Monthly Archives: May 2013

“With a zero tax increase, we are not doing probably what is in the best interest of the town.” exclaims Councilwoman Patricia Cindea at the Monday, May 13, 2013 SLH Council meeting.

Faced with a zero tax increase proposed budget that does not cut any current services, three members of the SLH Council paddled furiously to support a tax increase.

Councilman Chris Tienken, a Ph.D. professor of academics at Seton Hall, began the discussion by asking Borough Administrator Jay Delaney what a “penny increase” was this year. “A penny increase” means raising taxes by .01 cent for every 100 dollars of taxation.

Delaney explained it would raise $115,000 in additional revenue for the Borough. Earlier in the evening’s budget discussion, Councilwoman Cindea pushed for saving more money, while Councilman Thomas Vorbach agreed it was a good idea to “build a war chest.”

This, despite the fact that the budget already has a surplus, both in the general fund and in the utility budget.

Administrator Delaney and the administrator of the Borough finances, John Barrett, explained at length why a municipality could not raise taxes this year in order to offset perceived issues that might arise and cause a tax increase next year. Tienken pursued the issue, “isn’t there anything we can do for this year, even a half-a-penny, that can offset a larger tax increase next year? he questioned, “A zero tax increase this year, that’s great, but is it creating a larger tax increase next year?”

Councilwoman Cindea beseeched Administrator Delaney to “look into his crystal ball” and tell the Council how much taxes they would need to raise next year.

Tienken continued, “Is there anything we can take care of this year to keep what happens next year a little more stable?”

Councilman Richard Diver, who chairs the Finance Committee, noted that this is the 4th year in a row that a zero increase was budgeted for. “By keep taxes stable,” he said, “we have helped our residents keep some stability in their lives.” He noted that last year, the municipality enjoyed a small tax cut.

“A 17 dollar refund, which I thought was a little ridiculous,” mocked Councilwoman Cindea.

Delaney attempted again to explain the Council’s progressive cost-cutting and fiscally conservative approach to managing the budget in recent years. “This budget reflects the commitment of this governing body before I got here to restructure the way services are delivered,” he noted, explaining that years of due diligence on the part of the Council to seek out better ways to manage the finances had “…increased productivity in the cost of delivering services,” He noted that the Finance Committee was continuing to pursue new ideas and new avenues for savings in an effort to continue this trend.

Councilwoman Cindea dismissed the idea of this better financial management, saying, “We are not saving any money – with a zero tax increase, we are not doing probably what is in the best interest of the town. The best interest of the town would be to start saving to pay for this equipment,” referencing an earlier discussion on the $1.5 million bond issue to buy much-needed heavy equipment for the Borough, including the replacement of two 20-year-old garbage trucks.

Councilwoman neglected to note one important fact about “saving to pay for” bond issues.

The Borough of Spring Lake Heights raised through taxation in its Open Space Fund the full $400,000 dollars needed to pay off the remaining balance due on the purchase of the Fletcher property.

During the administration of former Mayor H. Frances Enright, the Mayor and Borough Engineer Joe May determined it would be better to spend that money on improvements to Allaire Road and Ocean Road Parks.

As the Chair of the Finance Committee at the time, Councilwoman Cindea oversaw the refinancing of that $400,000 of indebtedness, rebonding it for 10 years at a higher rate of interest than the Borough was paying under a Bond Anticipation Note. Additionally, the roll-over of the financing co-mingled the funds of a strictly Open Space purchase in with other money, putting the Borough in a potentially risky situation of violating the terms of the Open Space Fund referendum which dictates how the funds can be used. They cannot be used for general bond payments, but the Fletcher bond is now mingled in with general bond issues, making it impossible to separate them out.

Heightsonline will have full video coverage of Monday’s meeting tomorrow.