M’TOWN BUDGET TO GET ‘DECISIVE ACTION’

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In the wake of what Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger calls a “perfect storm” of financial woes, he’s proposing 12, and maybe more, “decisive actions” to make up for the town’s large revenue shortfall.

After checking to see if the ideas were feasible and legal, Scharfenberger delivered a communique Monday afternoon outlining his plan to mitigate a heavy burden on taxpayers.

Although “everything’s on the table,” his 12-step program calls for outsourcing, salary freezes, mandatory furloughs and a 10- to 15-percent decrease in operations and expenditures for all departments, including layoffs, he said.

The town will also explore the potential sale of Middletown Swim Club and other properties, as well as require employees to contribute to health plans and suspend or cancel all non-essential services and bonds — including the approved, controversial $1.5 million bond for upgrades to two recreation fields, which Scharfenberger simply said “we’re looking into.”

There may be more to come in order to fill a few-million dollar hole left by a number of factors, Scharfenberger said.

“That’s 12 to start off with. I have another 10 I need to check out,” he said.

Like every town in the redbankgreen coverage area, Middletown was stripped of a substantial amount of state aid — about $1.3 million, Scharfenberger said. Last year the town received $7.1 million.

Add in a few blizzards and nor’easters that put the town nearly $1 million over budget for snow removal, a rash of police retirements plus a $400,000 loss in recycling revenues, and you’ve got the make-up of Scharfenberger’s “perfect storm.”

“All of these things added together make up your shortfall,” he said. “It’s the most difficult set of circumstances I’ve seen.”

None of these 12 steps are exactly ironclad, Scharfenberger said, though they are likely. He said layoffs were an “absolute last resort,” because, he said, Middletown has thinned its workforce to one of the lowest per-capita in the state and can’t suffer many more losses.

He said town officials will soon have a clearer picture as to what steps will be taken once revenue projections are in place. Then decisions will be made —  no doubt painful ones, he said.

“It’s an unfortunate byproduct of our (state’s) current financial situation,” he said. “This is pain now that’s hopefully going to make the patients stronger in the long run.”

Here’s the press release outlining the measures: middletown_mayor_proposes_decisive_action_on_budget