Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Better Town Budget

Considering the township always produces lower tax hikes during an election year than an off year, it’s very tempting to say this year’s municipal budget is just another election scam. However, I’m tempted to believe it’s more evidence that interim town manager, Holly Reycraft, is doing her job.

Taxes are nearly flat, about a 0.6% increase over last year, or $8 a year for the typical property owner. Employee benefits were brought under control. The police department cut salary expenditures.

Now, we have another first for the township.

Historically, the library budget never appeared in the municipal budget but it was secretly included in the tax base. When the state imposed a cap on municipal tax increases, including the library tax as part of the tax base gave the township about a 10% boost in how much it was allowed to raise property taxes.

For example, if the township had a tax base of $7.5 milllion a 4% state-imposed cap would have restricted tax increases to $300,000. However, if the library $750,000 tax revenue was added to the township’s base, then the cap would have been a $330,000 increase.

In truth, the township has always worked around the cap, raising taxes on average 10% a year for the past number of years, but now they’ll have one less gimmick to use.

Under the revised budget, library taxes are broken out as a separate item and are no longer calculated toward the cap (Sheet 3b). It’s another step towards a more honest and fiscally conservative budget.

Since the town’s on a roll, maybe it can do something with the $100,000 slush fund that’s still “dedicated” to Councilman Vinci’s intersection, even though it’s been built for years. Or maybe actually use the $39,000 dedicated towards the Henry Hudson Trail (page 9).
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kudos to Cops

Too often, the taxpayers feel they work for the government rather than the other way around. In that light, we should take great pride in the recent actions of the Aberdeen Township Police Department. In addition to the great work they consistently do, the police department recently responded to two criticisms voiced on this blog:

1) The department needs to cut spending
2) The department should maintain a public police blotter

Well, the police department has done both. The final town budget notes a $30,000 cut in police wages and salary from the original proposal (probably in reduced overtime). Granted, even after this haircut, department wages will still increase 4.7% over last year. However, it remains precedent setting. This is the first time I ever recall seeing a budgeted salary decrease that didn’t involve a termination.

The cut also creates a new baseline and will hopefully translate into annual savings for years to come as well as reduced pension obligations.

Next, the police department has launched an online police blotter. Considering a police officer’s primary duty is to uphold the law and prevent crime, I’m happy to see the arrests have not been for major criminal activity.

Special thanks to Chief of Police Powers.
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Friday, July 1, 2011

What’s Next?

The blog has been in decline ever since I left town and with good reason. I no longer live in Aberdeen. I don’t see what’s happening, my relationships are no longer the same, I’m not personally involved, and I don’t have easy access to records.

At the same time, virtually every elected official I fought against is either out or on the way out.

So, what’s left to do? I’ve given thought to writing about state or national issues, particularly in the areas of education, but this blog has always been about ideas that could be converted into policy.

There are still plenty of hot button issues in town – Pay-to-play, teacher contracts, police contracts, the fire companies, health and pension benefits, spending and tax increases, development projects, COAH, municipal elections, student performance, and the list goes on.

But I don’t have the information.

For example, CME, the town’s engineer, is being awarded big bucks at nearly every town hall meeting in exchange for their funding the Aberdeen democrats in November’s election. But the real data lies in getting a copy of the town’s payment history to CME. Easy to do if you live in town but I no longer do.

Once again, the Aberdeen democrats have chosen to circumvent election financial disclosure laws by running four “independent” campaigns that magically divide all revenue and expenses four-ways and run the identical campaigns.

The one new twist is Kathleen Olsen, the recently retired middle school principal, is now the chairperson and treasurer for all four of the democrats’ “independent” campaigns.

So, what’s next? Dunno. But Aberdeen is a great town with great people and I’m hopeful someone will step forward to assume the mantle of Aberdeener.

Till then, the blog will continue but it won’t be what it once was.
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