WAR OF WORDS: RED BANK DEMS v. BECK & CO.

beck-010310-41dupont-election2009-2State Senator Jennifer Beck’s refusal to back Red Bank’s request for special treatment in Trenton has drawn fire from local Democrats led by Councilman Mike Dupont.

Red Bank’s all-Democrat council wanted local legislators in their corner recently when they appealed to new Governor Chris Christie for special consideration as he sharpened his budget-cutting knives.

But state Senator Jennifer Beck and her two 12th-district Assembly colleagues, Caroline Casagrande and Declan O’Scanlon, all Republicans like Christie, said quite publicly that borough officials haven’t done enough to merit special treatment in Trenton.

That did not sit well at borough hall. Yesterday, the council Dems (not including Mayor Pasquale Menna) went on the offensive with a letter sent to the GOP three and circulated to reporters.

“You refuse to advocate for the residents of Red Bank with the newly elected Governor to mitigate the hardship Red Bank is experiencing due to the high number of non-profit and tax exempt organizations in our Borough,” says the letter, signed by Councilman Mike DuPont, with apparent endorsement (but no signatures) of councilmembers Art Murphy, Sharon Lee, Kathy Horgan, Juania Lewis and Ed Zipprich.

At issue is the council’s lobbying for a break when Christie puts his knife to annual state aid allocations. The Democrats argue that Red Bank should be spared because it is home to a high concentration of untaxable properties that drain borough resources while providing benefits to citizens who live elsewhere.

DuPont says that more than $2 billion worth of property, accounting for 16.6 percent of the total assessed value in town, is untaxable. That’s much higher than in neighboring towns, he writes.

“Red Bank is carrying its unfair share of not-for-profits,” he writes.

At the borough government reorganization meeting in January, Menna publicly called on Beck, a borough resident and former councilmember who was in attendance, for her help in getting Trenton to act on the on the request.

But he got his answer in a letter written by Beck, Casagrande and O’Scanlon that was sent to the council and published in the February 18 edition of the weekly Hub. In it, the GOP legislators smacked the all-Democrat council for giving out employee raises, writing:

it is difficult to justify advocating for special consideration to keep state aid flat when the Borough Council did not make a decision that would have contributed to keeping its own nonunion salary budget flat. We have all been involved in municipal government, and we each have firsthand knowledge of the difficulty of facing those types of tough choices in a challenging budget year.

With the state shortfall this year exceeding $1.5 billion, and being short $11 billion of the $30 billion needed to support the state budget in the coming year, some draconian measures will have to be taken to rectify both the bad decision making of the prior administration and the economic downturn.

Layli Whyte, spokeswoman for the three legislators, told redbankgreen this morning that she was previously unaware of the Dems’ letter and didn’t know if they’d have a response.

Here’s the council’s letter: council-letter-022210