Saturday, November 14, 2009

Plainfield's budget - part two

The state legislature recognizes that New Jersey property taxes are too high and will continue to escalate. There is a state law to address this, ineffective though it may be. This law states that local governments cannot exceed the previous years budget by more than 2.5 %. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately there are so many exceptions allowed that taxes can go up 10 or 15% anyway. In addition to the exceptions, a municipality may pass an ordinance each year to increase its expenditures an additional 1% (from 2.5% to 3.5%) and establish a "cap bank" permitting a town to increase its budget the following year if it doesn't need the full 3.5% expenditure increase in the current year.

Plainfield has passed such an ordinance every year I have been on Council. I started voting against this two years ago but have always been on the losing side of this vote. Passing this "cap waiver" ordinance this year would allow us to add $588,000 to our expense budget. This year I spoke out against this at each of the four meetings required for its passage - two agenda fixing two business meetings. This year my one "nay" vote sent the ordinance down in defeat. 5 votes are needed for passage and it went down with 4 yes votes to my one vote of opposition. Two Councilors were absent. It is critically important to understand the implications of the defeat of this ordinance :

  • It forced the Plainfield administration to go back and make more cuts to the budget that will be introduced at the Council meeting this coming Monday, November 16.
  • There will be no cap bank next year (fiscal year 2011) which will mean more drastic action will be required to address the inevitable increases in wages and benefits. Employee lay-offs will become more a more important budget balancing strategy.
  • Proposing lay-offs will bring all parties to the negotiating table for serious talks about employee contributions to health benefit premiums, furloughs and wage givebacks.
  • Without a credible threat of layoffs, the unions will not engage in substantive negotiations or renegotiations.

I do not like to see reduced compensation for city employees. But I do not like to see families lose their homes because property taxes are unaffordable. And the fact is that for many years government workers compensation increases have outpaced all other workers and are exceeding working families ability to pay. Unless we rebalance government worker compensation, we will see more and more city job positions eliminated. That would be most unfortunate.

I believe serious and painful action must be taken to bring property taxes under control. If we don't act at the municipal level, we are postponing the inevitable and it will be even more painful that what we face today.


Anonymous said...

speaking of Govt workers Councilman, do you consider yourself a govt worker? If yes, can we cut your pay, regardless if it is part-time. What about the councilmembers who dont show up. Can we deduct from their pay?

Cory Storch said...

Dear anonymous - yes my pay can be cut. In fact if local elected officials would take action on your suggestion, it would send the right message to our employees as we ask them to share pain with taxpayers. As for no shows on the Council, if you haven't noticed, the Plainfield Council has an excellent attendance record.

Please come out from you anonymity and get behind your idea. It's time has come.

Anonymous said...

You assessment is correct. Solution: elimination of jobs that are not part of the production of services such as Jennifer Mier's and Martin Helwig's jobs; these are redundent positions that are have no added value - as we can see by any objective analysis. The police department is another bloated arena that provides liitle to the bottom line; there is little correlation that fewer police will result in more crime. Fact: suppression of crime will come only when Plainfield is prepared to enforce its quality of life laws - especially in housing. Lastly, the PMUA is another bloated self-serving entity. You may disagree, but regardless, it is time to do what you are paid and elected to do - make the hard decesions. The bugget shows little regard for the well being of the community.

Ari said...

Thank you for your nay vote, but more needs to be done. The waste in our local government is willful, shameful, and a disgrace. I don't want to pick on the PMUA, but that is the most obvious of the agencies to me. Maybe it's because they are so arrogant that they do very little to hide the waste. Have you ever had a $400 lunch at Spain Inn for business? I doubt it, but PMUA execs have. Readers OPRA request the PMUA will be appalled!