Category Archives: property taxes

Monmouth Freeholders adopt weak State pay-to-play rules, abandon stronger County rules in place since 2008

Fortunately, former Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet is still on the job as a outspoken member of the public. The Middletown Patch reported on 1/31/12 that this year’s all-GOP Freeholder Board voted unanimously last week to loosen the County’s pay-to-play rules, and Amy was there to call them on it!

In a vote on Jan. 26th, the Board chose to abandon the tougher County pay-to-play rules for the lax State ones. The reason given by the Board is that contractors were confused by the County rules. However, many other municipalities and counties have the stronger pay-to-play rules in place, so contractors doing business in other towns would already be familiar with them.

The Board’s decision opens the door to rewarding politically connected persons and businesses with County contracts. The move weakens competition and may have the direct effect of increasing property taxes in line with higher contract costs. It’s hard to imagine why any ethical publicly-minded governmental body would do such a thing, unless for personal benefit. It appears the Board members have chosen to grant themselves the latitude to direct contracts at will to ensure their pockets will be lined at election time.

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said himself that the State pay-to-play law does nothing to prevent the practice by local governments. In September 2011, he released a 20-page report “blasting the law for being toothless” as NJ.com put it.

The effectiveness of Christie’s Tool Kit at holding down property taxes would be vastly improved if it closed the loopholes in the State’s pay-to-play law. But until that happens, it is incumbent upon local governments to do what’s right by having strong pay-to-play rules of their own.

Public advocacy group The Citizens Campaign is calling for the public to attend the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 9th, when the Board will be asked to reinstate the stronger pay-to-play policy. For details, check out their facebook page and if you can, make plans to attend.

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Filed under Amy Mallet, Facebook, Middletown Patch, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, NJ.com, pay-to-play, property taxes, the Citizens Campaign

Letter: Taxes Sky High in Middletown

The Following letter to the editor appears online today over at the Atlantic Highlands Herald:

Have you heard that the Middletown’s mayor and his running mate want to hold the line on taxes? Hold it where, exactly? Somewhere in the stratosphere?

I think the joke’s on us. Municipal taxes have gone up over 22% just during Mister Fiore’s 3-year term in office. Mr. Fiore voted for tax increases every year. Based on his record, I think we can expect more of the same.

Republican candidates keep talking about making Middletown an affordable place to live, and then keep doing the opposite once they’re elected. You’d think they’d be too red in the face to keep talking about it.

Mr. Fiore doesn’t seem to feel responsible for our high taxes since he is always talking about forces beyond his control. Well, that doesn’t inspire my confidence in his ability, and I won’t be voting for him.

I think it’s time we had representatives who stopped making excuses and brought sound judgment to the job. Jim Grenafege has been a voice of reason for many years now. He is both informed and vocal about issues that are important to residents. Jim strongly supports televising town meetings so that we can all see what our local government is doing. He also feels the Township desperately needs the oversight of a Finance Committee, which almost every other town has. After seeing taxes double in such a short time, I have to agree with him.

Please join me in supporting Jim Grenafege for Middletown Township Committee this Election Day.

William G. Butler
Middletown, NJ

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Filed under Atlantic Highlands Herald, Carol Fowler, Finance Committee, Jim Grenafege, letter to the editor, property taxes, Tony Fiore

Letter: Middletown GOP to blame for poor fiscal policies

The following letter appears online today at the Asbury Park Press:

In his Oct. 21 letter, “Real solutions to problems put Middletown on right track,” Mayor Anthony Fiore admitted that Middletown government is derailed. I could not agree more.

True to form, he falsely blames years of excessive spending, unnecessary bonding, escalating taxation and debt, all cradled in Republican mismanagement, on the Middletown Democrats who somehow magically made elected Republicans spend our tax dollars. This is just more empty rhetoric to go with decades of empty promises.

After Fiore strong-armed $500,000 from library funds, took $350,000 for the second year in a row from sewerage authority fees and used $1.3 million in public education funds, his so-called fiscal discipline required a 12 percent tax increase to cover $45 million of a $62 million budget. This lack of incumbent Republican fiscal discipline has Middletown looking at a projected $2 million shortfall for 2012.

Ask Mayor Fiore if he has a real solution. Past Republican practice points at raising taxes. During his term, he has contributed 22 percent to a 40 percent increase in taxes over the last five years. Past practice also points at adding to our $70 million debt, which has increased 66 percent over the same five years.

Finally, at least $2.4 million of $4 million in “cuts” claimed by Mayor Fiore were onetime nonrecurring expenses that were never part of the 2011 budget.

Put a stop to more than 30 years of poor fiscal policy and borrowing. Please help our community get back on track. Vote for James Grenafege and Carol Fowler.

James Grenafege

Middletown Township Committee candidate

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, Jim Grenafege, letter to the editor, Middletown Democrats, Middletown Library, Middletown Sewerage Authority, property taxes, Republicans, Tony Fiore

>AS a Matter Of Fact…Busting the myth: The real numbers show N.J. is not the most overtaxed state in the nation

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By Mary E. Forsberg and Deborah Howlett
June 26th, 2011

Perhaps you’ve heard a politician or two, in an accusatory tone, declare New Jersey has the highest taxes in the nation. It’s become a rallying cry for the current administration. It is repeated as an indisputable fact by the media. But mostly it just sounds right to people, perhaps because it so neatly fits the cynical narrative of government waste, fraud and abuse.
The thing is, it’s not true.

Consider this from a recent press release by the Connecticut House Republican Party:
“Connecticut residents already pay the highest taxes in America.”
Or this from the Buffalo News editorial page: “New York is the most overtaxed state in the nation.”
Nope. According to the Orange County chapter of the Lambda Alpha economics society, “California is the most overtaxed state in the nation,”
And from a conservative pundit in Chicago: “I live in Illinois … the most overtaxed state in the union.”
But wait. There’s another. The vice chair of the Maine Republican Party has said, “Maine is currently the most overtaxed state in America.”
They can’t all be right.
For the record, New Jersey ranks eighth among all states when state and local tax revenues are compared as a percentage of taxpayer’s personal income, according to an analysis using data from the U.S. Census and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. It’s the cleanest comparison of the tax “burden” in all 50 states. New Jersey’s ranking drops considerably once you get past property taxes and look only at state tax collections.
Simply comparing total revenue collected from taxes in each state would produce a wholly inaccurate comparison because poorer, less-populated states would always appear to tax less. Measuring as a percentage of personal income, or on a per capita basis, provides necessary
context and a more accurate comparison among states.
Consider the big three state revenue sources in New Jersey — income, corporate and sales taxes — and then size up property taxes.

Income tax


On a per capita basis, New Jersey ranks seventh among states for income tax revenues, according to U.S. Census data. As a percentage of personal income, New Jersey ranks 19th among states.
It’s important to understand New Jersey is consistently at the top of lists that rank states in terms of median income and millionaires (those with at least $1 million in investable or liquid assets) as a percentage of households.
With all that wealth, the state also has a progressive income tax that collects significant amounts of its revenue from the wealthiest in the state and virtually none from the poorest, such as married couples whose incomes are less than $20,000 ($10,000 for a single person).
The progressive aspect of New Jersey’s income tax has evolved since the state’s first 2 percent flat tax was enacted in 1976. Public opinion polls show a vast majority approve of raising rates levied on income that exceeds $1 million a year.
Other states also have local income taxes. Philadelphia, for example, levies a 3.928 percent wage tax on residents and a 3.4985 percent wage tax on nonresidents on top of the state’s 3.07 percent flat income tax. Cities in New Jersey are barred from imposing income taxes on workers.
Corporate Tax

Corporate taxes in New Jersey rank ninth as a percentage of personal income and sixth when measured per capita.
New Jersey took in a little more than $2 billion in fiscal year 2010 from corporations, or 7.5 percent of all revenue collected by the state. However, 93 percent of the 252,000 corporations subject to New Jersey’s corporate business tax paid the state less than $2,000 each. Corporate revenues for the year surpassed $24.6 billion.
Sales Tax

Comparing revenue from the sales tax puts New Jersey 19th on a per capita basis and 36th when measured as a percent of personal income.
The state sales tax is often cited as one of the highest in the nation because of its 7 percent rate. However, it is applied more narrowly than sales taxes are in many other states.
Food, clothing and gas are exempt, for example. Depending how one looks at it, that is a loss to the state or a savings to taxpayers of about $2.6 billion.
Nor does New Jersey allow cities or counties to collect local sales taxes, which many other states allow.
Montgomery, Ala., levies a 10 percent sales tax (4 percent state; 6 percent local) on everything sold, including food.
In Georgia, a 12 percent combined state and local sales tax is the norm in some areas of the state.
Property Taxes

What’s abundantly clear, however you slice the data, is that New Jersey ranks among the top one or two states in the nation when it comes to property taxes, which are the only real source of revenue for local government in the Garden State. Last year, property taxes produced $25 billion in revenues, exceeding revenue from the state’s three major taxes.
* * *
In total, as a percentage of personal income, taxes in New Jersey rank about eighth among all the states. Considering it ranks near the top for median income and wealth, that designation hardly seems out of line.
But those are not the numbers pushed by anti-tax zealots. Groups such as the conservative Tax Foundation have cited New Jersey as having the highest tax burden in the nation, using a convoluted formula that doesn’t quite parse the intricacies of local tax laws.
For example, the Tax Foundation charges back to New Jersey the $2.6 billion in income taxes paid to New York by New Jersey residents who work in New York and must abide by New York tax laws, over which New Jersey has no control.
By the way, that $2.6 billion is not just a blip in the data. It is more than New Jersey collects from its corporation business tax, the state’s third-largest revenue source, and it is one of the largest income transfers from one state to another in the country.
All of this just points to the need to be careful when citing state rankings.
Some, such as the Tax Foundation’s, only obscure real facts because they allow politicians to cherry-pick data and use them to justify their political philosophy.
So the next time you hear someone say New Jersey is the most overtaxed state in the nation, look past the rhetoric and consider the real numbers behind the statement.

Check out the tax data tables here.

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Filed under corporate taxes, Debrorah Howlett, income taxes, New Jersey, New Jersey Policy Perspective, property taxes, sales tax, tax burden

>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

>The Middletown Library is no Sewerage Authority

>by guest blogger Linda Baum

So some think the Library should offer money to the Township because the Sewerage Authority did? Now let’s think about that.

First, let’s be clear that right now your sewer fees are not part of your property taxes – you pay them separately. Those fees go straight to the Sewerage Authority, bypassing the town budget. Now consider that if sewer services were housed under the Department of Public Works – where they should be – the town would save a bundle by the consolidation and those fees would be rolled into your property taxes. Then the surplus would flow back to the township anyway because the revenue would be part of the town’s budget.

Another line of thinking is that the Sewerage Authority should return surplus money to residents, not the town, because you pay these fees directly. And shouldn’t some part of the surplus go back to the other towns (Highlands and Atlantic Highlands) that pay to use our sewer services? The Sewerage Authority could argue that it has never been the practice to return monies, so therefore there is no need to now. They could also argue that they are an independent body and can do as they please, including continuing to operate on a for-profit basis.

And now one more point. The services that the Library provides cannot be compared to sewage treatment. The Library is the heart of the community. When you walk in, there is a feeling a warmth and family. There we can find the support we need for our personal and professional growth throughout our lives. And keep in mind, the library is funded in accordance with law. It is just that important.

Note:
Last year the Middletown Sewerage Authority (TOMSA) donated $365,000 of surplus funds to Middletown Township to help offset last years budget deficit, it is expected that this year TOMSA will contribute a comparable sum to the Township.

The question that should be answered here is; Are residents and other municipalities being overcharged by TOMSA, if so than shouldn’t surplus funds be returned to those that have been overcharged in the first place, not given to the Township of Middletown to help fill in budget deficits?

As Ms. Baum pointed out the counter argument is that the surplus is being returned to the residents through local property tax relief, but again what about the towns of Highlands and Atlantic Highlands that already feel they are being overcharged and have no recourse and are indirectly providing property tax relief to Middletown? – MM

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Filed under budget deficit, budget surplus, Middletown Library, Middletown Sewerage Authority, property taxes, save our library

>Middletown Refuses To Take Residents Money; Taxpayers Told Of Looming Tax Sales

>Does anyone have an extra $1500 cash or more lying around the house; if you do can you lend it to a neighbor? According to Middletown resident Dora Crisafulli, she was turned away from the Middletown Tax office yesterday (November 29, 2010) when she showed up to pay her property taxes. As it turned out she wasn’t the only one turned away, others who showed up Monday were also turned away.

Mrs. Crisafulli stated that when she arrived at the Middletown tax office Monday morning, there were several people in front of her, all waiting to pay their tax bills before the end of the month. Each resident was told that their payments were late and that their tax bill should have been paid by November 10th (since payments dates were adjusted a few months back to reflect the new bill payment schedule that require taxes due on the 1st of the month), each were told that only cash or certified cashier checks would be accepted as payment. No personal checks, credit or debit cards would be taken. According to Crisafulli, it seemed that a near riot would ensue as people were being turned away.

One elderly woman left the tax office in near tears when she couldn’t pay half of her tax bill by personal check with the remaining balance placed on a credit card. Others in line became angry and agitated at the situation, no one could understand the reasoning behind the sudden change in payment methods and they questioned who had that kind of money lying around?

When it was Crisafulli’s turn at the window she demanded to speak to the office supervisor (Crisafulli couldn’t remember her name) when she was not allowed to use her debit card to pay her taxes and found out that a late charge of nearly $60 was being added to her bill. She was told by the clerk that the supervisor was currently busy but could speak to her shortly. Mrs. Crisafulli let the clerk know that she expected to talk to the supervisor after she returned from the bank with cash.
Upon her return from the bank, Mrs. Crisafulli asked to speak to the office supervisor before paying her tax bill. When the supervisor came out to speak with Mrs. Crisafulli, she was probably sorry that she had, Crisafulli gave her an earful.

Crisafulli stated to me that she had asked why she and others had to pay by cash or by certified cashier’s check (which would have been subjected to an additional $15 bank service fee) when previous to this date other forms of payment were acceptable? She also questioned why she was charged and added misc. interest charge of $51.54 over the normal late interest fee of $8.04, which she had been paying since the Township change its payment cycle a few months earlier (Crisafulli stated that she was on a fixed income and doesn’t always have money available on the first of the month). Previously to the change, she had never been late with a tax payment and she would have paid her tax bill on Friday but the office was closed the day after Thanksgiving.

The woman that Mrs. Crisafulli spoke to informed her that the reason for the changes to the payment policy, was due to the upcoming Tax Lien sale that was being scheduled for late December (Crisafulli stated 12/28 but more than likely in January).

Anyone late in their tax payments, were being required to pay by either cash or certified check and the additional interest charge was for the purpose of processing the paper work for the upcoming tax sale and to place notices in the area newspapers.

After hearing this Mrs. Crisafulli was shaken and upset, she wanted to know how in the world Middletown could place a lien on her house and put it up for sale without her notice or her being delinquent in her tax payments; she never was and had ever been habitually late paying her taxes. She was mortified that her name would appear in the newspapers and that her neighbors would think that she was a tax cheat.

Only after the supervisor stated that she would check on Mrs. Crisafulli’s status, to see if her house was going to be included in the sale and notices, did Crisafulli make her cash payment and request a receipt.

Two hours later the phone rang in the Crisafulli’s house and the voice at the other end of the phone notified Mrs. Crisafulli that she was safe; her house wasn’t being subjected to the tax sale and no notice would be placed in the local newspapers.

Needless to say she was relieved to hear the news, but what about the others, who have been turned away over these last couple of days, have they been told of the upcoming tax sale and whether or not their homes would be included?

This is disturbing; I can’t imagine that Middletown would be so hard up for tax revenues that it would refuse to take late tax payments from residents unless those payments were made with cash. It is paramount to extortion, either you pay us in cash or we will but a lien on your house and then put it up for sale. How can this be possible, is this just a simple case of misunderstanding or is there something more to it? I have never heard of such a thing happening unless a property owner’s taxes were considered habitually past due. I also don’t understand why residents can’t pay with a credit card, the service fees that the banks charge the township are being passed onto the taxpayers, and the Township no longer absorbs those transaction fees. It just makes no sense.

Someone needs to question this before unknowing residents are hit with tax liens against their properties and find themselves in a court fight to keep their homes or businesses.

I placed a phone call to Middletown Committeeman Sean Byrnes last night to ask if he had known what was happing at the tax office. He stated that he did not but would contact Township Administrator Tony Mercantante, to inquire about it and get back to me.

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Filed under Middletown, property taxes, Sean F. Byrnes, tax liens, tax sale