a constitutional amendment – making it more likely that adjustments can be made if unforeseen problems arise.

This bill has moved like lightning. In typical New Jersey fashion, no fiscal analyses have accompanied the cap discussions. And there has been little acknowledgement that the state currently has a 4 percent cap enacted in April 2007 in a bipartisan vote. The current cap law was enacted for budget years after July 1, 2007 and was due to sunset on June 30, 1012. Written into the law was a requirement that the New Jersey Tax and Fiscal Policy Commission report on its effectiveness in controlling property taxes and make recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature on or before January 15, 2005.

In the frenzy of activity surrounding the Governor’s proposed Cap and Tool Kit, everyone has conveniently forgotten the months of hearings, public testimony, research and analysis that accompanied the 2006 special legislative sessions. There is more interest in rigid limits than in making changes that can result in rational policy changes. The lack of transparent policy analysis is what got New Jersey to where it is today; this cap bill is no different.

Discussions of this bill on the Senate floor last week centered on bringing “predictability and control” to property tax bills. And one part of the cap is predictable. The average tax bill in New Jersey is $7,281 on a house assessed at $290,502. A 2 percent increase in that bill is $145.62, payable at $12.14 in a mortgage over a 12 month period. What remains unknown, however, is what will happen when municipalities privatize garbage collection services; or when schools raise fees for sports or other extracurricular programs; or when municipal court costs go through the roof because of the increased traffic violations given out as revenue raisers.

The cap is the first shoe in the governor’s proposal.

Over the next few Monday Minutes, NJPP will analyze Gov. Christie’s “tool kit,” a bundle of 33 bills he is promoting as the second phase of his property tax strategy. Lawmakers are expected to hold public hearings on that legislation through the summer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gov. Chris Christie, Monday Minute, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, NJ State Assembly, NJ State Senate, property tax cap, property taxes, Stephen Sweeney


For Release: Immediate
Friday, July 02, 2010

TRENTON – In remarks during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting today, Senator Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, indicated support for a deliberative process in studying and advancing property tax reform for New Jersey residents. Senator Bucco’s remarks bring him in line with Senate Democrats who believe that we have to study the issue carefully instead of enacting hasty reform:

If you review the archived audio footage on the New Jersey Legislature’s Web page (, Senator Bucco made the following remarks at about 8 minutes, 43 seconds in:

“I think there is room for negotiations into how we implement the cap, whether we eliminate some of the things or add onto some of the things that are being proposed. I think that’s what this Budget Committee is going to be about all summer…”

Also, at the end of the hearing, Senator Bucco made the following remarks, at around 1 hour, 9 minutes and 41 seconds in:

“We passed the bill for 2.9, the Senate President’s compromise bill that he had put in, and we know that the Governor is going to CV that, and I think that the sooner we can come to an understanding and a bill that we can support with the CV, I think this is very important.

“Again, it’s not going to help this year, but the sooner we do it, I think the better off all of us will be in making sure that we move forward with the other proposals.”

Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem, made the following statement upon reviewing Senator Bucco’s remarks:

“We appreciate Senator Bucco’s admission that there is no need to rush a very important, and very necessary, property tax reform package which could have unintended consequences. We look forward to a deliberative, thorough vetting of all the issues, and a property tax plan which will make New Jersey affordable beginning in the next tax year.”

Leave a comment

Filed under NJ Senate Democrats, press release, property tax cap, property tax relief, Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, State Senator Anthony Bucco, Stephen Sweeney

"Since when did Massachusetts being ‘whiter’ than New Jersey matter in the discussion of a 2.5 percent property tax cap?…"

That was the question asked by Assemblywoman L.Grace Spencer (D-Essex) when she heard a comment by Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Lori Grifa during today’s special session of the State Legislature to discuss property taxes.

Spencer issued a press release short after hearing the remarks which stated “Since when did Massachusetts being ‘whiter’ than New Jersey matter in the discussion of a 2.5 percent property tax cap? Ask Department of Community Affairs Lori Grifa for an answer. Because I have no idea what the relevance could possibly be.

“A property tax cap is being considered for the benefit of all property taxpayers in New Jersey, regardless of whether they’re black or white. For Commissioner Grifa to interject race in this discussion was inappropriate and unnecessary, and shows a lack of understanding of the issues at hand.”

You can read more about it >>>Here

The answer to the above question happens to be “it doesn’t”, but it just goes to show you that some people will say anything in order to tow the company line!

Leave a comment

Filed under Department of Community Affairs, Lori Grifa, Massachusetts, NJ State Assembly, property tax cap


From New Jersey Assembly Democrats’s Notes

Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan on Thursday morning noted statistics show Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed property tax cap would lead to higher property tax hikes in New Jersey than the state has seen the last two years.

Under the 4 percent property tax cap implemented by Democrats three years ago, New Jersey property taxes have increased 3.7 percent in 2008 and 3.3 percent in 2009, following years of increases hovering around 7.5 percent.

Christie wants to implement Massachusetts’ 2.5 percent constitutional cap, but according to Real Estate Economy Watch that cap led to a 4.8 percent hike in 2008 and a 5.1 percent increase in 2009.

“Gov. Christie’s slapped-together plan would drive New Jersey backwards in its efforts to control property taxes,” said Cryan (D-Union). “Gov. Christie and facts have never been friends, but the facts clearly show that his plan would lead to higher property taxes for New Jersey than we already have, and no one thinks that’s a good idea.”

The Democratic Legislature has approved a tougher new 2.9 percent statutory cap that builds on the success of the 4 percent cap.

Cryan also noted how the Massachusetts cap has led to, among other things, residents being charged $17 per month to keep street lights on in front of their homes.

“Gov. Christie would have us believe Massachusetts is a tax-free paradise, but under his plan, we might as well put coin slots on the street lights in front of our homes,” Cryan said. “This isn’t hysteria. This is reality, and that reality is that Gov. Christie’s plan is built on rhetoric, not facts.”


Filed under Facebook, Gov. Chris Christie, Joe Cryan, Massachusetts, NJ Assembly Dems, property tax cap, property taxes