TAX RATE UNCHANGED IN FAIR HAVEN

Fair Haven propery owners will see no change in the local portion of their property tax bills this year, the Asbury Park Press reports Tuesday.

For the fifth consecutive year, according to Press reporter Larry Higgs, the borough council has introduced a spending plan that either reduces or maintains the municipal slice of property levies – excluding school, Monmouth County and Open Space taxes, that is.

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LITTLE SILVER TO VOTE ON ALL-DAY-K FUNDS

Two classrooms would be added to the Point Road School to accommodate the program. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

After almost four years of study and discussion, a proposed full-day kindergarten program goes before Little Silver voters next month in the form of a funding referendum.

On the ballot: a $750,000 bond to pay for a two-classroom addition to the pre-k-to-fourth-grade Point Road School.

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MENNA: GROWING NONPROFITS HURT TOWN

Mayor Pasquale Menna says the loss of taxable property to nonprofits is an unfair burden on taxpayers in regional centers like Red Bank. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

It’s become a familiar refrain of Red Bank officials: the borough is choking on nonprofits that provide services to a wide swath of Monmouth County’s citizenry but return nothing to the town’s coffers.

For all the societal good they do, a sprawling medical center, various churches and other do-good institutions occupy land that might otherwise generate tax revenue – and they increase the load carried by borough taxpayers each time they expand, says Mayor Pasquale Menna.

“Our residents have to pay for the deficiency,” he said. “That societal good is borne by those who are the least able to pay for it.”

Menna says that this year, he’ll be dialing up efforts to address what he considers a fundamental unfairness. But having gotten nowhere with earlier efforts, he’s retooled, and is now pitching a provocative idea: Make nonprofits pay when they acquire property now on the tax rolls.

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MOODY’S GOES NEGATIVE ON RED BANK DEBT

just_in1By JOHN T. WARD

Wall Street debt-rating agency Moody’s has raised concerns about Red Bank’s $25.2 million worth of general-obligation bonds.

In a announcement posted on its website late last Friday, Moody’s affirmed its prior Aa3 rating on the debt, but revised its outlook to “negative,” citing a drop in the town’s current-fund balance to 2.14 percent of revenue in 2010, from 9.14 percent in 2007.

The agency indicated that a downgrade of the debt could follow if “recent fiscal strain” continues.

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BUDGET SHOW NO SRO

rb-budget-040711Borough officials outnumbered residents at the annual Red Bank budget Q&A held at the Senior Citizens’ Center on Shrewsbury Avenue Thursday night. Administrator Stanley Sickels gave a 35-minute overview of the spending plan that was nearly identical to one he delivered at a council meeting last month, and drew only two questions from the audience.

The $19.95 million spending plan, which would raise the local tax on a house assessed at the average $403,696 by $105 for the year, is scheduled for a council vote on April 27. (Click to enlarge)

MIDDLETOWN: AVERAGE TAX TO RISE $60

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore promised an on-time budget. Check.

He said it’d be significantly smaller than 2010’s budget. Check.

He also promised it would be within the state’s new two-percent property tax cap. Technically a check — although the tax levy will be raised 2.99 percent over the current year’s.

“We are under the two-percent cap but there are a few exemptions,” he said. “Really, the pension costs and the snowstorms took us .99 percent over the cap, but that’s allowed.”

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MIZZI: ASSESSMENT LEVELS ‘UNREALISTIC’

rb_mizzi NAME: Joseph M. Mizzi (Republican)
AGE: 34
OCCUPATION: Senior Business Analyst and Economics Professor
LENGTH OF RESIDENCE IN TOWN: 4 Years

1. What do you see as the top three issues in town?

Parking enforcement and excessive ticketing, declining foot traffic/empty stores in business district and outdated property assessments.

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MAKE ALL PAY FOR SCHOOL, MAYOR SAYS

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

scharfenberger

Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger really wants to bring those tax bills down. So much so that he’s urging his governing body to vote in favor of a resolution that would erase the largest item on the quarterly statements: school spending.

Scharfenberger, right, wants to absolve residents from paying for education through local or regional property taxes, a system that he says is inequitable, and instead fund schools through the state sales tax.

“Right now, two-thirds of bills goes to education. If you take that two-thirds off of property taxes, you’d be able to cut people’s taxes,” he said.

He’s asked township attorney Brian Nelson to draft a resolution in support of the idea, and anticipates it will be ready for a vote at the committee’s next regular meeting on August 16.

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RESIDENTS SWEAT BUDGET DETAILS

rb-budget-042810Participants in last night’s Q&A on the Red Bank budget pick up info packets. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank officials held a marathon budget walk-through before a standing-room crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, laying out the rationale for a plan that calls for a property tax increase and the possibility of furloughs for government employees.

Over the course of three and a half hours in an increasingly stuffy council chambers, they also addressed every one of 90 suggestions put before them by former GOP council candidate Kim Senkeleski, who had gathered the ideas for submission.

Given their opportunity to speak, though, audience members most wanted to talk about wringing some tax money out of the borough’s outsized population of nonprofits.

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REPORT: RUMSON SCHOOLS TO CUT 16 JOBS

hot-topic rightWith no state aid coming from Trenton this year, the Rumson school district will eliminate 16 jobs and still ask voters to approve a 4-percent increase in taxes this month, according to today’s Asbury Park Press.

The district is faced with closing a $1.34 million budget gap that results from the loss of $666,000 in aid, increases in health insurance and benefit costs, and other, contractual obligations, the Press reports.

From the Press:

The district made $875,000 worth of cuts, including 16 full-time positions and reducing three full-time jobs to part time, said Scott Feder, superintendent of schools.

“The things we were looking to maintain were class size, which ranges from 20 to 26 (students per class),” Feder said.

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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.

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DuPONT: TAX NON-PROFITS

dupontRed Bank Councilman Mike DuPont says it may be time to end tax-exemptions for most non-profits.

In the latest round of verbal sparring between Red Bank officials and the town’s representatives in Trenton, Councilman Mike DuPont has floated what he hopes is a solution to the borough’s fiscal woes that all can embrace:

Tax non-profits.

It’s done elsewhere, and is under consideration in additional locales, DuPont says in a March 18 letter he sent to state Senator Jennifer Beck.

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COUNCIL PLANS WATER/SEWER RATE BOOST

toiletIt’ll cost more per flush if the proposed increase passes.

Seven months after Red Bank officials siphoned off $270,000 from the borough-owned water utility to keep a lid on municipal taxes, they’re planning to jack up water and sewer rates by 10 percent.

An ordinance changing the rate, which was quietly introduced at the last borough council meeting, is up for public hearing and possible adoption Monday night.

The increase follows a 10-percent increase in 2008 that was said to be necessary to offset the costs of infrastructure repairs. The pending boost was proposed by the council’s finance committee, says Mayor Pasquale Menna. The committee is headed by Councilman Mike DuPont, who was not immediately available for comment this morning.

What’s the rationale?

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O’SCANLON: PAY HIKE ‘SIMPLY ISN’T PRUDENT’

Oscanlon_declan_2Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon.

A war of words between state legislators and Red Bank officials over recent pay raises for borough employees continued yesterday.

Twelfth-district Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, a Little Silver Republican, fired back at the all-Democrat Red Bank Council with a letter that challenged the fiscal sense of granting annualized 3-percent salary and wage increases to non-unionized workers.

“We understand that Red Bank municipal employees are hard-working individuals and it would be wonderful if they could all get raises,” O’Scanlon writes in the letter, which was shared with redbankgreen late Wednesday. “But that simply isn’t prudent – and sends the wrong message to our constituents – when the people paying the bills are making less, or losing their jobs all together.”

So far, the GOP three have made no public mention of the two-year, 6-percent increases the borough previously granted to the two unions it bargains with: the Policemen’s Benevolent Association and the Communication Workers of America.

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SENKELESKI STILL HOUNDING ON TAXES

kim-taxKim Senkeleski at her home with a familiar if loathed visitor: her annual tax bill. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Red Bank’s borough council may have shot down former candidate Kim Senkeleski’s idea of a taxpayer summit. But if she has her druthers, the governing body’s going to get the fixings of one anyway.

Senkeleski, still going at the council with the same head of steam she had before she lost her election bid in November, has been doing some legwork, gathering ideas from residents on how to reduce taxes. She’s posted flyers, knocked on doors and otherwise spread the word to garner input. She said she’s gotten about 30 responses so far, but she hopes to hear from many more taxpayers before she’s done.

Tomorrow night, she’s planning to hold a meeting at her house with the people who’ve submitted input to arrange ideas and get started on a document she will take to the council for consideration.

She says that’ll likely happen by the end of the month, “so they’ll have ample time to review it and address it at their budget meetings.”

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COUNCIL NIXES CALL FOR TAXPAYER SUMMIT

img_6886011110Councilman Mike DuPont, left, addresses his opponent in last year’s election, Kim Senkeleski, as Councilman Ed Zipprich listens. (Click to enlarge)

A proposal by 2009 Republican council candidate Kim Senkeleski for a “taxpayer’s summit” to gather direct citizen input on the Red Bank budget failed to find any support last night from members of the all-Democrat borough council.

They say there already is such an event held annually as the budget is being developed.

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FAIR HAVEN GOP: FOCUSED ON FINANCE

marchese-lucarelliBob Marchese and Ben Lucarelli in Lucarelli’s Red Bank office. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

This year’s Republican candidates for Fair Haven borough council haven’t gotten caught up in the latest political buzzword “change.” For Ben Lucarelli and Bob Marchese, it’s more of an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

But that doesn’t mean the GOP running mates will be able to sit pat if elected to the council. As Lucarelli sees it, change is coming whether anybody likes it or not.  The state’s fiscal problems, he said, will have an effect on small towns like Fair Haven because they’ll lose a big percentage of state aid. He and Marchese are more concerned about managing that change rather than creating it.

“Fair Haven is not broke. The state of New Jersey is broke and shattered,” Lucarelli, owner of Lucarelli Construction Company in Red Bank, said.

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FAIR HAVEN DEMS: BETTER SCRUTINY NEEDED

cohen-tikijianMargo Tikijian and Matthew Cohen on River Road. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

One might think that the historical odds are stacked against any Democrat running for Fair Haven’s borough council, given that none has sat on the governing body since the early ’90s.

But this year’s candidates, Margo Tikijian and Matthew Cohen, see it a different way.

“It’s definitely an uphill battle,” Tikijian said, but noted that on the local level, “it’s not politics. It’s all about keeping the town functioning, running the town smoothly and keeping people happy.”

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PRESS: COUNCIL CANDIDATES FACE 40 VOTERS

election-2009-local

Today’s Asbury Park Press has coverage of the Red Bank council candidate’s debate Wednesday night.

First-time candidates Kim Senkeleski of John Street and Rob Lombardi of William Street are hoping to displace incumbent Democrats Mike  DuPont of South Street and Art Murphy of Prospect Avenue.

From the Press:

The debate, attended by about 40 people, saw the Democrats defend their record for reducing the municipal tax rate and holding down spending. Republicans rapped the incumbents, saying the borough has too much debt and that new zoning to increase density in three areas of town will stress the infrastructure.

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PHS: WE PAY, AND WILL CONTINUE TO PAY

atrium-siteAn architect’s rendering of the already approved six-story addition hangs on a fence next to the existing 12-story Atrium at Navesink Harbor, on Riverview Avenue.

Apparent confusion over the the impact of a recent court case has officials at PHS Senior Living putting out word that they don’t intend to seek tax-exempt status for the organization’s showcase senior-living project in Red Bank.

The Princeton-based not-for-profit is expected to pay about $360,000 in property taxes this year on Atrium at Navesink Harbor, on Riverside Avenue. Chuck Mooney, PHS’s chief operating officer, says he expects that figure to double on completion of an approved six-story addition to the Riverside Avenue facility, and to approach $900,000 annually if a pending request to take the addition up to 12 floors is approved by the borough planning board.

But no matter how big the project ends up, PHS has not and will not push to have its property removed from tax rolls, Mooney tells redbankgreen.

“We definitely will not be seeking tax-exempt status,” he says. “There’s no basis for it in the law.”

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