Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Proposed Middletown tax increase -- it's just nuts

According to the APP, the Middletown Township Committee is considering raising taxes 10.2 percent this year. The spending plan is about $63 million, and the amount to be raised through taxation is $38,871,437, up from $34,956,593. The tax rate itself would be 77.94 cents per $100 of assessed value. Each cent represents $498,727.

Also according to the APP, the committee majority is actively considering postponing the hiring of six police officers.

Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger railed against "the state" again because state funding was cut by $634,511, to $7.8 million. The mayor said it was unfair of the state to require Middletown to take on added expenditures such as pension contributions and the public library allocation.

Interim Township Administrator Frederick Jahn characterized cuts the administration has already made to thew spending plan as "...kind of ruthless..."

In my opinion, such assertions by Mayor Scharfenberger are invalid. The library was expanded in some part with tax money -- it shouldn't have been. This committee majority built a more than $8 million vanity project just a few years ago with the Middletown Cultural Arts Center. This committee has just got done giving its clerk and enormous pay increase (Why? No idea). This committee majority does not micromanage expenditures on the deluxe television sets and other durable goods that are purchased; there has been no eye to savings. And litigation...ah, litigation.

This committee majority has a history of picking unnecessary, lengthy and expensive court fights with the PBA in the township -- and usually losing. Trying to get a grasp of how much this committee majority is spending on litigation is very hard, given the fact that in the past legal expenses have been hidden in line items that are totally unrelated to litigation expenses.

Years ago, someone made the jovial remark that Middletown would bond for lunch if it could. This came up in a conversation regarding the township's more than $80 million in bond debt.

Frankly, I do not believe this committee majority is competent where it involves fiscal oversight of the township. Cultural centers, high-priced clerks, and not even libraries are more important than even one police officer, let alone six.

The basic mission of government is not to operate cultural centers, create opulent libraries, turn partisan lawyers and contractors into wealthy people off vanity projects on municipal projects, or expand into areas non-essential to the governance of a community. But, the government does have a basic duty to safeguard citizens, hence police officers are needed. There is a lot of excess going on in Middletown's government, and partisan people are having a field day at taxpayers expense.

I have said it before, and will say it again, anyone raising taxes at all in this environment should not hold office. Yet, a 10 percent increase -- that is insane. There's way too much fluff and posturing on this committee, and not nearly enough 'getting it done' where it involves fiscal management. As for the 'blame it on Trenton' line -- that's Politicalese for 'the dog ate my homework,' and it's ridiculous. Government should be about money and basic services, and not frills.

Click on the headline to go to a great story about this by the APP's Kevin Penton.

Caption: Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger and Deputy Mayor Pam Brightbill at last year's Memorial Day Parade in Middletown.

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