Kim Senkeleski at her home with a familiar if loathed visitor: her annual tax bill. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Senkeleski, still going at the council with the same head of steam she had before she lost her election bid in November, has been doing some legwork, gathering ideas from residents on how to reduce taxes. She’s posted flyers, knocked on doors and otherwise spread the word to garner input. She said she’s gotten about 30 responses so far, but she hopes to hear from many more taxpayers before she’s done.
Tomorrow night, she’s planning to hold a meeting at her house with the people who’ve submitted input to arrange ideas and get started on a document she will take to the council for consideration.
She says that’ll likely happen by the end of the month, “so they’ll have ample time to review it and address it at their budget meetings.”
The argument from the council against Senkeleski’s idea for a special forum dedicated to tax-cutting ideas is that there already is a venue for residents to provide input during the budget process.
Yet more often than not, apathy prevails at those meetings, Senkeleski says so much so that she became tired of being the only one there and walked out of last year’s after 15 minutes. She feels the meeting comes too late in the budget process and with little promotion from the council.
“When it came time to give input, it was great. But by the time that came, I felt it wasn’t enough,” she says.
Councilman Michael DuPont, who heads the finance committee and faced Senkeleski last year in his bid for re-election, says he’s pleased to hear Senkeleski is putting in the effort to help the borough. But at the same time, he says Red Bank last year lowered its debt by $1 million while also generating revenue by sharing services.
“Any ideas that are helpful is great,” DuPont says, “but at some point in time you still have to come up with ideas that generate revenue, besides raising taxes.”
Senkeleski’s idea of a summit, she believes, would draw more people and generate a more open discussion about the borough’s fiscal policy than what’s already available.
Failing that, her goal now is to have an easy-to-read document for the council to review and implement into the coming budget.
“Hopefully, an idea can have an impact in 2010,” she said. “Ultimately our intention is to make sure our taxes don’t go up, because we can’t afford it.”
The council has already requested that all departments cut their draft budgets by 15 percent. It has even drawn up a “doomsday budget,” which will include layoffs. The council has urged state lawmakers to reconsider its rationing of state aid this year, since the borough has a multitude of non-profits that equate to an approximate $320 million loss of tax ratables.
DuPont said the major roadblock is finding reoccurring revenue, though lowering taxes is always a goal.
“You need to look at the reoccurring revenue and not raising taxes,” he said. “That’s not our priority. It’s the last thing we want to do.”
Senkeleski doesn’t want the entire redbankgreen readership knowing where she lives and showing up at her door, but if those who have constructive input and are serious about talking taxes may email her.