NAME: Gerry Scharfenberger (Republican, incumbent)
OCCUPATION: Archaeologist, Professor
LENGTH OF RESIDENCE IN TOWN: 16 years
1. What do you see as the top three issues in town? Property taxes, labor contracts, providing essential services.
2. What specifically are you planning to do to address those issues? 1) Replace property taxes with other sources of non-tax revenue, such as the Recycle2Save program or solar canopies, to essential services; pressure the legislature to remove education funding from property taxes to a dedicated funding source from the state; continue to cut spending and look for ways to shrink local government.
2) Demand concessions from the unions to bring contracts in line with the private sector. Also, increase employee health benefit contributions in line with the private sector; expand wellness program for all employees to lower the townships health care costs. 3) Work with the Board of Education to combine efforts and share services where feasible;continue to build upon the 35 shared service agreements already in place to reach out to surrounding towns to enter into additional cost-saving interlocal agreements; expand the township volunteer force to address the needs of the town with little or no cost.
3. What will be the challenges in getting these goals accomplished? The biggest challenge will be to get the needed legislation passed that would allow the township to make the deep cuts that they are not legally allowed to do now. Also, getting the cooperation of the municipal unions is essential to reining in excessive labor costs.
4. What expenditures, if any, do you see as ripe for trimming in order to keep the budget growth under the mandated two-percent cap? Energy costs, labor costs, insurance costs – anything and everything will be on the block to comply with the 2% cap.
5. Do you see any potential sources of revenue that need to be tapped? Two sources of revenue include recycling fiber products and the installation of solar panels and solar canopies on township properties to save money and generate revenue.
6. What, if any, municipal services should be consolidated among towns? Middletown is already among the state leaders in consolidated services such as animal control and fire inspection, and could easily enter into countless others with the passage of Governor Christie’s “mayor’s tool box.”
7. What is one thing voters need to know about you, but may not? (No reply)
1. Considering that this year’s budget wasn’t finalized until September, does the process by which the budget is developed need improving? The municipal budget is directly tied to the state budget and state approvals. We didn’t know what our final state aid number was going to be until after the state budget was passed on June 30. Also, legislation passed in late July that affected the municipal budget also held up finalizing our budget. Many towns in New Jersey finalized their budgets around the same time, so this is a statewide issue, not the result of Middletown’s budgeting process, which has been used as a model by the League of Municipalities in their handbook for elected officials. We are always looking for ways to improve every facet of the town and our budget is certainly something that we are working on diligently right now.
2. After this year’s municipal tax increase, which exceeded the state-mandated cap, what needs to be done to avoid a repeat? Governor Christie’s “mayor’s toolbox” must be passed by the legislature to allow us to make the cuts that we cannot legally make now. Concessions must be gotten from the municipal unions. Additional sources of non-tax revenue must be identified and implemented. Superfluous township properties should be divested.
3. What do you think the township should do with its swim club? We are currently examining ways to increase its revenue potential, or sell it to a private investor with the stipulation that it remain operating in its current form.