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2012 Municipal Budget 'Down To The Marrow,' Administrator Says

Several factors behind last-minute increase

 

The 2012 municipal budget was battered by several factors that led to an $864,000 increase last week, Township Administrator Frederick Ebenau said.

"This budget is not down to the bone, it's down to the marrow," Ebenau said at the Sept. 25 council meeting.

The Township Council in a split vote approved a budget amendment that calls for the amount to be raised by taxation to rise from $25,917,605 to $26,781,762, primarily because of circumstances beyond the administration's control, Ebenau said.

That includes a drop in the township's tax collection rate, deferred school taxes, hefty leftover snow removal charges from 2011, retirement payouts, a record number of tax appeals and loss of revenue in the construction department, he said.

The township's tax collection rate fell to 97 percent over the past year, Ebenau said.

"We have to budget for 103 percent, because we are not raising that three percent," Ebenau said.

Berkeley also had roughly 800 tax appeals over each of the last two years, largely due to the controversial revaluation, which went on the books in the fall of 2010, he said.

Ebenau and Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said in June they did not anticipate any tax increase in the 2012 budget. But that was before they knew the outcome of the large number of tax appeals.

Socked by snowstorms

The record number of heavy snowfalls in early 2011 also ate into the budget, with high overtime costs, Ebenau said.

The township racked up nearly $1 million in snow removal costs in 2011 - the last year of Mayor Jason J. Varano's administration - compared to roughly $35,000 in 2012. That meant $477,222 had to be taken care of in the 2012 budget, Ebenau has said.

"Emergency appropriations had to be done last year because of snow events," he said. "The deferred charges have to be raised in next year's budget. We found out we were short because of snow events."

"We are hoping and praying for no major snowstorms," he said.

The township also had a number of people retire after the budget was adopted, Ebenau said.

"We are allowed to spread that out over five years," he said.

Consolidation is key

South Seaside Park resident James Fulcomer said that Berkeley's unemployment rate is far higher than in other areas of the state and the country.

"Our township business administrator told me that Berkeley's rate is 14.9 percent," he said. "Fifteen percent is considered a depression, not a recession. Median income is down."

Fulcomer is Vice-President of the Berkeley Board of Education and a member of the township Planning Board.

 "I urge you to remember your campaign promises, and to make sure you are doing your best," he told the council

Fulcomer has championed shared services between the Central Regional and the Berkeley school district. Although he never mentioned the Berkeley district by name, he told the council that hundreds of thousands of dollars could have been saved by the consolidation of central administration positions.

Fulcomer said Township Councilman Robert G. Ray had been a strong proponent of consolidation when he served on the Central Regional Board of Education.

The number of supervisors in both districts could have been reduced from eight to four.

"You are spending more than you need to," Fulcomer told the council. "We have two sets of central administrators where one of them would do just as well."

"You do know there are some roadblocks to consolidation," said Township Council President James J. Byrnes.

Byrnes was the longtime president of the Berkeley Board of Education before he was sworn into a council seat in January. He is running for one of the two seats up on the Township Council in November.

"There is no real roadblock that exists under the law," Fulcomer told Byrnes. "There are some people who would like to keep their patronage positions intact. Central Regional has consolidated administration with Seaside Heights, saving a considerable amount of money. There are no real impediments."

Berkeley's total tax rate - which includes school and county taxes - won't be available until it is certified by the Ocean County Board of Taxation, Ebenau said.

John DiStefano October 02, 2012 at 11:24 AM
What kind of strategy is "I hope it won't snow this winter"?
Rita October 02, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This is what you get when inexperienced politicians are elected. This group does not have a clue on how to govern, they just go along with what the GOP bosses tell them to do. They are suppose to work to run and help our town, not do what is best for their cronies who control them. Very disappointed with Amato. I don't know how he sleeps at night.
joeybayville October 02, 2012 at 12:30 PM
They sound like Obama. It was the previous administrations fault. Please take responsibility for knowing the facts and circumstances. How could Ebenau and Mayor Amato be unaware of the large number of tax appeals besides other things. Don't they work in the same building? In addition, lets consolidate the 2 board of education down to 1!!!! What a waste of money. The mayor works for us not a few board members.
C. Peter Campbell October 02, 2012 at 02:12 PM
There is a big simiararity in the situation however the present situation has more merit than the one in D.C. Jason Varano and all his Democrats in his administration own a lot of the problem. I believe that the biggest driver of the real estate tax is the cost of the schools. Thee is no honest reason why a teacher who only teaches for 180 days per year makes as much if not more than a person who has the equal in education makes for a full year of physically being on the job. The contributions that they may be asked to pay is also met with a huge discontentment. I am not a teacher hater but they are making more than common sense should permit.
Frank B October 02, 2012 at 02:30 PM
In the real world a "loss of revenue in the construction department" would justify a layoff.... Did that happen? or is it a Goverment job for life ??
SuzieN October 02, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I'm sure there are many things in the budget to cut. How about the ubiquitous government waste? How many workers have government cars? How about salary cuts? Let the citizens decide on the cuts, I guarantee they will cut in the right places.
Chief Wahoo October 02, 2012 at 04:37 PM
"We are hoping and praying for no major snowstorms," he said. Thats how you run a budget ?????????...what a joke ..why do we allow these clowns to control our money......WAKE UP PEOPLE
john October 02, 2012 at 04:40 PM
why is it blame the weather ! ! i need a reminder, how much snow did we get halloween 2011 ? wasnt that a north jersey event ? we got what a couple 3 inchs ? if ? and then pretty much a snow winter after that ? one snow storm broke the budget ? hats off the the 800 who battled and won their tax appeals. there are many more to come no doubt. including mine ! ! like i ve said before , cut bulk garbage pickup ......it s a abused perk by some. i wonder what one bulk pickup cost the town in tipping fees alone. i m betting in excess of $ 25,000 dollars ......
Chief Wahoo October 02, 2012 at 04:41 PM
if they are down to the marrow, then the system is broken and a ponzi scam !!!!! Everybody by the water needs to APPEAL YOUR ASSESMENT EVERY YEAR !!!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !!!!
Chief Wahoo October 02, 2012 at 04:43 PM
EXCUSES EXCUSES EXCUSES ! i told you Amato would use excuses when the time came .......I knew Varano was a bum and ran the town into the ground.....so why didnt Amato expect things to be as bad a possible.....
Doris Cauda October 02, 2012 at 08:36 PM
You people are ridiculous! You expect the Mayor and Council to be mind readers! No one can predict how many people will appeal their taxes. It's true that the value of real estate has dropped, therefore, taxpayers are paying taxes on homes worth a lot less and the tax collection rate is down. Thank Obama for the loss of jobs, no raises, the cost of everything going up and paychecks down. No one can predict how much snow we're going to get and how much overtime will be needed. Yet, everyone wants their streets cleared and, at that time, they don't care what it costs. All you Libs don't want to hear that Varano left a snow removal bill, but face the truth for once. Varano wasn't the greatest thing since sliced bread, made a lot of mistakes and you call Amato an amateur. You got that wrong. The Amateur is in the White House!
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 08:54 PM
It's time to get a grip on things: there is no more blood to squeeze from the community. People are losing their homes and going into bankruptcy and those on high are just noticing the shortfall. It's going to get worse so the marrow isn't enough. Civil service jobs and services have to be cut. Let's talk about pensions. I think the State should limit public service pensions to one per household but until that happens we can pass a law that would say if you are already getting or having funds put in yet another civil servant job, you will waive that obligation for the town. The decent thing to do would be to limit those jobs to one per family so that more people might have employment opportunities. So take your pick if you are a double or triple dipper or on your way to becoming one and relieve this town of having to pay you in amounts that the rest of us cannot even dream of. Start there.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Services have to go. No more rock concerts in parks. No more golf tournaments. No more of any of that stuff. If the seniors in villages are still getting twice a week garbage pick up while the majority only gets one per week, the seniors are going to have to line up with the rest of us. Families tend to have more garbage anyway so it's once a week for everyone.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Let's do away with animal control. Let Ocean country prisoners run the dog tag business for a buck an hour and job out for a pre-set fee the removal of killed by cars deer and specialists who remove unhealthy animals in our midst. We don't need a full time group that won't answer an email for over a month about a rat and ground hog infestation in our neighborhood. At their site I find that if we had the use of all those traps we taxpayers paid for, Animal Control now will charge we who own the traps, a fee! Outsource this equipment and the jobs for fair fees. In addition to this group, we have 15 full time and 10 part time people in the Ocean County Mosquito Commission. And they have helicopters to take water samples. I would gladly take the one from here and mail it daily to the lab and others in the wetlands would do the same to start saving money.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I expect the Mayor and the Council to be right up to date on the sinking real estate values in this town. And they should have KNOWN about the foreclosures that have been going on for several years and the half empty strip malls we are watching fall apart while they cheer on building yet more retail space and tossing 800-1600 more cars on Route 9, Street light, cops, and lord knows what else will hit us all when not many people are doing well in local businesses. Reason: the people, the taxpayers, are broke. And now the Mayor wants more but doesn't cut a job or drop one of his own.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 09:27 PM
The Education situation is a real place to look to save money. Consultants and tutors for new hires and teachers who seem to require "aids" who have no college education requirements but collect paychecks and pensions and benefits are routine around here. Just how many administrators do we need in this era of computers. All of the paper pushing should have stopped well over a decade ago but we don't seem to get it and the payrolls stay as they are.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Do we still have the very hefty one full timer on the payroll with paycheck, benefits, pension, van and cell phone to supervise "neighborhood" clean up groups? How did that one get created. And I who do pick up garbage with my own wagon and bags did ask him for an extra garbage can because I was topping up my whole neighborhood's cans and some weren't happy. No, I could not have an extra can because I am not a group. I am an individual so all help and expenses are mine and no one seems anxious to make me a group because not many people want to pick up trash in the wetlands. His job should definitely go but mine will stay for awhile but don't worry, I don't get paid or any benefits and best of all I won't be getting a civil service pension.
foggyworld October 02, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Maybe the Patch could be provided by the town with data we the taxpayers don't see. How about a list of all town cars and where they are domiciled when the employee is not on duty? Also we should have a justification for every vehicle the township owns.
Xavier October 03, 2012 at 11:31 AM
LOL, put the blame at the national level for problems occurring at the local level. Brilliant. If only people would pay attention to what goes on in the rest of the federal, state, and local government.
Terry October 03, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Seniors only have one pick up per week. Everyone seems to want to blame the seniors. We pay our taxes including school taxes so let it go. We do not get anything more than you do.

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