Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year End Review

How successful is Aberdeener? That question may sound pre-mature considering the blog’s short life but asking forces us to define success. So, to quote Mayor Koch, how am I doing? To be generous, I’d say fair.

Aberdeener’s mission is to effect positive change through the promotion of ideas and information. Has there been any change? No.

The top three articles, Plato’s Disciples being number one, were all related to the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. Yet, I’ve not seen any change. For example, our school administration, with the board’s consent, remains intent on using our most learning-challenged students as an opportunity to featherbed the teacher rolls. Despite widespread evidence that under-performing students often benefit from learning in a group environment, our school district won’t countenance any special program that doesn’t involve one-on-one instruction.

Surprisingly, the fourth leading article was Merge Aberdeen and Matawan. I believe most residents instinctively recognize the advantages of combining the two municipalities but the two councils are strongly opposed. There’s no chance of seeing a re-unification while the old guard is in charge.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, two of the least read articles were Affordable Housing in Aberdeen and Legislating Against Pay to Play. I don’t think people understand that for every five new residential units, the town is obligated to build an “affordable housing” unit as well. When you consider Aberdeen Forge, the proposed Transit Village, and the Anchor Glass area, that’s a lot of affordable housing we’ll need to build.

As for Pay to Play, I can only assume most people don’t care that Aberdeen’s township engineer, CME Associates, not only oversees about 25% of the budget, but is also the single largest political donor to the Aberdeen Democratic Party.

Why then do I rate my success as fair? Site traffic and the “water-cooler-multiplier”. To date, Aberdeener has attracted a little over 400 unique visitors and nearly 4000 pageviews. The number of unique visitors, though small, is certainly more than enough to impact any of the local elections. Plus, I happen to know that many of my posts have been discussed around the “water cooler”. Nearly 150 visitors arrived at the blog after specifically searching for “Aberdeener”.

In summary, no success yet but there’s reason to be hopeful.

As a footnote, I’d like to thank the other local blogs for their strong support – Matawan Advocate, Matawan Aberdeen Observer, and Truth In Matawan. Without their support, my blog would still be largely unknown.

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, successful, and blessed year.
>>> Read more!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Plato's Disciples

I’m not a fan of Plato. I believe he was, at heart, a fascist. He preferred “philosopher kings” to democratically elected leaders. He was anti-family and a proponent of social engineering. He was a misogynist even by his day’s standards. He was egomaniacal in his belief that philosophers could change human nature and build a utopian society. Hogwash. I adhere to William F. Buckley’s view that we’d be better governed by “the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty.”

I mention Plato because it appears the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District shares his disdain for common sense. Like Plato, our school district prefers a “scientific approach” that is founded, not in science, but upon intellectual hubris.

At the past board meeting I asked about two programs whose combined cost is over $135,000 – Schools Attuned Training and Reading Recovery Teachers-In-Training. On the spot, without any notes or preparation, Kimberley Honnick, the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, explained each program in detail including their histories, the organizations involved, the methodologies, and the school district’s need for them. Ms. Honnick is likely the foremost expert on education I have ever met. Yet, I profoundly disagree with her regarding the need for these and similar programs funded by the school district.

Schools Attuned Training is provided by All Kinds of Minds, a non-profit organization founded in 1995 by Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrician and author of “The Myth of Laziness”, and Charles R. Schwab, the noted financier. The basic idea is that every child has strengths and weaknesses. When a child struggles in school, we need to pinpoint his strengths and weaknesses through a “neurodevelopmental profile” and then customize an educational method that plays to his strengths.

The program is touted as scientifically based and highly regarded among educators. But does it actually improve education? Since I can’t find a single study suggesting it does, I would have to say no.

In 2003, All Kinds of Minds hired Dr. Diana L. Montgomery to research the effectiveness of the program by reviewing participant surveys taken during the course. She did not do any follow up to measure the program’s effectiveness in the classroom. This is like measuring the effectiveness of a skydiving course by asking people whether they liked the course and then ignoring whether they survived the jump.

Surely, in the past twelve years, Charles Schwab could have funded a study to clinically prove the effectiveness of this program. But doing so would have risked showing the program is actually ineffective.

So, that’s $75,000 we’re spending on a program to design courses around “neurodevelopmental profiles” even though there’s no scientific basis to believe the program works.

Reading Recovery, created by Marie Clay in 1979, is an early intervention program designed to reduce literacy problems. It, too, focuses on classroom instruction customized to the child’s needs. For the $61,410 spent on the program, the school district could have purchased nearly 3,000 copies of “Reading Recovery: A Guidebook for Teachers in Training” from at a price of $21.50 per copy, shipping included. You would have to buy the book since neither the Matawan-Aberdeen Library nor any library associated with the Middlesex Automation Consortium carries a copy of this “bestseller”.

Does Reading Recovery work? In 1995, Reading Research Quarterly published a study by Dr. Timothy Shanahan and Dr. Rebecca Barr that states Reading Recovery “is less effective and more costly than has been claimed, and does not lead to systemic changes in classroom instruction, making it difficult to maintain learning gains.”

In a 2002 review of prior studies, Dr. Aleidine J. Moeller, the Director of the Teachers College Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, stated the following:

  • “Evaluations with a controlled group find that children who return to the classroom as successfully ‘recovered’ students immediately begin falling behind. Their learning rate is slower than that of other low achieving children.”
  • “Even with the best classroom instruction, there will still be some students who don’t make adequate progress and need additional, more intensive instruction. Reading Recovery has not met the needs of these lowest performing students.”
  • “[B]y virtue of the number of students who can be reached, Reading Recovery is at least 200% more expensive than other first grade interventions.”
  • “[S]tudents in Reading Recovery may experience problems with self-esteem when they do not perform well.”
  • “[In 23 years,] Reading Recovery has not changed as a result of new research on reading.”
In summary, Reading Recovery is an expensive program that is more likely to harm than help the child.

A key point to remember is that the $135,000 dollars spent on training do not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on additional teachers to provide the one-on-one mentoring these programs require.

Why would the faculty so strongly support these programs? Because teachers love one-on-one programs. Individualized programs create the need to hire more teachers and give teachers the emotional reward of seemingly helping a child. Whether the students actually benefit appears largely irrelevant.

Why would the school board vote to support such programs? Because they don’t do their homework. The school board doesn't research the programs they fund with our tax dollars.

Plato asked an interesting question – Why are intellectuals so often ineffectual leaders? He answered by saying that intellectuals are accustomed to the light of day while most of the world operates in darkness, i.e. ignorance. Intellectuals, according to Plato, find it difficult to work in darkness.

I disagree. The problem isn’t that there’s not enough light. The problem is that too many intellectuals choose to close their eyes to reality. >>> Read more!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Legislating Against Pay to Play

New Jersey has become renowned for its system of “Pay to Play,” whereby contractors contribute to political campaigns in exchange for special consideration on government contracts. Pay to play is often legal so long as there’s no explicit arrangement connecting a contribution to a government contract. Naturally, many communities have banned this practice by forbidding any government contracts being awarded to a political contributor. The question is whether Matawan and Aberdeen should outlaw “Pay to Play” as well. I would oppose such legislation based upon free speech rights and the “Law of Unintended Consequences”.

I’m well aware how our area has been affected by graft. In 2005, Matt Scannapieco, the mayor of Marlboro, pled guilty to accepting $245,000 in bribes from developers. In 2006, Barry C. Bowers, the engineering inspector for Old Bridge, pled guilty to receiving over $25,000 in home renovations from contractors. That same year, Paul A. Coughlin, the mayor of Hazlet, pled guilty to accepting a $3,000 bribe from an FBI cooperating witness pretending to be a contractor. Months later, John Merla, the mayor of Keyport, pled guilty to the same charges.

At the same time, both Matawan and Aberdeen have both been tainted by, if not in fact, the appearance of pay to play. In 2004, Councilman Buccellato donated $3,900 to the Monmouth County Republican Committee. A few months later, the county awarded him a $25,000 contract for “call-in professional architectural services”. Last month, while considering whether to call, and pay for, a recount, the county awarded him another contract worth $125,000 even though Buccellato’s proposal was at least $30-40,000 higher than the others. Councilman Buccellato has also been a vocal supporter of awarding the Transit Village Project to the Columbia Group, a developer run by Jack Morris, a county Republican power broker.

Aberdeen’s Township Engineer, CME Associates, has donated nearly $60,000 to the Aberdeen Democrats since 1999. Coppola & Coppola, the consultant hired to develop the township master plan and review zoning variances, has donated at least $5,500 to the Aberdeen Democrats over that same time period.

Yet, I still oppose legislation that prevents political contributors from seeking government contracts. First, I believe that political contributions are a form of political speech and therefore ought to be protected under our Bill of Rights. Forbidding someone from receiving a government contract because of a political contribution is the same as penalizing him for political activity. No citizen should have to choose between political activity and feeding his family.

Additionally, I fear the Law of Unintended Consequences. In the 1990s, President Clinton sought to punish “excessive” executive salaries and made anything over $1 million non-deductible from corporate taxes. This led to an explosion in executive compensation via cashless stock options. Then McCain-Feingold tried to regulate campaign financing and funding moved from well know committees and PACs to shadowy 527s. Sarbanes-Oxley tried to outlaw Enron-style accounting shenanigans and international corporations began going public outside the United States.

Politicians will always find a way to raise money and interested parties will always find a way to give it to them. Better it should be in the open than in the shadows. Rather, I would allow any person or organization seeking business with the government to contribute to any campaign but with the following requirements:

  1. On the cover page of all proposals and bids, the vendor shall list all political contributions over $300 made by its executives and their agents over the prior five years at the local, county, state, and national levels where the town/borough council is located.
  2. Prior to voting upon any contracts, the town/borough council shall review, in a public forum, the vendor’s political contributions and include a listing of such contributions in the minutes.
  3. Should the vendor be found non-compliant, the town/borough shall nullify the contract or be awarded penalties up to 50% of the contracted amount.
People have a right to free speech and unencumbered political activity. But they don’t have the right to anonymity when the public good is at stake. When the government awards money to a political donor, we should all know about it. >>> Read more!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When Failure is an Option

Imagine the following: Your neighbors have entrusted you with their children’s education. They have given you sixty million dollars and asked you to do the best you can with what you have. You recognize the responsibility your neighbors have bestowed upon you; so much of their children’s futures depend on what you do. In such a scenario, would you do any of the following?

  1. Give all teachers guaranteed employment for life if they manage three years without getting fired
  2. Dole out millions of dollars a year as an incentive for teachers to improve their own education but not one penny as an incentive to improve the education of their students
  3. When presented with two candidates to coach the chess club, a local grandmaster willing to work for free or the gym teacher who demands a thousand dollars, choose the gym teacher
  4. Adopt the legal minimum standards of education as your own standards
  5. Allow students to coast through school by taking only the easiest courses
  6. Dedicate more resources on psychiatrists and drug counselors than on the science department
  7. Draft a mission statement that doesn't include teaching
  8. Guarantee every teacher an automatic raise regardless of performance
Let's say you did all the above and failed miserably.
  1. Each year, your students score below the state average in all the assessment exams
  2. Most of your students graduate with an 8th grade math education compared to other industrialized nations
  3. Only a minority of your students successfully complete college
  4. Most of your students lack the skills to pursue careers in the most promising fields
Assuming all the above, would you then have the gall to demand more money from your neighbors because of promises you made to the teachers? Would you have the chutzpah to extort money from your neighbors by threatening to cut services?

Now, imagine the reverse. Imagine it’s your neighbor who’s taking your money. Imagine it’s your neighbor who’s failing to educate your child. And ask your neighbor this – “Since when did failure become an option in my child’s education?” >>> Read more!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Revaluations, Falling Home Prices, and the Equalization Factor

There’s some confusion regarding revaluations during a bearish housing market. People fear that their homes will be over-assessed because prior sales are not necessarily indicative of current values in a falling market. However, the focus should be on property taxes, not assessments. Will the current housing market affect individual property taxes? Yes but in ways that are impossible to measure, predict, or control.

Let’s assume that property taxes consist of local property taxes and county property taxes. Your property taxes are based upon your “fair share” and total appropriations at both the local and county levels. Your fair share is based on your property’s assessment compared to the total assessment for your municipality and your county.

In theory, a rising and falling market shouldn’t affect your fair share because all the properties are rising and falling at about the same rate. But in reality, that’s often not the case.

To illustrate this problem, let’s assume you own a “custom colonial” in the Strathmore section of Aberdeen. The appraisal company will assess your home using a comparable sales approach. Basically, they look at recent sales of similar homes in the same neighborhood. In a stable market, they would look at sales over the past year, maybe longer. In the current market, they’re more likely to use a 6-month horizon.

The problem for you is that there haven’t been sufficient sales of custom colonials in your area in the past six months to use in a sales comparison. So, instead, they will use the next best thing, country clubbers. But there haven’t been many recent sales of country clubbers either so they’ll use 4-bedroom Strathmore colonials.

The appraisal company will use the 4-bedroom Strathmore colonials as a base and then make adjustments to account for your basement, 2-car garage, square footage of living space, and the fact that you have a more modern home.

Here’s where the problem arises. The moment the appraisal company uses a different model house as the base, they’re assuming that your house is rising and falling at the same rate as the base model. That may or may not be true. If prices for custom colonials are falling at a faster rate, then you will be over-assessed.

Will the owner of a Strathmore colonial be affected? Only in that the total assessment roll may be off because some properties were assessed too much or too little.

The other issue is the equalization factor. Aside from revaluations, properties are generally not assessed at 100% of market value and the percentage varies for each municipality. To account for this, the county uses an equalization factor to “equalize” all assessments.

If you look at Monmouth County’s Equalization Table for 2005, you’ll see some interesting facts. Matawan has the pole position of highest taxes in the county. (Aberdeen is ranked 5th highest but moved to 3rd place in 2006.) Our school property tax rates are higher than the total tax rates of 16 municipalities in Monmouth County.

After the revaluations, the county will assume our assessments are at 100% of market value. Because the market is falling, our assessments at the county level may be too high.

Neither of these problems concerns me for a few reasons. 1) Markets are usually going up or down. 2) Assessments are an inexact science. 3) Appraisal companies try to account for market changes. 4) The errors are well within an acceptable range.

Another point to remember is that there is no remedy. Those who advise we wait for the market to stabilize are implicitly suggesting that we can predict when the market will stabilize since revaluations are always planned over a year in advance.

As my readers know, I have concerns regarding the revaluations and property assessments in general but the timing of this revaluation isn’t one of them.
>>> Read more!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Affordable Housing in Aberdeen

Note: The numbers below have been provided by the Council on Affordable Housing and it's review of Aberdeen's Housing Element and Fair Share Plan.

Update: On December 17th, COAH voted to increase the affordable housing ratio to 20%, double the cost of RCAs, and reduce the age-restricted share to 25%.

Democratic leaders in the New Jersey State Assembly have begun pushing through the housing committee a bill that would end regional contribution agreements (RCAs). The practice allows municipalities to satisfy up to half of their affordable housing requirements by “purchasing” units in other communities. If the bill passes, the lost opportunity to use RCAs will be just one more mistake Aberdeen has made in managing affordable housing.

In 1971, the NAACP sued the town of Mount Laurel for discriminating against low- and moderate-income people through exclusionary zoning. The state supreme court decreed that all communities had a constitutional obligation to zone for their fair share of affordable housing. In 1975, the courts ruled that communities could not exclude low-income housing from certain neighborhoods. In 1983, following a second suit by the NAACP against Mount Laurel, the court established guidelines and procedures for communities to comply with the “Mount Laurel” decisions.

To force compliance, the courts instituted the “builder’s remedy” whereby a developer could sue the township for failing to fulfill its fair share obligation of affordable housing. If the developer won, the courts would allow him to construct a development of higher density than allowed by zoning so long as 20% of the units were dedicated to affordable housing.

In 1985, the state legislature passed the Fair Housing Act which established the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH). The purpose of the act was to provide specific affordable housing guidelines for each community. Although the guidelines are voluntary, any community whose plans are certified by COAH is shielded from developer lawsuits.

In 1990, Aberdeen lost two developer lawsuits involving Aberdeen Forge and Applewood (both in the Freneau section) and fell under court oversight. In 1993, the court required Aberdeen to submit its affordable housing plans to COAH to ensure compliance. In December, 2005, Aberdeen submitted revised plans to COAH for third round certification.

Under COAH guidelines, a community’s fair share is equal to an eighth of its projected growth in residential housing and a twenty-fifth of projected new jobs. In 2004, Aberdeen’s ten-year projections were 1,089 new residences and 457 new jobs for a total obligation of 154 COAH units. However, much of the new construction is discounted because it includes affordable housing, so the actual obligation is 87 units. Added to our prior obligation (for the years up to 2004, including credits) of 208 units, and we’re liable for the creation of 295 units.

Generally speaking, a town could allocate half of its COAH obligation to age-restricted units and discharge the other half through RCAs. Each RCA costs about $35,000 and the money typically goes to poorer communities that need the money to refurbish dilapidated apartments. Developers would gladly pay the fee as part of a PILOT program since the difference in value between market rate units and COAH units far exceeds $35,000.

However, in our instance, the math works differently because I’ve summed different rounds of COAH obligations and already discounted credits. But, using the numbers provided by the Council on Affordable Housing, Aberdeen made three big mistakes.

RCAs – Aberdeen had the opportunity to purchase 157 RCAs thereby reducing our COAH obligation by 157 units. The vast majority of the cost would have been picked up by developers who strongly prefer market rate units to COAH units. Instead, Aberdeen only plans to purchase 36 RCAs, just 23% of our legal allotment.

Freneau – The entire 68-unit Aberdeen Summit development on Wilson Avenue will be entirely COAH units. Though restricted to two bedrooms, none of them will be age-restricted. For those concerned that such a cluster of affordable housing units could create an undesirable area, the township has chosen to double-down.

COAH rents (including utilities) are limited to 30% of income (28% for buyers). The units are for those of moderate income, defined as earning up to 80% of the median income. In Monmouth County the limit is $65,637 for a family of four. However, if you restrict the COAH units to those of very low income, you get two credits for each COAH unit. Very low is 30% of the median or $24,614 for a family of four in Monmouth County.

Of the 68 COAH units on Wilson Avenue, 57 will be restricted to families of very low income.

Bookkeeping – Aberdeen is responsible for creating 295 affordable housing units. The math is simple – 36 RCAs + 92 COAH units at the senior center (South River Metals site) + 68 units on Wilson Ave. + 57 bonus points for very low income housing, + 44 units at Anchor Glass equals 297 units. That’s two more than we need.

If two units don’t sound like much, it’s the equivalent of $70,000 in RCAs. It’s a mistake to assume we could use those credits in the future since we’re building the COAH units at the senior center on Church St. in anticipation of development at Aberdeen Forge and Anchor Glass. If those developments don’t happen, we could be working off our surplus COAH units for years to come.

So, we’re welcoming the poorest of the working poor, using only 23% of our allotment of RCAs, and building more COAH units than required. Who says we’re not a charitable community?
>>> Read more!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reading the Aberdeen Municipal Budget

Click Here to Download a Copy of the Aberdeen Municipal Budget

The township has discussed making the Aberdeen Municipal Budget publicly available on its website in 2008. Rather than wait, I’ve decided to make the budget available for download on this blog. The budget posted here is only good for 2007. The 2008 budget should become available in February.

The printed version of the budget has all the numbers but none of the logic that generated those numbers. Everything is written to conform to government accounting as defined by state law. Absent any row-by-row explanation, much of the report is meaningless to the average citizen. Ideally, the township could publish an easy to understand budget overview. Until then, focus on the raw data and ignore the rest.

Part of the budget is restricted by budgetary “CAPS”. The “CAPS” portion is restricted by the state to a 4% growth rate and generally reflects discretionary spending. Most of the budget that’s excluded from “CAPS” is related to state mandates, such as pension funding. For example, in 2007, contributions to the Police and Fireman’s Retirement Fund jumped 58% (Sheet 20). Contributions to the Public Employees Retirement Fund rose 26% (Sheet 20). Maintenance of Free Public Library is up 15% as well (Sheet 20).

Still, this year’s municipal budget of $14,054,897 is only a 1.3% increase over last year’s budget (Sheet 11). Interestingly, only about half of the budget is raised through property taxes (Sheet 11). The rest is raised through a combination of fees, fines, investment income, and grants from county/state/federal governments.

Complaints regarding the township’s reliance on developers do appear to have some basis. The township receives nearly $1 million a year from its PILOT program (payment in lieu of taxes – Sheet 10). PILOTs are negotiated payments between the township and developers in lieu of property taxes.

$160,000 was budgeted for Townhall Improvements, whatever that means (Sheet 40b_i).

The surplus from January 1st, 2005 to December 31st, 2006 appears to have plunged 36% (Sheet 39). However, it’s possible that much of that money was simply shifted into reserves. I don’t know.

Another question mark is the $1.5 million of Property Acquired by Tax Title Lien Liquidation (Sheet 39). By comparison, Morris Township, a town with twice our budget and five times our surplus, lists only $36,475 for that same item. It could refer to the South River Metals site on Church St. That site is being used to construct a senior citizen community, most of whose units will be deeded as affordable housing. Once again, I don’t know.

If anyone could clarify the above items or add anything of interest, I welcome the input. But since the “average Joe” will never fully understand the budget, I urge the township to publish a simplified overview similar to the budget presentation provided by West Windsor. Their presentation gives a quick caption of where the money is coming from, where it’s going, and how the budget has changed over the years. Since West Windsor is also a township in New Jersey, I see no reason why Aberdeen couldn’t provide a similar presentation.

Having a budget available to the public is nice. Having an overview the public could understand would be even better.
>>> Read more!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Matawan Revaluations

For those wondering what will happen in the Aberdeen revaluations, it’s instructive to look at Matawan. Although the final numbers aren’t in, they won’t change much from the preliminary numbers. Next year, Matawan will likely appropriate (collect in taxes) about $22 million. The preliminary assessments roll is $1.035 billion. That leaves a tax rate of $2.12 per hundred dollars of value. In other words, to approximate your future tax bill, simply multiply your current assessment by 2.12%.

Most people will see a slight decrease or increase in their taxes up to a possible 10%. This is the standard annual tax increase +/- 5%. However, some people will witness dramatic increases or reductions in their property taxes.

For example, 59 Wyckoff St. was purchased in October, 2006 for $420,000. I was unable to contact the new owners but, even assuming an assessment a tenth below the purchase price, they’re looking at their property taxes jumping from $5,935 this year to over $8,000 next year, a 35% tax increase.

Both Matawan and Aberdeen have made their policies crystal clear: no assistance will be given to property owners to enable them to transition to the higher tax rates. Their reasoning is two-fold. First, everyone should pay his fair share. Second, the taxpayers would be unwilling to subsidize someone else’s tax deduction.

I disagree on both points. Although everyone should pay his fair share, I see no harm in allowing those hardest hit by the revaluations to transition to the higher property taxes. The municipality could provide financial assistance, essentially limiting a single year’s tax increase to 10%.

Secondly, I believe the residents of Matawan and Aberdeen are charitable enough to allow a few of their neighbors to transition to the higher taxes. 60% of our federal income taxes go to transfer payments. Our school district spends millions a year to help children with special needs. Certainly, we’d be willing to cut or postpone spending on certain projects to allow some of our neighbors a little time to adjust.

Matawan will not be implementing any assistance programs prior to the 2008 budget but there’s still time to pressure Aberdeen’s town council. Don’t be fooled by the “Don’t worry. Be happy.” crowd. Some of our neighbors will need our help.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Matawan has a Tie Vote

Note: The state has approved a special election to be held Tuesday, January 15th. Only Mayor Aufseeser and Councilman Buccellato will be on the ballot. Mayor Aufseeser will remain in office until the winner takes the oath of office.

Monmouth County "found" another vote for Councilman Buccellato in Matawan's mayoral election, bringing the vote to a tie. No doubt, accusations will fly in all directions. Supporters will suggest chicanery at the town level. Detractors will imply election fixing at the county level. And all people will agree that elections are too important to be left to government bureaucrats.

I stated that Councilman Buccellato should not, and probably would not, request a recount. The reasons were obvious. I could not find a single election, conducted by electronic ballot, that had been overturned through a recount. I believed that his slim chances of success balanced against the possible acrimony and accusations that could ensue, would weigh against requesting a recount.

I also stated that Matawan should require automatic recounts in all close elections so that candidates wouldn’t be forced to make this Hobson’s Choice. Citizens have every right to demand that all election counts be accurate and that elected officials are, in fact, elected.

Still, I am shocked that another vote was found. Apparently, someone X’ed an oval instead of filling it in. Perhaps Councilman Buccellato knew of this. Don’t know. Assuming none of the absentee or provisional ballots are challenged, the candidates will need to negotiate a resolution and get approval from the judge. The borough charter is silent regarding tie votes.

There will definitely be another election. The question is when. The options are now or at a future scheduled election. If now, it would need to happen in December to allow the winner to assume office in January.

I’m not about to make the mistake again of predicting what the candidates will do but this is what I’m afraid might happened: Councilman Buccellato will demand an immediate special election. Mayor Aufseeser will provide a thousand reasons to postpone – not enough time, not enough resources, the “found” vote was improperly counted, another recount is needed, etc. The Mayor only needs to delay the process for another two weeks. If she succeeds, the election will likely be postponed to either coincide with the school board election or the presidential election.

Until a special election takes place, Mayor Aufseeser will remain mayor. She has absolutely no reason (but patriotism) to expedite the process.

Of course, a judge could override her but we’ve been there before. Last year, Mike Cannon asked the court to wave the residency requirement for candidates so he could run for a council seat in Matawan. Such a petition had never before been granted in Monmouth County. Yet, Judge Lehrer, in complete disregard for the plain language of the law, allowed Cannon to run because his “heart and mind had always been in Matawan.”

(Cannon, speaking to the court by phone while vacationing in Hawaii, claimed he moved to Aberdeen for financial reasons. His Florida vacation home was ruled irrelevant to the case.)

Will Mayor Aufseeser postpone the special election till next year? She sure could.

>>> Read more!

Aberdeen Plays "See No Evil" in the Upcoming Revaluations

Last night’s town meeting in Aberdeen saw some familiar faces from this past election. Mayor Sobel and Council Members Drapkin, Vinci, and Gumbs were all there. It was easy to recognize them in the crowd. They were the ones smiling.

They have lots to be happy about. It was through their neglect that the town did not have a property revaluation for over 15 years. As Neil Rubenstein of the Realty Appraisal Company explained, 15 years is a very long time to not have a property revaluation. Over that period, property assessments become increasingly disconnected from their market values. Eventually, Monmouth County had to force Aberdeen (and Matawan) to have a revaluation to ensure that everyone was paying their “fair share”.

However, as a result of waiting so long for the property revaluations, there are going to be some major readjustments. Over the next two years, scores of homeowners will see their property taxes rise over 30% while hundreds more will see over 20% increases.

Stuart Brown, the town manager, kept stressing at the meeting that the revaluations are revenue neutral. So what? If a family sees their taxes suddenly go up $1500, do you think they’ll care that their neighbors got a tax cut? Brown also made the point that the town portion only accounts for a sixth of the property taxes. Again, so what? Some homeowners will be facing a massive tax hike and they will rightfully blame the revaluations.

At the meeting, there were several complaints that homeowners were being punished for maintaining their homes. New Jersey property taxes are “ad valorem”, according to the value. A well maintained home is worth more than a poorly maintained home and is therefore charged a higher tax rate. The town insists there’s nothing they can do about that.

Let’s be clear – Mayor Sobel and the Town Council are personally responsible for any tax upheavals and there’s plenty they can do about it.

First, they should guarantee all homeowners that annual tax hikes will be capped at 10%. While still high, it’s far better than having a 20% or 30% tax hike. Those whose taxes would normally rise higher than 10% could receive financial assistance from the town in the form of a tax credit so that the net result would be a 10% increase.

Given the fact that Aberdeen has a normal distribution of property values, the vast majority of homeowners would not require assistance from the revaluation. Of those that do, nearly all of them would be phased out over the first three years. Ultimately, they will be forced to pay their “fair share” but at least there would be a transition period allowing them to adjust.

The program would cost under $3 million over a five year period. The money would come from the road maintenance program, where we spend $2.5-$3 million a year. Yes, the roads need to be improved but they won’t crumble because the program was under funded for a couple of years. I’d rather drive on a bumpy road then watch more people forced from their homes.

Next, the town should make certain this never happens again. As I’ve outlined in an earlier posting, the town could require each homeowner to assess his own property at least once every ten years. The homeowner could schedule his assessments prior to any major improvements. This would allow the homeowner to improve his home without any immediate tax penalties and to plan ahead for future assessments. It would also give fair notice to any future homebuyer.

Lastly, by postponing all new projects for one year, the town and the school could both have a one-year budget freeze. Not only would this create long term fiscal benefits, it would greatly help the public through the upcoming revaluations.

Unfortunately, the town plans to do absolutely nothing for those poor folk who are about to have their property taxes skyrocket. The town council created this situation through their neglect. The council has the power to help. To act otherwise is heartless and cruel.
>>> Read more!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Politician's Mindset

Our taxes are too high. Our schools are failing. Why don't our elected representatives fix the problems?! Because, once elected, they become politicians.

Politicians perceive a different reality from the rest of us. To understand why government officials do what they do, we need to first understand their mindset. This is how they think:

  1. Government is the Answer
    President Reagan once famously said that the ten scariest words in the English language were “Hello, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.” But that's not the view of most office holders. Next year, the combined budgets of Matawan and Aberdeen , including the school district, will approach $90 million dollars. When you oversee that kind of money, and you have the power to regulate people's behaviors, and your constituency is pleading for you to take action, it's extremely difficult to say no. You become a believer in the awesome power of government. You believe government should do more because it can.

  2. #1 Cause of Failure is Lack of Funds
    $90 million dollars is an extraordinary amount of money. Expressed in one-dollar bills, it would stretch over 8,500 miles and weigh over 140 tons. Yet, nearly every elected official in Aberdeen and Matawan will tell you it's not enough. Why? Because they ran for office to do more, not less. And they come to believe that every problem can be solved by throwing enough money at it.

  3. The Public Can Afford to Spend a Bit More
    Budget increases are always reflected in percentages, not dollars. For example, the school's new Response to Intervention (RTI) program is expressed as a 1% increase in the school budget rather than $600,000 in new annual spending. One percent sounds small. Even five percent sounds small. In the politician's mind, the taxpayers can surely afford these small increases. But, in fact, the increases are huge. If we froze the municipal and school budgets for Matawan and Aberdeen for just one year, we would save $35 million dollars over the next five years, an average of $3,000 per household.

  4. Easier to Do Many Little Things than One Big Thing
    A member of the school board told me that the budget must go up every year but he tries to restrain the increase. A representative of the township told me that there are no plans for reducing the costs of road maintenance or controlling pension fund liabilities. Both people are fiscally prudent. Both people recognize we're among the heaviest taxed in the county. Yet, they intend to raise our taxes every year. Why? Because it's easier to raise taxes than it is to fight the unions, the special interests, and Trenton . Instead, they spend all their time trying to save us a few bucks here and there so that our tax increases are a drop smaller.

  5. Disruption is a Bad Thing
    Every major business and industry goes through cycles of creative destruction. Every cycle has winners and losers but, overall, the general public benefits. Government accounts for over one-third of the United States economy yet refuses to permit any creative destruction within its sphere. Does the federal government really need a law enforcement branch dedicated to alcohol, tobacco, and firearms? No. Is spending nearly half a million dollars a year on four kindergarten teachers really the best use of school funds? Of course, not. Why do they allow it? Because no one wants to fight the system.

  6. Better to Make a Thousand People a Little Unhappy than Have One Person Really Mad
    Politicians count the votes. They can only pursue their pet projects if they have the political clout. Why are special interests treated better than the general public? Because they're passionate and will fight for or against a politician based on a single issue while the general public takes a more balanced (and often apathetic) approach.

  7. Most of the Public is Uninformed, Misinformed, or Ill-informed
    In the politician's mind, there are only three reasons why the public wouldn't support him:

    A) The public knows too little
    B) The public is wrong
    C) The public knows too much (i.e. they know something they shouldn't)

    It doesn't occur to them that maybe, just maybe, the people are right.

  8. Always Be Prepared to Take the Credit or Share the Blame
    If a politician succeeds, the credit is his. If he fails, there are many to blame.

  9. The Public Needs Me
    The politician is a true believer in his personal vision and capabilities; only he can lead us to the promised land.
What can we do? The general public has three demands:
  • That government only do what it needs to do
  • That government only take what it needs to take
  • Competence
To establish these three pillars, we, the public, will have to fight for them. “Don't place your trust in princes, in the son of man, for he does not possess salvation.” (Psalms 146:3) This is a fight that will never end. >>> Read more!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Losers and Winners in the Upcoming Property Revaluations

Matawan recently announced that its property revaluations have been completed. Aberdeen will be having a public meeting on November 27th to discuss their 2008 property revaluation. It’s no surprise these announcements took place after the elections. The news isn’t good.

Property taxes are determined according to a property owner’s “fair share” of the tax burden. The taxing body “assesses” the value of all taxable properties (ratables) within its jurisdiction. The total value is called the assessment roll. A property’s fair share of the tax burden is equal to its share of the assessment roll, or “ad valorem”, according to its value.

To simplify the math, taxing bodies express taxes in terms of a tax rate. The tax rate is equal to the appropriations (needed tax revenues) divided by the assessment roll and expressed in dollars per hundred dollars of value. For example, if a school needs to raise $5 million in taxes and the total assessment of all ratables is $100 million, then the tax rate would be $5 per $100 of assessed property value. If a home is assessed at $500,000, that home’s annual tax burden would be $25,000.

The municipal revaluations are being mandated by the state. Previously, assessments were a percentage of market value. For example, in Aberdeen, a property’s assessment was 45% of its estimated market value. The state now requires that all property assessments be uniform at 100% of market value.

In theory, property revaluations should have no effect on an individual’s tax burden because they don’t change the property’s fair share. For example, if there are ten homes of equal value, each homeowner would be responsible for 1/10th of the tax burden. If all the homes suddenly doubled in value, each home would still be responsible for 1/10th of the tax burden.

The problem is that current property assessments in our neighborhood are wildly inaccurate. Aberdeen’s last property assessment was in 1992. Following the Rule of Thirds, after the revaluations, a third of the properties will see their tax bills decline, another third will see little change, and the remaining third will see their taxes go up.

For example, Aberdeen Township estimates the value of 2 Campbell Ct., a custom colonial, at $470,700. In 2007, the home sold for $625,000. Between the revaluation and next year’s estimated tax increase of 5% (the state’s 4% tax increase cap allows for certain exceptions) the homeowners at 2 Campbell Ct. could be looking at a 25% property tax increase.

119 Courtland Rd., a country clubber, is valued at $348,000. Last year it sold for $450,000. It, too, could be looking at a 25% property tax increase.

681 Cliffwood Ave., a modest house on a small lot, has an assessed value of $210,000 but sold this year for $365,650. The homeowners could be hit with a 60% tax increase.

12 S Atlantic Ave., a condo by the train station, sold this year for $175,000 but the town only valued the property at $90,700. It’s facing a possible 80% tax increase.

At this point, it’s impossible to know how much property taxes will change until the property revaluations are completed. Obviously, there are far more homes that are undervalued than overvalued since homeowners are quick to challenge high property assessments. For this reason, I've tried to give conservative estimates for possible tax hikes. Still, if the Rule of Thirds holds, many homeowners could be subjected to property tax increases over 20%. (Percentage-wise, the more affordable homes are facing the largest increases.)

As for the municipalities, they see it as a good thing that these homeowners will finally be forced to pay their fair share. There is no cap for how high property taxes can go up and there is no assistance available for those families facing a huge tax increase.

The easiest way to see if you’re at risk of a huge tax increase is to visit the New Jersey Tax Records site and look up your home address. Divide the total assessed value by 0.40 to get the assessed market value. If the actual market value of your property is more than 10% above the municipal estimate, be concerned.

If you’re thinking you can sell your home before the new assessments, think again. All realtors are required to inform prospective buyers of the revaluations.

Matawan and Aberdeen will be talking about tax rates but the only thing that matters is the tax bill. Some homeowners will be facing massive tax increases next year. If these homeowners have adjustable rate mortgages as well, expect to see more foreclosures.
>>> Read more!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fighting Over Crumbs at the School Board

Last night’s Board of Education meeting for the Matawan-Aberdeen School District was painstakingly long but chock full of interesting tidbits. Sadly, tidbits were all we got.

The single largest item was the audit. Though technically dense, there were some very disturbing findings. In a sampling of purchase orders, twenty-five percent were either blank or for non-earmarked items. The board and auditing firm did their best to assure the public that there was no evidence of fraud but, to the contrary, this is strong evidence that there is fraud. Someone looking to buy party supplies for his kid’s birthday could easily generate a purchase order and list stationery. As far as the auditor is concerned, there’s no sign of fraud because the money is accounted for. Slopping bookkeeping in the school system could easily lead to widespread pilfering that would be undetected by an ordinary audit. Normally, the school administration budgets more money than necessary to stay on the safe side. In this instance, due to “sloppy bookkeeping” there was a $134,000 shortfall.

The auditor also mentioned a $1.7 million shortfall in the listing of capital assets. Once again, the board tried to reassure the public that this was only an “accounting” item that didn’t affect revenue, expenses, or cash flow. Nonsense. Capital represents long-term assets that depreciate over time. If this capital depreciates at a 5% annual rate, then we’d be underestimating our cost projections by $85,000 per year.

Other little morsels included Ex-Superintendent Quinn shaking down the school for $5,000 in order to cooperate in some arbitration hearings. Then there was the $6,000 for five school administrators to attend an educational conference in New Orleans.

When asked why the schools were spending over a $100,000 a year on extra-curricular advisors rather than use community volunteers, Interim-Superintendent Glastein explained that the schools were contractually bound to pay teachers for these advisory positions even if qualified volunteers were willing to do the work for free.

The board also decided that, in addition to the $28,000 spent this year on the school's new website, the district would spend another $1,880 to instruct teachers how to best make use of the site.

Glastein’s new contract was also reviewed. Even though the new position is only temporary, the board felt he deserved a $7,000 raise rather than a one-time bonus to cover his expanded duties until a new superintendent is found.

As is customary for the board, none of the “objectionable” expenditures were rejected but rather tabled for reconsideration.

Dr. Gambino, the newest member on the board, asked why the school had not been reimbursed the $24,000 for an assessment exam that was never properly evaluated. The administration explained that the vendor was unresponsive and withheld needed textbooks until the bill was paid.

While interesting and often fun to watch, these sideshows don’t even add up to one percent of the school budget and have nothing to do with the school’s mission, namely to educate our children.

On this point, Dana Egreczky, Vice President of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and President of the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence (BCEE), promoted the BCEE’s new program, She stressed the need for requiring students to take more demanding courses, to learn advanced math and science, as this will dramatically impact their likelihood to succeed in life. Egreczky presented an abundance of statistics showing that without more math and science, our students were more likely to fail in college than succeed.

Egreczky’s passionate call for higher standards seemed to be met with a giant yawn. Board Member Gerard Donaghue, in a remarkable display of ignorance, questioned why the school should train its students for high-tech positions when “they’re all being outsourced.” In fields requiring advanced science degrees, the United States is experiencing the largest labor shortage in its history. For an educator to be unaware of this simple fact is stunning. That nobody on the board responded was shameful.

Dana Egreczky was right. We need to raise our standards. We need to mandate that all students take advanced math, science, and language classes. And we need to do it now. This should have been the central topic of last night’s board meeting.

Imagine all the verbs you associate with educators: Teach, Educate, Instruct, Tutor, Train, Develop, Coach, Nurture, etc. You won’t find one of these verbs in the Board of Education’s mission statement. When the school board discovers that it’s their job to teach, instruct, tutor, train, develop, coach, and nurture our children, then we can hope for a better future.
>>> Read more!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ballot Recount

Update: Alyssa Passeggio is reporting that Matawan Democratic party Chairman Joseph "Bud" Mullaney said the mayoral recount is rescheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Several states and municipalities have mandatory recounts whenever the difference between two candidates is less than 0.5% and below a certain threshold, i.e. less than 1,000 or 2,000 votes. Sadly, neither New Jersey nor Matawan has such a provision. Following a loss by one vote in Matawan’s mayoral election, Councilman Buccellato has chosen to request a recount. To the best of my knowledge, here’s how it works.

New Jersey requires that all recount requests be made by the 2nd Saturday following the election. That effectively makes the 2nd Friday the deadline for filing a petition for recount.

The petition is reviewed by a Superior Court Judge. The petitioner only has to provide an evidentiary basis for his “belief” that an “error” had been made in the ballot count. However, since the judge has the discretion to order a remedy tailored to the initial complaint, Councilman Buccellato will likely need to claim that he heard of problems in both the electronic balloting and the mail-in/provisional ballots. Otherwise, the judge could order that only one be recounted but not the others. The Councilman will also need to guarantee that he will cover all costs/fees of the recount.

Next, the judge will confer with the county to set a date for the recount. The county will then appoint an election auditor who will be responsible for the recount but does not need to personally oversee it. Often, the county will request the town clerk to oversee the recount but the initiator has the right to object to any selection.

All ballots, whether paper or electronic, and the voting machines are stored in a secure location. The county auditor’s representative will oversee a non-partisan three person panel that has at least one registered Democrat and one registered Republican. The panel will first survey the machines to ensure they function properly.

The electronic machines have multiple redundant systems to ensure that votes are captured and stored in independent areas. Those votes will be recounted through electronic means to ensure that each stored value is consistent throughout the system. If the panel chooses, they can also request a manual printout of each vote. The machines take a “screenshot” of each vote submitted to allow for a manual recount.

The panel will certify the machine count and then review the paper ballots. Each ballot is approved or declined based on majority vote but a dispute on any ballot could be grounds for an appeal.

The recount is public and the candidates will be allowed to be present but all non-officials must be physically separated from the recount process.

Once the recount is complete, the new totals are then used by the county to certify the election. If the losing candidate chooses to appeal the decision, a higher court will render a final decision. There is only one appeal which is automatically expedited.

I do not know of any contested election since electronic balloting that has been overturned through a recount. If anyone has additional information, please let me know.
>>> Read more!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Councilman Buccellato's Tough Decision

Following the recount, the Matawan Mayoral Election has been declared a tie.

Councilman Buccellato has a tough decision to make. After thousands of hours of work by him and his volunteers, thousands of dollars his supporters donated to his campaign, and a heartfelt belief that the people of Matawan need him, Buccellato lost the mayoral election by one vote. Although no one has suggested any improprieties, there were reports of at least one machine malfunction. Plus, there’s a general mistrust in the government’s ability to do anything a hundred percent correct. Doesn’t Buccellato owe it to his supporters who worked so hard to at least request a recount? No and he probably won’t.

As his legal experts have surely advised him, there is little Buccellato can do. Only a few dozen of the votes were mail-in, provisional, or electronic write-in ballots, and each one was reviewed by a small committee of people. That leaves claims that there was a problem with one of the voting booths.

An electronic ballot can be challenged in one of four ways – software error, mechanical error, ballot misalignment on the machine causing an elevated undervote rate, or unlawful tampering.

Software error would be extremely unusual. This is akin to Microsoft’s Excel being unable to sum rows and columns.

A mechanical error during transmission could corrupt the file but not change the vote. The vote count is contained in a single file that is either transferred or isn’t. Machines don’t transfer counts a vote at a time. Another possibility is a mechanical error that took place during the voting process but this would invalidate the machine and all the votes taken on it. Given the closeness of the election, invalidating any machine would alter all the election outcomes for Matawan and throw the entire borough election into the hands of the courts.

Another possibility is that a ballot wasn’t perfectly positioned on one of the machines leading people to believe they had clicked on a candidate’s name when no vote was actually recorded. However, undervotes are often recorded when voters choose not to select any of the candidates. An undervote rate of 1-8% is considered normal. The undervote rate in Matawan’s mayoral election was only 3.4%.

The last possibility is that someone altered the vote outcome. Contrary to media reports that hackers can easily compromise an electronic voting system, it’s actually quite difficult. Electronic voting machines are not networked to any other machine. At the end of the vote, a printout is generated and an electric cartridge removed. Both are securely stored and delivered to the central election system. In order for a hacker to affect the results, he would need to physically break into the voting machine and find a way to connect his laptop. Then, he would need to conceal any evidence that he had broken the lock on the voting machine. Not even the tinfoil hat crowd would suggest Matawan’s mayoral election was worth the effort and risk.

The only reason Councilman Buccellato would dispute the results is to demonstrate to his supporters that he did his utmost to win and thereby fully appreciated their efforts. But he has a higher obligation to the residents of Matawan whom he has nobly served these last several years. Casting suspicion on an electoral outcome, absent any evidence that the recorded votes do not reflect the will of the people, is more likely to harm than benefit the community. I trust Councilman Buccellato will do the right thing and continue to serve the borough he loves.
>>> Read more!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Spenders on the School Board

Let’s assume that an elected official performing his fiduciary obligations in guarding the public purse would object to at least one out of every hundred requests for money. What is the chance that such an official exists on the Matawan-Aberdeen School District Board of Eduation? Almost zero.

Following the most recent board elections, there have been approximately 300 line item expenditures that sought board approval. Of those 300 financial requests, not a single board member voted against a single item. To show how improbable that is, let’s assume that each person on the board is fiscally restrained, which we again define as voting against at least 1% of expenditures. What is the likelihood that everyone on the board is fiscally restrained yet no one ever voted against one of the 300 monetary requests? 164 billionth of a billionth percent.

But surely there must be at least one person who would object to at least 1% of cost items? Well, there is a 4.9% possibility that at least one board member would normally reject some spending but simply couldn’t find anything objectionable.

Of course, that solitary board member would still need to justify why an underperforming school system would choose to spend money on the following items:

  • $4,650.00 – Girls tennis coach
  • $4,520.00 – Fill vacancies on the Local Professional Development Committee
  • $18,000.00 – Re-writing class curriculums
  • $1,070.00 – National Geographic Competition Advisor
  • $2,443.14 – Send two teachers to the HOPE Foundation, a program that teaches individuals “how to work as a team”
  • $2,100.00 – Send three teachers to School Attuned Training
  • $11,000.00 – New audio system for the high school weight room, band room, and dance studio
  • $11,500.00 – New audio system for the high school cafeteria
  • $9,000.00 – To create proposals for converting the TV studio into an instructional facility
  • $1,650.20 – To send an administrator to the National Association for Pupil Transportation Conference
  • $4,770.00 – Send three teachers to the National Reading Recovery Conference, a program that shows how to tutor first grade reading
  • $11,300.00 – Two assistant boys soccer coaches
  • $1,130.00 – Interact Club Advisor
  • $4,430.00 – Two student council advisors
  • $1,130.00 - Basketball Cheerleading Advisor
  • $28,262.00 – Food service vehicle
  • $28,063.00 – New school website (plus $30,000 over the next four years)
The above expenditures were approved by the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education during the past three months alone. The above costs, like all costs presented to the board, were approved unanimously. What is the probability that there is at least one fiscally prudent member on the Board of Education? Approaching zero day by day. >>> Read more!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Addicted to Money in Aberdeen

This November 28th, Aberdeen’s Zoning Board will be hearing two variance requests from Centex Homes, LLC. The Zoning Board Engineer called both requests “intense” devlopments. The agency hired to review the submissions, characterized them as rezoning proposals under the guise of variance requests that would “substantially impair the intent and purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.” The public opposes the plans because of traffic congestion and adversely affecting our school system and property taxes. Yet, despite the universal opposition to these developments, everyone is afraid they might garner town approval. Why? Because Aberdeen has a history of choosing private money over the public interest.

Centex is proposing to build 62 townhouses on Rt. 34 and 120 age-restricted units on County Road about a block from Rt. 35. The variance requests were reviewed by Coppola & Coppola Associates. In 2006, Coppola & Coppola, based in Princeton Junction, donated $300 to the Aberdeen Democratic Party. That same year, Aberdeen awarded them $98,246 in land use consulting services.

Timothy Gillen, the Zoning Board Engineer who reviewed the requests, is a paid consultant from CME Associates. In 2006, CME, located in Parlin, donated $7,800 to the Aberdeen Democratic Party and, that same year, won $413,470 in engineering and consulting services from the township.

Meanwhile, the township has been taking money from developers in the form of PILOT programs (Payments In Lieu Of Taxes). Through PILOT programs, the developer negotiates a payment schedule in exchange for a multi-year property tax waiver. The developer benefits from a “tax break” while the town can request a substantial up-front deposit.

These PILOT programs have led to one of the state’s highest growth rates for a developed municipality. From 2000-2006, Aberdeen’s population grew 44% faster than the State of New Jersey. (That number jumps to 59% if you include the town’s increased liability to produce state-mandated affordable housing.)

However, the town is likely to reject Centex’s request for the simple reason that Centex probably lacks the financing to develop the properties. In October, Centex Homes had their bond rating dropped to junk status, meaning they will no longer be able to finance their projects through normal channels. No money means no PILOT program means no reason to grant approval.

But residents shouldn’t become too excited. SK Properties has taken over the Aberdeen Forge project in Freneau. The “K” in SK Properties stands for Murray Kushner, elder brother to Charles Kushner, and a major donor to the state’s Democratic Party. (Hat tip to Paul Rinear for the lead.) Kushner is renegotiating both zoning and PILOT program incentives with the township. Not only does he have the money to develop but he’s also in a strong bargaining position.

Concerned about the November elections, the all Democrat town council voted to forgo property hikes and, instead, blew through the town’s surplus. (There’s also strong suspicion they intentionally postponed the Centex variance request to take place after the election as well.) But the town council is now facing a quadruple whammy – lost revenue from forgoing a tax hike, lost revenue from interest on the now-depleted surplus, a state mandate limiting next year’s tax hike to 4%, and the likelihood that developers like Centex won’t be able to secure financing.

The township chose financial gimmickry to secure an election and will now need to face Murray Kushner from a severely weakened position. Word on the street is Mayor David Sobel will not be running for re-election. That’s probably for the best.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Why the Republicans Lost

Consider the following: In 2005, Mary Aufseeser garnered 30% more votes than her opponent. Two years later, running as the incumbent mayor, she won by 1 vote. In 2007, 30% fewer people voted in Matawan and Aberdeen than in 2005. The Democrats in Aberdeen won four council seats with only 48% of the votes. The Democrats swept nearly every seat in Matawan and Aberdeen because the Republicans failed to run an effective campaign.

Here’s where the Republicans went wrong:

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes
The Republicans did not offer a single proposal for lowering taxes except through the controversial Transit Village Project. The party of limited government couldn’t think of a way to cut expenses.

Missing Voters
The Matawan Republicans only needed to bring a dozen more voters to the polls to win the mayoral election. Both Republican parties should have gone through the 2005 election rolls and contacted each Republican voter to get assurances that he would vote again and see if anyone needed assistance getting to the polling stations. (Editor's Note: The candidates assure me they made extensive efforts to bring people to the polls but the locals were uninterested. Editor's Second Note: Aufseeser's lead has dropped to 1 vote. Buccellato has begun the process for a recount.)

The Democrats did not have a strong record to run upon. The Republicans should have forced them into a public debate.

Short Campaign
A political party never stops campaigning. Both Republican parties should be building relationships with local reporters and constantly working themselves into the newspapers.

Political Naiveté
The Aberdeen Republicans made two giant mistakes in regards to the Green Party. First, they should have tried convincing the Greens to run on a unified ticket. Putting Alice Osipowitz on the Republican ticket would have been a huge boost. Not only would they have captured Green votes, they’d have captured women votes as well. In Aberdeen, each candidate received votes in direct proportion to his placement on the ballot. The first name on each ballot got the most votes with each succeeding name getting less. The only two people to buck the trend were Democrat Janice Gallo and Green candidate, Alice Osipowitz.

The other mistake was befriending the Green Party to the point of sending mailers that encouraged people to vote Green. The Republicans should have said loudly and repeatedly that splitting the vote would return the Democrats to power.

Lack of Ideas
The Republicans were running on disaffection with the current administrations. That doesn’t work. People vote because they like you or hate the other guy. They’re not going to vote if they don’t recognize a significant difference between the parties. The Republicans never gave the citizenry a good enough reason to vote.

If the Republicans want to win the next election, they’ll need to earn the votes through vision and competence.
>>> Read more!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Local Election Results - Democrats Win (Barely)

Following are the unofficial election results. There will likely be a recount in Matawan's mayoral election but Mary Aufseeser appears to have won re-election. The only non-democratic seat was won by Republican Councilwoman-Elect Linda Clifton in Matawan. All of the elections were extremely close. The Democrats of Aberdeen won by a plurality, not a majority. Republicans would have swept all the elections in Matawan with a half dozen swing votes.

Mayor - Matawan
7/7 100.00%
Under Votes 64
Over Votes 0

Vote Count Percent
Rep - Paul BUCCELLATO 946 49.68%
Dem - Mary AUFSEESER 947 49.84%
Write-In 9 0.48%
Total 1,894 100.00%

Borough Council - Matawan
7/7 100.00%
Under Votes 202
Over Votes 0

Vote Count Percent
Rep - Linda CLIFTON 949 25.50%
Rep - Debra BURAGINA 922 24.77%
Dem - Robert T. BUNYON 917 24.66%
Dem - Kevin R. MENDES 933 25.07%
Write-In 0 0.00%
Total 3,710 100.00%

Councilmembers-At-Large - Aberdeen
13/13 100.00%
Under Votes 771
Over Votes 0

Vote Count Percent
Rep - Anthony GARAGUSO 1,329 10.86%
Rep - John GARTLEY 1,296 10.59%
Rep - Thomas ALJIAN, Jr. 1,255 10.25%
Rep - Leon MATCHIN 1,222 9.98%
Dem - Vincent VINCI 1,524 12.45%
Dem - Wilhelmina GUMBS 1,439 11.76%
Dem - Owen DRAPKIN 1,415 11.56%
Dem - Janice B. GALLO 1,470 12.01%
GRE - Paul RINEAR 345 2.82%
GRE - Mark E. TEICHMAN 313 2.56%
GRE - Philip W. PETRIGNANI 308 2.52%
GRE - Alice OSIPOWITZ 323 2.64%
Write-In 2 0.02%
Total 12,241 100.00%

>>> Read more!

Goodbye, Mr. Quinn

Today is Superintendent Bruce Quinn’s last day at the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. He will be assuming the position of Assistant Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials. I wish Mr. Quinn well on his new journey. I’m glad to see him go.

His associates certainly have some very nice things to say about him.

  • Lawrence O’Connell, President, Board of Education: “His innovations improved school security, safety, and business office operations.”

  • Kimberley Honnick, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction: “It is his love and passion for this community that will be missed the most.”

  • Susan Palumbo, Confidential Secretary: “I admire how deeply he cares about this district.”
Mr. Quinn is proud of his accomplishments, such as his Response to Intervention program and reorganizing the elementary schools. Although he had a rocky relationship with the Board of Education, he credits them with approving all his budget proposals.

Before Mr. Quinn leaves, I would like to ask him one question – What happened to the $250,000,000 we gave you to educate our children? Would any normal person look at the progress our children made in the last five years and say “Yeah, I’d spend two hundred fifty million dollars for that”? That’s about $9,000 for every man, woman, and child in Matawan and Aberdeen.

We have endured one of the highest tax rates in the county, and would be willing to pay more, for the sole purpose of educating our children. Where did the money go? Our children score below the state average across the board. Our schools are ranked among the lowest in the county. Could anyone argue that the $250,000,000 under Mr. Quinn’s direction was well spent?

Not one of his associates commended him for his strength in education. Not one of his fans talks about his ability to raise educational standards and expectations. No, to the contrary, he has been the vanguard of diminished expectations.

His Response to Intervention program will not be used to improve educational standards but rather to explain why they’re so low. Already, they’re claiming that nearly 20% of our students are learning “challenged”. Already, they’re considering intervention programs for kindergartners.

Rather than acknowledge the schools have failed to educate our students, Mr. Quinn’s administration was busy “proving” that the onus was on the students and community.

Though school officials often prefer to discuss delicate matters using nuanced and politically correct terms, the crux of their position is that our children are too stupid and emotionally retarded to do any better. They would rather steal from the taxpayer and rob from our children’s futures than admit that they are the ones who have failed us.

Goodbye, Mr. Quinn. I hope your departure will be a blessing for all of us. >>> Read more!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Aberdeen's Election Issues

The Democratic Party has controlled Aberdeen's Town Council for the past 12 years. This election will be a referendum on that control. Aberdeen Township is also a democratic enclave within Republican Monmouth County and both county and national politics will likely play a role in Tuesday's elections. Every voter should familiarize himself with the issues and the candidates prior to casting a ballot.

Below are the major issues facing Aberdeen . Due to time constraints, I have been unable to get detailed responses from the Green Party and felt it would be unfair to extrapolate their positions solely from their party's platform. Instead, I would encourage voters to visit I would also like to thank Republican Tom Aljian for explaining his party's positions. Regarding the Democrats, as the party in power for the last dozen years, their position is public record.

  1. Residential Development
    Democrat – Allow continued residential development to build neighborhoods and support local businesses
    Republican - Residential development hikes property taxes by burdening our school system. Permit limited residential development to entice developers into other projects

  2. Commercial Development
    Democrat – Office and retail development near the train station and in the Anchor Glass Factory area
    Republican - Develop comprehensive master plan rather than phased development

  3. COAH Units ( Mount Laurel Housing)
    Democrat - Construct low income housing for the elderly, purchase some allowances in neighboring towns, and postpone the rest until absolutely necessary
    Republican - Abide by state mandates

  4. Public School District
    Democrat – Work with the Board of Education to find new ways to improve education and control spending
    Republican - Use the power of the bully pulpit to influence the Board of Education

  5. Traffic Congestion
    Democrat – While some traffic can be reduced through road improvements, current traffic congestion is normal for a town of our size and location
    Republican - Push county for more road improvements

  6. County, State, Federal Funding
    Democrat – Working with officials at all levels to obtain financing for special projects such as funding for the Sea Walk Enhancement project
    Republican - Hire a professional grant writer to pursue additional grants

  7. Anchor Glass Factory Area
    Democrat – Build office, retail, and residential units on the property
    Republican - Light commercial, light industrial, limited residential

  8. Shore Development
    Democrat – Restore the beachfront through successive small projects until private developers find the area worthy of investment
    Republican - Float a municipal bond to properly finance beachfront development

  9. Property Taxes
    Democrat – The municipal tax rate is stable and the town is not responsible for the school budget
    Republican - Keep surplus money in "Rainy Day" fund. Avoid election year financing gimmicks
    (Note: The Green Party has been circulating a chart showing municipal property taxes have risen 36.1% over the Democrats' 12-year tenure. The chart, however, does not account for inflation. In both real dollar terms and as a percentage of household income, municipal taxes have remained flat over the past twelve years. School taxes have risen sharply.)

  10. Infrastructure Maintenance
    Democrat - The town has been actively maintaining the streets and sewers and will continue to do so
    Republican - Continue the town's maintenance schedule

  11. Transit Village Project
    Democrat – 10-story office buildings, 7,000 new parking spaces, and limited residential development
    Republican - Must coordinate all transit area development with Matawan

  12. Parks and Open Spaces
    Democrat – Parks will continue to be maintained and enhanced such as the new lighting for the Oakshades Park
    Republican - Refurbish playground facilities where needed

  13. Contract Bidding Process
    Democrat – The current bidding process is open, fair, and competitive
    Republican - Avoid emergency no-bid contracts

>>> Read more!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Our School District’s New Website

The Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District launched its new website this week. I submitted an online comment commending the site design but questioning the cost. I was quite pleased to receive a response the next day from Darlene Gallagher. She thanked me for my interest and informed me that the cost was $28,063.00 at startup plus an annual fee of $7,500. That’s about $50,000 over a three year period. $50,000 for a website? It’s a beautiful site but I can’t justify the cost.

The website,, was built by SchoolWires, a company that specializes in school websites. SchoolWires normally charges over $15,000 per year plus startup fees so I should be pleased that we’re getting such a bargain. But $50,000 over three years is still a huge sum to spend on a nice looking website.

When our students are scoring below average in every single standard exam, we can’t afford to spend $50,000 on a website we don’t need. Moreover, the school could have used the student body to build and maintain a new website. Or they could have used Gmail to provide free email services.

Does anyone believe the faculty would prefer this new website over $50 gift certificates during the holiday season? Does anyone believe $50,000 on a website will do more for our children’s education than spending the money on prizes for educational projects? Is there no one on the school board who couldn’t think of a more creative way to spend $50,000?

The Board of Education does not understand the simple concept of limited funds. It does not understand the concept of fiscal responsibility. Nor does it realize that its sole mission is to educate our children without unnecessarily burdening the taxpayer.

Nice website but we’re better off without it.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Transit Village Boondoggle

While the Democratic parties in Matawan and Aberdeen have been strongly supportive of the Transit Village Project (TVP), Republicans are sharply divided. Councilman Buccellato has made the TVP a keystone of his mayoral campaign. On the other side of Main St., the Aberdeen Republicans have on their platform the abolition of the TVP as secondary only to their goal of lowering taxes. Those supporting the TVP cite development and tax revenue. Those opposed cite overdevelopment and traffic congestion. The Aberdeen Republicans have it correct for more reasons than they realize. The Transit Village Project is a disaster and should be terminated.

The TVP envisions 10-story buildings with mixed commercial and residential use, giant parking garages with over 9,000 new parking spaces, and a new highway access road that goes over the Henry Hudson trail. Proponents claim that this massive development will help revitalize the downtown area. More likely, it will kill the downtown area as people try to avoid traffic congestion that Main St. was never built to handle. Nor are the Main St. shops close enough to the TVP to attract pedestrian traffic. But there is a strong likelihood that the new shops and cafes will draw traffic away from Main St., thereby harming the small shop owners trying to eke out a living.

Tax Revenue
On paper, the TVP would generate $8 million in additional tax revenue for the two towns. But that number is gross, not net. It does not reflect the added costs that such an undertaking would create for the township.

Councilman Buccellato is correct that the residential units under consideration, small and upper-scale condominiums, do not attract families but that is only part of the story. Extrapolating data from the 2005 American Housing Survey, we can expect one school age child per 10 residential units for a total of 50 children. Then, add another 75 children to account for the 60-plus state mandated affordable housing units (COAH) that would need to be built, and this project would add another 125 children to our school system. Our school budget would increase by, at least, $1,625,000.

The project is sketchy on financial details but the town would obviously need to subsidize the construction costs of the municipal parking garages, through tax breaks and/or direct financing. The income from municipal parking garages only cover operating expenses, not capital expenditures. The proposed parking garages would cost about $60 million to build. That means the town would somehow need to subsidize the annual $4 million loan payments on the garages.

Other miscellaneous expenditures, such as increases in law enforcement, road maintenance, and sanitation, would likely cost the towns an additional $500,000.

Lastly, given the current economic environment, any developer would likely require certain enticements to take such an undertaking. Since the leading proposal is being offered by Jack Morris’s Columbia Group (a power broker within the county Republican Party), we should assume that he’d be getting a sweetheart deal.

Opportunity Costs
The other economic cost is not doing a more modest project with no residential construction, limited commercial development, and a smaller parking garage. Simple math says building something an eight as large would generate an eight of the gross revenue, or $1 million per year.

Traffic Congestion
Matawan and Aberdeen could solve or ameliorate many of our traffic problems by just creating extra turn lanes at certain intersections. Yet, they haven’t. What are the chances that they will properly plan for an additional 6,000 cars on our local roads?

Municipal Planning
One of the major hurdles is that the Transit Village Project straddles two towns. If the towns merged, then we could develop a plan that would provide the best outcome for everyone. Instead, we’re faced with the Prisoner’s Dilemma in which each town acts only in its own best interest even if everyone would benefit from greater cooperation.

Aberdeen and Matawan are now competing (read: undercutting each other) for the most transit dollars and the most commercial space even if both ultimately lose through the bargaining process. We’ll never have an optimal plan unless the towns merge.

Once all is said and done, I guesstimate net tax revenue from the TVP to be around $3 million. That means the average householder will save a little under $300 per year. The towns could save us more money by just freezing municipal and school budgets for one year.

This boondoggle will not provide real property tax relief but will go a long way towards diminishing our quality of life. We’re better off without the Transit Village Project.
>>> Read more!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Matawan’s Mayoral Election

For the past two years, Mayor Mary Aufseeser has accomplished virtually nothing except to anger people on both sides of the political aisle. She is challenged by Councilman Paul Buccellato, an architect with unsavory ties to Monmouth County’s Republican machine. The mayoral election is like deciding whether the benefits of a medication outweigh its side effects. In this instance, I believe it does. I therefore endorse Paul Buccellato for mayor.

No one can rightfully argue that Mayor Aufseeser is deserving of another term. Shortly after ending decades of Republican control in Matawan, one of her first public acts was to fight for, and lose, awarding borough business to Peter Carton, a GOP party boss from Middletown.

That appears to be Mayor Aufseeser’s last political fight. Since then she has done nothing. Worse, she lacks the political courage to even take a position. Consider the following list: Property taxes, revitalizing the downtown area, the Transit Village Project, illegal immigrants on Main St., the Matawan Water Plant, and renovations at the community municipal center. Now, try naming a single issue in which Mayor Aufseeser has taken a leadership role.

Instead, she has embroiled herself in minor scandals, including the recent “disappearances” of the $25,000 Main Street Revitalization Study and her work laptop that was then replaced by a new $1,900 laptop.

During this same period, Councilman Buccellato has been the de facto opposition leader and taken strong positions on several issues. Unfortunately, I find we’re often in disagreement. I oppose the Transit Village Project and believe his idea to have the local police issue ID cards to illegal aliens is plain silly.

Additionally, Councilman Buccellato is tainted by his strong “business” ties to county Republican leaders. For example, after donating $3,900 to the Monmouth County Republican Committee, his firm, Henshell & Buccellato, received a $25,000 contract from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders for providing “call-in professional architectural services”. Another issue is his push for the Columbia Group to lead development at the train station. The Columbia Group is led by Jack Morris, a major bankroller of county Republicans.

Pay-to-play has long been the norm in Monmouth County and should no longer be tolerated. But Councilman Buccellato has not violated any legal or ethical standards. Though he may not be the perfect candidate, Matawan has too many pressing issues to re-elect a do-nothing mayor. I endorse Paul Buccellato for Mayor.
>>> Read more!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Dearth of Qualified Candidates in Aberdeen

The Independent recently interviewed the 12 candidates competing for the four open seats on the Aberdeen Township Council. The vast majority of these candidates are woefully under qualified. The only way such people could be elected is that the townsfolk no longer care or have lost all hope for change.

Among the Democrats are Owen Drapkin, Wilhelmina Gumbs, Vincent Vinci, and Janice Gallo. All are present council members except for Gallo, Vice Chair of the town’s Planning Board.

When asked about their credentials, all candidates appropriately cited past service.

Janice Gallo was on the Board of Education from 1997-2003. During her tenure, the school district’s budget ballooned but showed no improvement in the students’ poor performance. While on the Planning Board, she has supported residential development despite their burden on our school system and adverse effect on our property taxes.

Of the three incumbents, all cited infrastructure maintenance and their ability to restrain taxes. But any town council is likely to continue maintaining the roads and sewers and their claim to restrain taxes would be a surprise to any property owner in Aberdeen.

It is outrageous that none of our elected town representatives takes any responsibility for the out-of-control school spending or its dismal performance. They look at our skyrocketing property taxes and say “Not our fault. Not our problem.” The truth is the town could do many things to influence the school’s budget and performance.

For example, the town could fight, as New York City did, to gain control over the school system by obtaining mayoral power to appoint the school superintendent or a certain number of school board members. The town should initiate feasibility studies to use state funding for the construction of super-quite wind turbines on school property. The town could restrain school growth by purchasing the legal limit of Mount Laurel housing outside Aberdeen and severely restricting all new residential development. Lastly, the town has the power of the bully pulpit, to inform the citizenry and call for change.

The democratic candidates have shown no interest in doing any of the above. They prefer the role of “innocent bystander”.

The Republican candidates are Tom Aljian, Anthony Garaguso, Leon Matchin, and former council member John Gartley. Their campaign promise to reduce taxes rings hollow. The only way to actually cut property taxes is to cut school spending and introduce large scale development that doesn’t burden our school system (i.e., commercial, senior citizen, beachfront, etc.). Instead, they’ve chosen to focus on graft, certainly an important issue but not one that will reduce our taxes in any noticeable manner.

The Republican Party also seems to have trouble finding serious candidates. Garaguso and Matchin are new to Aberdeen, have no prior government experience, and it shows. In the arena of big ideas, Garaguso wants to broadcast town meetings over TV or the Internet and Matchin complains that all the really big parks are in the adjacent towns.

Gartley and Aljian are serious candidates and have my endorsement. Both want to expand overall development but not residential development. They recognize that residential development expands student enrollment and causes higher taxes. Both are long-time residents and appear to have a strong grasp of the facts. They’re also likely to do no worse than any of the current council members.

The Green Party is simply not a serious political organization. Among their platforms is to provide environmentally friendly low-income housing. Another is to create a “downtown” area – too bad Main St. is in Matawan, not Aberdeen.

Their candidates are Alice Osipowitz, Philip Petrignami, Paul Rinear, and Mark Teichman. None have any government experience, none display an in-depth knowledge of the town, and none have offered any concrete plans for the future of Aberdeen.

I endorse Republicans Tom Aljian and John Gartley. I will also be voting for Owen Drapkin and Vincent Vinci as the most qualified of the remaining candidates.
>>> Read more!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Property Assessments in Matawan-Aberdeen

In an earlier posting, I had argued for changing the current property tax to a land tax as a means of encouraging development. However, it was quickly pointed out that the New Jersey State Constitution states that “All real property . . . shall be assessed according to the same standard of value.” (Article VIII, Section 1(a)) This means that every county and township is required to assess property in an identical manner. Changing to a land value tax would have required a state constitutional amendment, something that was unsuccessfully attempted by former New Jersey State Assemblyman Michael Arnone of Red Bank. The next best option, one that is constitutionally permissible, is to allow the property owner to determine, within a given time span, when to have a property reassessment.

The state constitution requires that land be assessed in a uniform manner but there is no requirement as to how often land must be reassessed. On this point, the state legislature has recently required that all townships assess all properties at regular intervals to ensure that the tax burden is evenly distributed.

But even here, the townships are allowed wide latitude as to the time of the assessment so long as it is done in a timely and regular fashion.

Both Matawan and Aberdeen will have property reassessments in 2008. Following those assessments, I propose the following:

Require each property owner to reassess his property at least once every ten years. The legal burden, and cost, of the reassessment will be on the property owner. The owner could either use the township’s assessor or any other independent assessor licensed by the state. Like all assessments, they will be public knowledge and subject to public scrutiny.

The proposal has several advantages. First, property owners will not see immediate tax hikes each time they improve their property. On the contrary, they will likely plan to have their assessments immediately prior to any major improvements. Meanwhile, property values would jump higher as buyers recognize the advantage of being able to renovate homes without incurring immediate tax liabilities.

Secondly, as homeowners take advantage of the new policy, the tax rates will begin to drop. That’s because tax rates are determined by dividing the overall budget by the sum of property values. Double property values and the tax rate drops in half. (The county portion of property taxes would likely go up, but even if it doubled that would only represent a 10% increase in the overall tax burden.) Those homeowners who choose to not renovate, will gradually see their tax burdens drop as their neighbors are eventually required to reassess their homes.

Lastly, it would be a strong discouragement to new residential development. While there would be a natural lag between existing homes and property assessments, all new developments would be assessed immediately upon completion. That means existing homes would have a huge tax advantage over new construction. (Residential construction should be discouraged because it burdens our schools and creates traffic congestion.)

Land value taxation is a great idea but politically unfeasible for a small town. However, passing the burden of regular assessments from the town to the property owner is something we can do. With so much upside and so little downside, we should initiate the program as soon as our next reassessment is complete.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fuzzy Math at the Matawan Water Plant

Matawan’s municipal water plant is reaching the point beyond repair and needs to be rebuilt. Two months ago, Councilman Michael Cannon offered several cost alternatives that strongly suggested we should shutter the water plant and purchase our water from an alternative source. But Councilman Cannon’s numbers don’t add up. Our best option is to rebuild the water plant and sell the excess water.

According to Cannon, the cost of rebuilding the water plant would be $4-$5 million or paid in installments of $692,000 over twenty years. But assuming the plant costs $5 million and is paid through 20-year tax free municipal bonds, the annual cost would only be $390,000. If we include the income from selling the excess water, the annual cost drops to $320,000.

Yet, Cannon seems to prefer we close the plant and purchase our water from the Marlboro Township Municipal Utilities Authority for an annual cost of $560,000.

Not only would purchasing our water from another town cost over 40% more, we’d be at risk of having our water supply rationed during times of drought or seeing price hikes after a certain number of years.

Interest rates are still at historical lows and we can always refinance should the rates drop significantly. We should take immediate steps to secure the financing and rebuild the water plant. As for Cannon’s fuzzy math, it’s curious that no one on the council bothered to correct him.
>>> Read more!