Category Archives: Steve Massell

Quote Of The Day: "…I pledge to give 100% of me"

This quote warms my heart today:

“…I pledge to the people of Middletown, from Lincroft to Leonardo and Oak Hill to Chapel Hill, that you will get nothing less than 100 percent of me as your deputy mayor,” Steve Massell said during his post swearing-in address at the township’s annual reorganization meeting – Middletown-Patch

Does giving 100% effort mean Steve Massell, as acting Deputy Mayor of Middletown, will finally get all those “Welcome to Middletown” signs painted like he pledged to do 2 years ago when first elected? Or does it mean that he will not play on his iPad during meetings and pay attention to what’s going on? More than likely, giving 100% effort means that he will finally have more to say at Township Committee meets other than “No Comment”

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Filed under Middletown Patch, Quote of the day, Steve Massell

A Few Words About Middletown’s Reorganization

Just a quick word about Sunday’s Middletown Reorganization meeting being held at Town Hall @ noon.

Seeing how the Middletown Republicans have already “leaked” their intentions to reappoint Tony Fiore as Mayor and Steve Massell as Deputy Mayor, I have to wonder why?

Steve Massell is up for reelection this year and historically (thought not always the case recently) , the person on the Township Committee seeking reelection is appointed mayor, but I guess, seeing how Massell hasn’t made more than a handful of public comments during his 2+ years of tenure on the Township Committee and often seems as if he doesn’t want to be up there on the dais, and if you take into consideration the rumor that has been circulating for the past few months about how Massell doesn’t intend to seek reelection anyway after his current term expires at the end of 2012, the Republicans couldn’t appoint him mayor.

Why reappoint Tony Fiore as mayor than?

I suppose it must have more to due with Fiore’s abrasive, arrogant and cocksure personality than the actual job he did representing the Township as the committee’s mouthpiece.
Beside, who else could it be?
Gerry Scharfenberger? No, I don’t think so. He is too much of a polarizing figure and is a lighting rod that has attracted too much controversy over the years. Governor Christie wouldn’t want his favorite employee in the spotlight taking away any of the attention from himself while making a run to be either Mitt Romney’s Vice -Presidential or possible his candidate for U.S. Attorney General.
Kevin Settembrino? After his snake-in-the-grass performance doing the Township Committee’s dirty work of threatening the Middletown Library Board of Trustees to turn over nearly $500K of surplus and reserved funds or else the Middletown Library system would be over to the County and all the while pitting the Library Board against the Middletown Police, saying that if the funds weren’t turned over the Middletown Library would be solely responsible for Police layoffs. Settembrino didn’t make many friends in his first year on the Committee to say the least, but next year will be his year to shine as mayor.
And of course there is just no way Stephanie Murray could have been placed in either position in her very first year.
So Tony gets to be mayor again by default.
Also, I would like to thank all of those who will be appointed and reappointed to the various board and commission sponsored by the Township, most are volunteers and give of themselves freely to help out others and regardless of how partisan the process of their appointments are they deserve to be thanked.

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Filed under Gerry Scharfenberger, Kevin Settembrino, Middletown Library, reorganization, Stephanie Murray, Steve Massell, surplus funds, Tony Fiore

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

Middletown GOP Candidate Massell Proposed Tax on Homeowners Who Cut Down Trees

Middletown Planning Board member and GOP Candidate for Township Committee, Steve Massell, recently proposed to the township committee that homeowners should be taxed for cutting down trees on their properties.

During the public comments portion of the May 18th Middletown Township Committee Meeting, Massell read from a front page article of the Asbury Park Press, the first paragraph of a story entitled “Justices OK tree-clearing fee in Jackson”.  
The paragraph stated that the “The state Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Jackson’s tree-removal ordinance, which requires property owners to replace any healthy tree taken down or pay into a fund dedicated to planting trees and shrubs on public property.”
Massell said that he was upset at seeing sections of town “clear-cut” by developers in order to build housing developments like Harmony Glen, which is off of Harmony road, behind the Shoprite. He felt that by charging homeowners upwards of $800 per tree (to be put in a general fund for tree and shrub replacement like the Jackson tree-removal ordinance calls for), would be a good way to dissuade developers from building in town. He never thought of the cost to the average homeowner that would like to build a single family home on a private lot or the homeowners that would like to expand their existing homes. Deputy Mayor Scharfenberger pointed out to Mr. Massell that as a member of the planning board, he should be aware that the township already has ordinances in place to force developers into replanting a certain number of trees that had been clear-cut once a new development has been completed.
Steve Massell then left the podium, mumbling to himself something about how he still thought it would be a good idea if the township committee considered the Jackson ordinance, which surprises me. One would have thought that Massell would have first talked about this with his fellow GOPers before presenting his idea in front of the committee, after all Pam Brightbill and Tony Fiore sit on the planning board with Massell.
I have a couple of things I would like to point out to Steve Massell:
First, as a Planning Board member, you have a say in how builders develop property in town. When a builder brings prints to the planning board for approval why don’t you insist that a property could not be clear-cut? Have builders submit plans that leave some trees and shrubbery in place, I am sure that an architects could handle planning such a development.
Second, in the winter 2005 edition of Middletown Matters, then Mayor Tom Hall address the issue in the Mayor’s Message titled “Keeping the trees was not an option for the Crestview Drive & Route 35 site”.

He stated, “…can’t help but notice a new landscape. The stretch of woods located next to the revamped shopping center has been replaced with a barren, unattractive construction site.” “…I share the sentiments conveyed by many in phone calls, letters and conversations: I’d rather keep the trees. However, that’s simply not an option.” 

So Steve, before you propose a tax on residents make sure that you do your homework first and check with the other members of your party before presenting such an idea, particularly since as a Planning Board member, you can already take steps against clear-cutting

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Filed under clear-cutting, developments and builders, Gerry Scharfenberger, Harmony Glen, Middletown Matters, Pamela Brightbill, Steve Massell, Tom Hall, Tony"the fibber"Fiore