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M’TWON BUDGET HITS ANOTHER DELAY

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI hot-topic right

Middletown’s 2010 spending plan will not be adopted next week, as it was planned, because of a lack of a quorum. Again.

This time, though, the blame falls on Trenton, not Middletown.

The Local Finance Board, which must grant approval before municipalities can exceed the 4-percent budget cap, abruptly canceled Middletown’s budget hearing date, scheduled for today, because it couldn’t guarantee a quorum, Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger said.

“This is certainly throwing a curveball,” he said.

Because the municipal budget, introduced at $65 million, exceeds last year’s plan by 13 percent, the board must give the OK to Middletown officials before they can adopt. This delay, just another in a series, undoubtedly pushes Middletown’s budget adoption into September, Scharfenberger said.

The township committee had planned to secure its budget at its next meeting, on August 16, or at a special meeting shortly after. But a review and approval by the finance board is integral to getting that done, and Middletown officials were given short notice — as in late Tuesday afternoon — that its meeting with the board was canceled. There is no reschedule date yet.

“We’re hoping to reschedule as soon as possible,” Scharfenberger said. “As soon as they can do it, we’ll be available.”

Not having a spending plan in place until late summer isn’t the position the town wanted to be in, says Committeeman Sean Byrnes, who looked at the finance board’s agenda Tuesday morning and saw Middletown was scratched from it, though other items remained. He later found out it was canceled.

“Now we’re going to be in the ninth month of the year before we pass a budget,” he said. Of the late cancellation, he added, “It’s just crazy in a way. If there was ever a meeting where we needed to meet, that was it.”

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