Newly-elected Mayor Anthony Fiore delivers his first address at Middletown’s reorganization meeting Sunday.


Middletown’s mayoral hot seat now belongs to Anthony Fiore, who suggests that he’s ready to be unpopular.

Fiore, a Republican now in the third year of his first elected term to the township committee, succeeds two-time mayor Gerry Scharfenberger, who was sworn in as a committeeman at Sunday’s annual reorganization meeting.

In a steamy, overflowing meeting room, and bookended on the dais by his predecessor, Scharfenberger, and newcomer Kevin Settembrino, Fiore admitted that 2011 isn’t going to be easy.

The big challenge will be staying under the new two-percent property tax cap, he said, a task he said will be even harder given the Legislature’s “lack of cooperation” over Governor Chris Christie’s proposed toolkit.

That, “and a myriad of other factors will force this governing body to significantly redefine our definition of essential, core governmental services,” Fiore said. “Many of the decisions that we will make will be difficult and some unpopular, but we must continue to transform our philosophy towards a needs-based government in order to bring our residents the necessary tax relief the governor has advocated.”

Rising health insurance and energy costs, along with plunging real estate values and an increase in tax appeals — for which the town, not the schools, is nearly 100-percent on the hook for making reimbursements — are the top factors hemming in the township, Fiore said.

To get through it in the black, the town will have to get inventive, he said. While the town already has some 30 shared service agreements, Fiore said more are needed to cut costs. The town, he said, also needs help from the school system.

“We must also continue to work much closer with the board of education to ensure we are maximizing all opportunities to save costs and maintenance and programming,” he said.

One initiative, to implement a solar program with the board of ed, is coming in 2011, Fiore said.

The effort “will save the taxpayers of Middletown millions of dollars in energy costs with minimal capital outlay,” he said. “In the wake of rising energy costs, this initiative will create lasting, long-term economic benefits that will help for years to come while also helping the environment.”