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.
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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.
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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!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Entitlement Pay in the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District

In a fluid labor marketplace, salaries and benefits are determined by supply and demand. An employee’s value is determined by expectation of performance and the opportunity cost of replacing him. In the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District (MARSD), salaries are set according to each teacher’s level of education and years of experience. Performance is irrelevant. Replacing a teacher with a lower cost individual has become unconscionable. The system has worked fantastically for teachers but horribly for taxpayers. Entitlement pay in the schools must be ended.

Patricia Catalano has been a kindergarten teacher in MARSD for the past 20 years. Due to her long service, she earns over $80,000 per year teaching 5-year olds. After payroll taxes and benefits (approximately 35% on top of salary), her total cost to the taxpayer is about $110,000, over $600 per school day.

But she’s not alone. Among the 13 kindergarten teachers, 4 earn salaries over $80,000.

Betty Voorhees earns over $80,000 and costs over $600 per day (like the kindergarten teachers) for teaching typing and word processing.

Supervisors earn about $110,000 and each cost the district about $150,000 per year, not counting their secretaries who each earn about $50,000.

Certain departments, at first glance, also appear a bit bloated. The speech correction department costs the district about $500,000 per year. We pay about $4.3 million for remedial education, $1.5 million for special education, and several hundred thousand more to send children offsite for special needs. Another million is needed for school social workers and psychologists. On the flip side, the school district spends about $750,000 on physics, biology, chemistry, and computer science combined.

The district has 23 health ed/gym teachers with salaries ranging from $42,000 to $85,000 plus benefits. The athletics director and his secretary together cost the district north of $200,000.

Of the ten music teachers, six teach singing. 5 Italian teachers but only 2 French teachers. 7 guidance counselors, 4 substance abuse counselors, but only 3 computer science teachers, 2 chemistry teachers, and a single physics teacher.

The average teacher earns 10% above the median income for Matawan/Aberdeen, receives a benefits package unheard of in the private sector, and works 25% fewer days. Senior teachers earn practically double the salary of a starting teacher and cost nearly twice as much as teachers in the Catholic schools.

The salaries cannot be justified based upon performance as was amply demonstrated in my earlier article, The Matawan Man-Eater. If education is a priority, why are there more drug counselors than computer teachers? Why do we dedicate more resources to teaching singing than to teaching how to play a musical instrument?

The answer is that politics, like water, takes the path of least resistance. It’s easier to give annual salary increases than to fight over whether the person is deserving of the increase. It’s easier to hire additional drug counselors than teaching physics. It’s easier to simply churn out graduates than to actually try to educate them.

The counterargument is that we need to pay high salaries to attract good teachers but the Catholic schools seem to disprove that.

As parents and taxpayers we have an obligation to demand more. Here are the steps we can take:

  1. Require that 65% of all funds be dedicated to classroom instruction. (Presently 44% of funds are used for administrative and overhead costs.)

  2. For all teaching positions, narrow the salary band so that experienced teachers can only earn up to 50% more than new teachers

  3. Track teacher performance to reward better teachers and remove poorer teachers. (In a future article I will discuss how teacher performance can be measured. I suspect there is little to no relationship between a teacher’s pay and his performance.)

  4. For all new teachers, align the benefits package to what’s found in the private marketplace

  5. Refocus the school’s priorities so that education becomes the most important objective

  6. Set higher expectations for teachers and students

  7. Set educational and financial targets for the Superintendent
I don’t care that certain political interests will oppose this move. It’s time to hold our school board responsible for the mess they’ve created. The schools are here to serve the community, not the staff. Teachers are not entitled to high paying jobs. They should earn their keep like everyone else. >>> Read more!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Move the Aberdeen-Matawan Train Station Back to Matawan

There’s a 14-year waiting list to get a parking space near the train station. There’s a huge undeveloped lot at the corner of Aberdeen Rd. and Main St. that runs alongside the train tracks. The location has easy access to the Garden State Parkway, Rt. 35, and Rt. 36. The plan is simple: Build a Matawan-Aberdeen transportation hub that includes a train station, bus stops, small shops, and a multiple level parking garage.

The site presently has a taxi station, dry cleaner, dog grooming salon, and a small diner. The town has the authority to condemn the properties through eminent domain but I would strongly prefer to offer the owners above market prices on the properties.

The town could build and manage a 5-level parking garage with an approximate 500 car capacity. The ground floor would have a train station, bus stops, and some shops, including a café and a convenience store. An overpass would run from Aberdeen Rd. over the train tracks and directly to the new station. Main St. would be widened to accommodate buses and cars turning into the station.

Additionally, land being used for the current train station and commuter parking could be converted for commercial uses, such as office space, medical clinics, or incubators for new businesses. By extending Station Plaza across Atlantic Avenue alongside the present train station and then looping back to Main St., we can open several acres of land to development. We can also allow (not force), the homes in that area to rezone for commercial.

To constrain costs, the parking garage would be available to permit holders only. An officer could go through the garage twice a day to ensure the garage is being used for permit holders only or we could use cameras that simply read the license plates.

The public parking garage would, satisfy the demand for commuter parking, open up land for commercial development, and be the first step towards revitalizing Main St.

The problem is cost. My guesstimate is that it would cost $6 million to acquire the land, overcome legal challenges, construct the building, widen the roads, and build an overpass from Aberdeen Rd. Assuming we could get a million dollars in assistance from the state, New Jersey Transit, and Monmouth County, that still leaves us with a $5 million price tag. A two-tiered pricing system ($20/month for residents and $50/month for non-residents) and rental income should more than offset the estimated $200,000 in annual operating costs.

Is it worth the money? I believe it is.

The property would be jointly owned by Aberdeen and Matawan. Homeowners in both towns would equally share the burden. Paying off $5 million over 30 years through municipal bonds would cost the average household about $30 per year.

Is it worth $30 per year to have a mini transportation hub, satisfy the demand for commuter parking, open up land to commercial development, and take the first step towards revitalizing Main St.? I say yes.
>>> Read more!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Merge Aberdeen and Matawan

It’s always nice to think about major cost savings from merging two neighboring municipalities. We would only need one mayor, one council, one town hall, one police chief, etc. We could eliminate the salaries and benefits of redundant employees. Streamline administrative and purchasing decisions. And save piles of money. But the truth is that the savings would only amount to a tiny percentage of our property taxes. No, the real reason to merge Aberdeen and Matawan is synergy. We can accomplish far more as one town.

Let’s first dispense with the savings argument.

The costs savings are fairly apparent. We could eliminate redundant positions, merge organizations, and unload one town hall. Theoretically, we could also find savings by merging the police departments and streamlining the purchase of goods and services, including the costs of maintaining our parks, streets, and sewers.

Let’s assume that if Aberdeen absorbed Matawan, we could achieve an unbelievable whopping 25% costs savings (this would require slashing labor and operating costs in half). Matawan’s current budget is $9.5 million. Aberdeen’s budget is $14 million. The savings would shrink the combined budget to $21.1 million for an overall budget reduction of 10%. But the towns' combined property tax levy (including county and school) would only drop 3.7% to $61.7 million. That translates into an annual savings of about $200 per household. And that’s assuming virtually impossible cost reductions.

But there are real gains from such a merger.

City Planning –
Matawan completely isolates Freneau from the rest of Aberdeen. The area surrounding the train station straddles the two towns. Main St. lies inside Matawan but its entire length runs alongside Aberdeen. It is nearly impossible to develop a cohesive city master plan unless the two towns merge.

State/County Financing –
Matawan Township changed its name to Aberdeen Township to achieve greater recognition from within the state. Increasing the town’s size by 50% and ending competition with Matawan Borough would help us petition the state and county for more funding.

New Development –
Several development projects in the area are starved for dollars, such as Cliffwood Beach’s beachfront project, Aberdeen’s seawall improvements, and upgrading the Matawan Water Plant. A larger township would have an easier time financing these projects.

Additionally, we could convert the “spare” town hall into an expanded library/community/adult education center.

School Management –
There is no one person responsible for our school district’s performance. Nor could there be since the district serves two independent municipalities.

If we merge the two towns, we could make the mayor responsible for the schools. Have the mayor appoint and the school board confirm the school superintendent. The superintendent would serve at the mayor’s pleasure but the school board would still control the purse strings.

In 1895, the residents of Matawan elected to secede from Aberdeen (then known as Matawan Township). I doubt they would vote the same way today. I am not suggesting that the mayor of a unified town should be David Sobel or Mary Aufseeser or, her challenger, Paul Buccellato. I am only saying that our two towns should be one.
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Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Matawan Man-Eater

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published elsewhere on August 14, 2007, prior to the creation of

As local homeowners watch their adjustable rate mortgages pop higher, their homes lose tens of thousands of dollars in equity, and the number of foreclosures last year in Monmouth County rise over 70%, our school board feels that now is the time to hire another Latin instructor. Perhaps he can operate the scoreboard in our new $1.5 million football field.

Despite promises to spend our money more “effectively”, not one of the recently elected board members would even entertain the concept of “budget cuts”. Nor do we know the cost of new programs, such as outgoing Superintendent Quinn's “Response to Intervention” for kindergartners.

What are we getting for our $62 million (a fifty percent increase over the 2000 budget)? According to the State of New Jersey's report card for the academic year 2005-2006, at $13,231 per pupil -

  • Our students rank below the state average for advanced proficiency in math and language

  • Our students are below the state average in SAT math and verbal scores

  • Less than 10% of 11th and 12th graders took and passed an advanced placement test

  • Fewer than half of seniors plan to attend a four-year college

  • 9.1% of our students are labeled learning disabled

  • Three advanced placement classes each have only one registered student

  • Our students have less instructional time than the state average

Considering we have a high faculty ratio earning above average salaries in an upper middle income neighborhood, these results are abysmal.

The public school component already comprises two-thirds of our property taxes and is growing faster than any other part of local government. For the upcoming year, the school board voted unanimously to increase employee benefits by nearly 11%. The latest tax increase will cost the average homeowner another $300 per year and over $4,000 in lost home equity.

Consider the following: If we simply issued $9,000 school vouchers for the local private schools, our costs would drop 30%. That's equal to a 20% cut in property taxes.

(Editor's Note: For a list of possible school remedies, please read Reforming Our Schools. >>> Read more!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Aberdeen's Master Plan Needs a Rewrite

According to an old Irish saying, “Poverty is inherited. We get it from our children.” Children are, appropriately, our greatest expense. Over two-thirds of our property taxes are used to support the public schools at an average cost of $13,000 per pupil. Meanwhile, Aberdeen and Matawan encourage residential development to build the tax base. Here’s the rub: nearly each time a family with at least one child moves into our neighborhood, the town spends more money educating that family’s children than it receives in taxes.

The Irish also had some ideas about reducing the number of children. In “A Modest Proposal”, Jonathan Swift, an Irish cleric and satirist, suggested people could eat their children, solving both poverty and hunger. A hundred years later, Ireland rose the legal age for marriage to reduce the childbirth rate. It’s sadly in our town’s best interests to discourage families with children from moving in while, at the same time, creating a superb neighborhood and school system for our children.

Looking at Aberdeen Township’s master plan, it’s clear that the township wants to recruit as many families as possible. There are townhouses slated for Rt. 34 and apartment buildings being developed along Rt. 35. At an average of 0.7 children per family, the town will lose, after taxes and education costs, about $6,000 per family. If we consider that lower income families have higher birthrates (and are more likely to have learning issues), each family moving into these apartments and townhouses will likely the cost the taxpayer, on average, about $15,000 per year. Is this in our best interest?

Naturally, local businesses benefit from high-density residential areas. Traffic and air quality suffer. But why would anyone want to recruit families that would cost the town more than they contribute?

Yet, our political system encourages just this kind of thinking. Our elected town representatives get to talk about how they’ve increased tax revenue without increasing the tax rate. Our school board gets to preside over a growing student body and growing school system. Everyone’s happy except for the taxpayers who will see ever increasing bills to pay for other people’s kids.

What to do about it?

First, just as every major development is required to have an environmental impact study, so should every major development be required to have a property tax impact study that projects expected costs based on the number of occupants and their demographics. Just as toads and vermin are protected from harmful development, so should taxpayers.

Under New Jersey’s Fair Share Plan, each municipality is required to have its fair share of low/modest housing. This translates into creating, or setting aside, a number of affordable housing units equal to 12.5% of all new housing plus 4% of all new jobs.

As they say, the rich get richer and the poor get children. Young families in low-income housing will likely cost the town over $20,000 per year per family.

Aberdeen is already participating in a Regional Contribution Agreement with at least one other municipality. That means we can figuratively “buy” affordable housing units from neighboring areas. It’s expensive but well worth it. Even at $150,000 per unit, we’d be saving money. The law allows us to purchase up to half our allotted units. Presently, Aberdeen only buys a sixth of our allotments. We should maximize our purchases to the legal limit.

Of the remaining 50% affordable housing units, half can be set aside for age-restricted housing (i.e. retirement communities). We should maximize that as well since these units won’t be having any children.

That leaves only a quarter of the original number – about 3.3% of all new housing. If the town forgoes developing apartment buildings and townhouses, our required allotment of affordable housing would also be dramatically reduced.

Next, we need to encourage commercial development along the Rt. 35 corridor. Aberdeen already plans to develop over 2,000,000 sq. ft. of commercial space at the old Anchor Glass factory but much of this is slated to become retail space. Retail is a mistake. The best way to build the tax base is to attract companies that offer high-paying jobs. Given the proximity to the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Shore, and only ten minutes from the New Jersey Turnpike, we won’t have a problem attracting high-profile companies that, in turn, could attract other companies to move here.

We also have the space. There are huge tracts of open land in the Cliffwood section.

Office, medical, and research facilities would be ideal. They would add tax revenue, recruit highly educated people to the area, support our local businesses, and be hardly any burden to the town.

Another possibility is a local attraction that could divert some of the weekend traffic going to Sandy Hook, though this may create too much traffic.

One thing we must not do is create ghettoes in Aberdeen. The Township has already submitted plans for a development in Freneau that will be strictly low income and an assisted living residence on Church St. that will also be strictly low income.

Another plan in the works calls for the construction of 53 low income housing units by the Aberdeen-Matawan train station.

These plans must be scrapped. Creating concentrated areas of poverty will kill the surrounding neighborhoods. It’s especially outrageous that two of the projects would be built near Main St. Just when we should be trying to rehabilitate Main St., the town wants to use it as a dumping ground for New Jersey’s impoverished.

If we’re going to build Aberdeen and Matawan and reduce the tax burden, we need to severely restrict the construction of apartment buildings and townhouses and use every legal means available to reduce the number of non-age restricted low income housing. Our first priority goes to the people who already live here.
>>> Read more!