Monthly Archives: November 2014

Campion, Shuler Victorious in the Heights

Republican candidates Chris Campion and Jim Shuler rode to victory on a landslide in the Spring Lake Heights election for Borough Council. For the first time in anyone’s memory, the pair won all five voting districts.

Campion was the top vote getter with 951, followed closely by Shuler with 938. For the Democrats, Eileen Eilenberger received 616 votes and Cheryl Bartholomew received 607.

The breakdown of votes by district:

District One
Shuler, 191; Campion, 192
Eilenberger, 128; Bartholomew, 132

District Two
Shuler, 228, Campion 220
Eilenberger, 145; Bartholomew, 130

District Three
Shuler, 159; Campion, 173
Eilenberger, 142; Bartholomew, 142

District Four
Shuler, 169; Campion, 182
Eilenberger, 119; Bartholomew, 123

District Five
Shuler, 191; Campion, 184
Eilenberger, 82; Bartholomew, 83

Absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted. The Monmouth County Board of Elections will provide a final number of votes within the next few days.

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Election 2014: Refuting the Democrats’ Mailer

Most residents received a mailing from the SLH Democratic candidates for Council on Saturday. The mailer was filled with the usual lies, innuendoes, and misperceptions that residents have come to expect from the Dems in the waning days of the campaign. Heightsonline examines those claims in the light of Council relationships and taking each issue in context.

First, the piece referenced the most recent budgets, claiming that taxes had been raised $473,000 since 2011. What the Dems didn’t explain was this – the budget sheet represents the town spending, not the source of income. Items in the budget show where spending increased; in this case, due to work done through grant programs and the inclusion of the fire department. Prior to the fire district being dissolved, the fire company had a separate budget. When the district was dissolved, the fire company budget was added to the general municipal budget, making the numbers go up.

In 2011, there was no municipal tax increase. In 2012, there was a slight decrease. In 2013, there was no increase.

In 2014, however, there was a slight increase when one of the Democratic Council members took over the role as chair of the Finance Committee.

Secondly, the claim that inflated municipal debt of 171% was due to excessive borrowing. Unfortunately, the Dems conveniently forgot to define 171% of WHAT. It appears to be an arbitrary number. The borough did bond for capital purchases of sorely needed equipment like garbage trucks, a backhoe, and a front-end loader. This equipment saved the Borough during several very hard snowstorms, during and after Hurricane Sandy, and for the increasing number of water main breaks experienced since the hurricane. Residents have been better served with the purchase of better equipment and the Borough is following sound governmental finance practices by bonding for the equipment.

Third, water rates increased over 30%. This is false blanket statement, and anyone with online access to the Coast Star newspaper can look up articles from March 8, 2013 and March 15, 2012, where the issue of a water and sewer rates was reported on. Additionally, videos of these meetings are featured on the heightsonline YouTube channel.

Water and sewer rates in the Borough of Spring Lake Heights were last raised in 1990. By state law, the utility fund must be self-liquidating; it must take in enough funds through water and sewer rates to cover the costs of providing these services. Rates had not increased over time enough for the fund to keep up with the costs. The fund had contained some surplus, but in 2011, then-finance committee chair Councilwoman Cindea appropriated the surplus to offset the general budget, a practice which is not illegal but which put the utility fund in danger.

At the March 8, 2012 Council meeting, Borough auditor Robert Allison reported that if rates were not raise, “We have to go and basically raise taxes to bring $300,000 from the current fund into utility.”

And that solution would only work for that current year. In order to keep enough money in the utility fund, the Borough would either need to raise the rates or raise taxes every year.

The solution was to introduce a rate structure that charged for water and sewer based on actual usage. In the past, the rates were spread inequitably across the population of the Borough so that everyone paid the same amount, regardless of how much or how little water they used. Under the new rate structure, those residents who practice water conservation were rewarded with little to no increase. The heaviest users, as is fair, received up to a 30% rate increase, based on their increased useage. Additionally, senior citizens and handicapped residents are now allowed to request a $25.00 discount from their bill. The heaviest users were no longer subsidized by those who conserve water.

Interestingly, Democratic Councilman Thomas Vorbach was the Chairperson of the Utilities Committee and oversaw the structuring of the new rate schedule. Reportedly, he attended all the meetings where the new rates were discussed and was in agreement with them, but when the issue was put to a vote, voted no because he was unhappy that the salaries of public workers involved with utilities were included in the budget. Why he didn’t raise this issue during discussions is anyone’s guess.

Councilwoman Cindea likewise voted no, claiming that she supported an annual increase in water and sewer rates.

Councilman Jim Shuler voted no, as he felt the rate increase would negatively impact seniors.

The rate increase was approved by a Council majority and now the Utilities Budget is once again self-liquidating, without a tax increase which was the only other alternative to bring the utilities budget into legal compliance.

Fourth and lastly, the accusation of “one-time” employee buy-outs totaling over $120,000. When SLH dissolved their local court and entered a shared service agreement with Wall, the SLH court employees were laid off. Councilwoman Cindea stonewalled the reassignment of a long-term employee with a contract obligation. To instead dissolve that employee’s contract would have resulted in legal action; the Borough chose to settle with the employee which was the less-costly option. The shared court services save the Borough approximately $70,000 per year, off-setting the cost of settlement.

The Democrats once again erode the public trust through lies and innuendoes. Several years back, a former Democratic councilman wrote a letter to the editor stating that the SLH Democrats were “morally bankrupt.” That statement is still true today. Sending out glossy mailers full of sleazy lies is contemptuous of the public; the candidates appear to believe that the citizens can be so easily led by inaccurate statements.

Candidate Eilenberger attends most Council meetings and had plenty of opportunity to comment on all situations while they were happening, but never got up during the Voice of the Public to speak about these issues. And has Candidate Bartholomew ever even attended a Council meeting? Heightsonline has never seen her there in the 4 years we have been reporting.

But Candidate Campion attends the meetings, and Incumbent Candidate Shuler is rarely missing from the dais. They are both energetic, enthusiastic, and dedicated towards working to keep Spring Lake Heights a strong, vibrant community and an excellent place to live.

Democratic Candidates Begin Mud Slinging

The tone of the election was muddied today with the mailing of the Spring Lake Heights Democrats’ litany of lies.

A quick review of historical documentation shows that the Democrats themselves have been fiscally irresponsible, the very thing they accuse their opponents of.

For example, Democratic candidate Eileen Eilenberger served on Council in 2004 as a mid-term replacement. She unsuccessfully ran that year with Steven Watters. Heightsonline visits the archives so that Ms. Eilenberger may again run on her record. During 2004:

Eilenberger voted “yes” to a 3% across-the-board salary increase for all Borough employees.*

Eilenberger voted to give $31,000 to engineering firm Schoor DePalma to remediate the Known Contaminated Site at the Spring Lake Heights Borough Yard. The CEO of the Democratically-connected Schoor DePalma was indicted in 2006 and the firm ultimately closed down. The site still needs to be remediated.**

Eilenberger voted to give $520,000 to the Southern Monmouth Regional Sewage Authority (SMRSA) for sewerage pipe repairs. At the time of this vote, the Spring Lake Heights SMRSA rep was a member of the SLH Democratic Committee who was receiving full medical benefits for his Council appointment to SMRSA. (The subsequent Republican appointee to SMRSA refused the benefits).***

Before going to the polls on Tuesday, voters need to carefully consider the facts. It is no coincidence that the Democrats annually send out a page of wild accusations and misinformation, leaving the public with little or no time for fact checking. The taxpayer would do well to check their last several years of tax bills – unless they built a big new house, their municipal taxes had zero increases and even a slight decrease over the last 3 years. What costs were passed onto homeowners? None.

* April 26, 2004 SLH Council Meeting Minutes
**Feb. 23, 2004 SLH Council Meeting Minutes
*** August 26, 2004 Coast Star News