Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year’s Resolution

  1. I will no longer believe politicians who promise me something for nothing
  2. I will no longer trust politicians to fix all my problems
  3. I will no longer trust politicians to care for me and my family
  4. I will no longer believe politicians who promise to protect me by stripping me of my rights
  5. I will no longer believe politicians can fix a problem by simply writing a law or taking a vote
  6. I will no longer believe nice and caring implies effective and competent
  7. I will no longer trust politicians who promise to fix problems after their terms of office
  8. I will no longer trust politicians who promise to fix broken promises
  9. I will no longer trust politicians who think I’m stupid for believing they mean what they say
  10. I will no longer trust politicians who are more giving with other people’s monies than their own
  11. I will no longer support politicians who think I work for them
  12. I will no longer support politicians who take all the credit and none of the blame

May this be the year government works for us.
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What’s the School Plan?

Why are teachers using online courses to attain higher degrees but the students are not? Rather than expand and experiment with new teaching technologies, the Information Technology budget has been slashed by over 30% in two years to $163,000. That’s roughly $4 per student. Add the total district library budget, and you’re just over $20 a kid.

Meanwhile, during that same period, per pupil expenditures (ignoring overhead) is up 13% to $13,430 per student.  $5,000,000 was added to capital expenditures. Teacher benefits are galloping along at annual increases of 10%.

The simple reality is that public school is too expensive and the education is woefully below student needs.

The school district should pursue a blended approach of technology, individualized instruction, and teacher/student interaction.

As a first step, the district must approach parents for permission to instruct their children in math and science via online courses. The students could work at their own pace in a supervised school environment. Those who need more time and help, will get it. Those who can fly will be allowed to do so. Parents can withdraw their children from the program at any time.

It’s either this, charter schools, or implosion. By staying the course, the district will have chosen implosion.
>>> Read more!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aberdeen’s Death Spiral

If you’ve been living in Aberdeen a while, have you noticed a change?

Have you noticed that big projects never seem to get done anymore? Transit station, swim club, Glass Anchor, senior housing, everything seems to be in limbo.

Have you noticed the money problems getting worse? That Aberdeen no longer maintains a rainy day fund, that its credit rating has been cut, or that it might, on occasion, need to raid the public library’s coffers?

Have you noticed retirees increasingly leaving Aberdeen to escape the high property taxes?

Have you noticed more vacant properties in the area? (Ten more sheriff sales scheduled for September.)

Have you noticed certain programs getting cut and the money never seems to be restored?

Have you noticed few seem to care and nobody does anything about it?

This is what a death spiral looks like. It starts slow and nobody cares. It speeds up and everyone pretends someone else will fix the problem. And then . . . collapse.

Need more evidence?
2006 Pension Contributions:
Police and Firemen - $238,883
Public Employees - $51,558

2013 Pension Contributions:
Police and Firemen - $945,052
Public Employees - $248,170

Percent Increase over 7 Years:
Police and Firemen - 396%
Public Employees – 481%

2007 Employee Group Health - $810,000 (2006 numbers unavailable)
2013 Employee Group Health - $1,640,804
% Increase over 6 Years – 203%

>>> Read more!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Aberdeen's Budget Gnomes at Work

Budget is policy.

Budget is spin.

Budget is sleight of hand.

In Aberdeen, budget is all of the above.

Although the final budget was adopted a month ago, the final numbers have not been posted and we’re reduced to relying upon “press releases” from the town council. Still, we do have the initially proposed budget and the final numbers are likely similar. The initial budget also provides a great window into the township’s budget approach.

Sheet 3B of the initial budget states the following:
Maximum Allowable Amount to be Raised by Taxation 10,690,838
Amount to be Raised by Taxation for Municipal Purposes 10,690,314

The township started the budgeting process from the maximum amount it could tax residents and then worked backwards, looking to make small cuts here and there.
>>> Read more!

Monday, April 29, 2013

More Taxes for Everyone

"Those are just some of the things that the town provides to the residents for essentially $121 a month," Councilman Gregory Cannon said. "That's less than my cable bill." – Matawan-Aberdeen Patch, March 25, 2013

Give Councilman Cannon credit for saying what everyone on the council was thinking. “Don’t worry. You can afford another tax increase. Taxes too high? It’s not our fault. We spend so little. We really are doing a great job spending your money.”

I wonder if there’s a single homeowner whose cable bill is higher than his property taxes.

Oh, you say, I make an unfair comparison. After all, the municipality only controls municipal taxes. It’s not the council’s fault that you’re also taxed for school, county, fire, sanitation, and sewage.

I think the comparison is quite fair.

First, the “average” homeowner pays far more than $121 a month once you exclude apartments and condos from the mix. (No offense to Councilman Cannon.)

Second, the council budget is $16.3 million, $5.6 million above the tax levy. Where does Councilman Cannon think that money comes from if not the taxpayer? And even that number doesn’t include the two fire districts, over another million dollars a year. Nor does the budget include the full cost of the road program, millions a year paid with IOUs. Debt payments have skyrocketed 15% in one year and now account for nearly a tenth of the budget.

And what happened to the reserves? In 2006, the township had $7.6 million in reserves. Now, it’s half that.

As for the school district, the fact that it costs an average $15,000 to educate one child hasn’t discouraged the township one whit from residential housing. But all the non-residential development, those projects that would actually reduce property taxes, have been in “development” for a decade. Then again, what can you expect when the town engineer is bankrolling every election.

Of course, council members can shield themselves from tax increases by voting salary increases for themselves, which they do.

Total municipal spending including all the township’s branches of government, is over $50 million a year or, using Councilman Cannon’s “average homeowner”, about $600 a month. That’s awfully close to the "average" property tax bill not to mention a lot of cable.

Here’s a different comparison for Councilman Cannon – How many councilmen have municipal salaries higher than their property taxes? Maybe they should learn to pay their own property taxes like everybody else >>> Read more!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Serving the Public

Imagine how the township would look if it was designed to serve the public?

In town hall, instead of an “Information Desk”, there would be a customer service desk manned by two people who could handle nearly every need. Want to file an OPRA request, pay your taxes or sewer bill, submit a variance request, or get a building permit, you could do it all at one place.

Have questions, not only could an Information Desk answer most questions, they already have printed guides. Want to challenge your property assessment but don’t know how? Common hurdles in getting building permits and sample submissions.

Imagine a town hall designed with a focus of serving the people. On the website would be links to proposed ordinances and regulations. A link to Monmouth County’s online tax appeal. Guidelines to hiring contractors and when variances or permits are required.

Sadly, you will have to imagine because it’s probably not in your future.

The township doesn’t post its budgets or much other useful information online and, if you want to do anything in town hall, you will likely need to go to multiple desks more than once.

As for the school district, spending is once again on a tear. In the three years I’ll have been gone, school spending will have gone up$9 million, increasing over 5% a year. At that rate, the district will crack the $100 million level in 8 years.

Then there are all the broken promises from Anchor Glass to senior housing to Aberdeen Forge to the transit village to the swim club. No doubt all the unwanted residential development is on schedule.

And when will the school district begin teaching computer programming?

So much potential. So much lost opportunity. This is how a town is punished for giving so much and asking for so little. 
>>> Read more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Aberdeen’s Tax Champions

Congratulations to Aberdeen for placing third in Monmouth County for the highest tax increases of 2012. As reported by the Star Ledger (hat tip to the MatAb Patch), Aberdeen scored a 4.8% property tax increase, nearly triple the state average of 1.7%. (Matawan only raised their taxes 0.6%, damn Republicans.)

No doubt a majority of Aberdeen homeowners will be thrilled by the increases, an average of $300 on top of all the prior years’ increases. After all, that’s why the townsfolk keep reelecting the people who raise their taxes. It’s a quality of life issue. Vincent Vinci Park costs money.
>>> Read more!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Another Election Year

In Aberdeen, every year is an election year and, if history continues to repeat, we all know what the good people of Aberdeen can expect.

Taxes will go up. The earners have already seen their payroll taxes go up and many of you may be wondering how the limit in deductions will impact you. And then there are the tolls. And don’t forget property taxes are now on autopilot, rising ever higher.

Of course, there are lots of ways to build a larger revenue base without simply raising taxes but have you ever noticed that the only major developments to actually happen in Aberdeen are residential developments? Still waiting for the train station, senior housing, Anchor Glass, pool club, Aberdeen Forge, etc.? Joe Ciaglia’s appointment to the Zoning Board should be interesting.

As for the elections, we can expect another Democrat sweep, funded by the town council’s unabashed pay-to-play. After all, a township that can name a park after an egregious self-serving politician certainly knows no shame.

Nor will people care about the town’s response to Superstorm Sandy. If Hurricane Irene didn’t prepare the town for Sandy, it’s hard to believe Aberdeen will be any better prepared for the next storm.

Republicans will run on a campaign of ideas but, as President Obama so artfully demonstrated, ideas don’t win campaigns. Votes win campaigns. And votes require strategy and lots of hard work.

Then there’s the school board. Once again, the town demonstrated breathtaking apathy about the education of our children and property taxes by simply voting for the top slots on the ballot regardless of which candidates occupied those top slots.

It doesn’t have to be this way. All it takes is leadership and lots of hard work to turn around Aberdeen. Till then, expect more of the same because that’s what the voters of Aberdeen want. 
>>> Read more!