The buck for the latest increase in Red Bank property taxes stops at the far right end of the Borough Council dais, where John P. Curley sits, according to Mayor Ed McKenna.

McKenna blamed Curley for the 4-cents-per-$100-assessment increase approved by the council yesterday. In McKenna’s view, Curley failed to exercise proper oversight of former borough chief financial officer Terence Whalen, who quit in June, shortly before the release of an audit that found his department rife with mismanagement that will set the town back $400,000. No fraud was alleged.

According to Larry Higgs’ account in the Asbury Park Press, McKenna accused Curley, the council’s finance committee chairman, for failing to monitor Whalen.

“The taxpayers of this borough should hold you accountable for four cents of the tax increase,” McKenna said.

McKenna said the borough tax rate would be flat if not for the problems in the finance office.

“We have an excellent budget. I wish it was better, but due to negligence in one department, it cost us $400,000,” McKenna said.

Curley said it isn’t his job to monitor full-time employees. That is the job of full-time borough employees, he said.

“I’m not the CFO or the auditor,” he replied.

Other finance committee chairmen met with the CFO during the week and got updates on whether the borough was under or over budget, McKenna said.

“That’s what you should have been doing,” McKenna said. “You knew we had a new CFO and should have been monitoring him on a microscopic basis.”

McKenna’s accusation followed criticism by Curley of the council’s failure to slash the budget across all departments by five percent from last year’s spending, as Curley had proposed.

The new spending plan calls for $16.27 million, with the local portion of property taxes pegged at $8.32 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average home, assessed at $179,000, that means a bill of $1,489, up $75 from the previous budget.

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