Monday, February 11, 2008
TELL YOUR MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL THAT WE WILL NOT ACCEPT THESE INCREASES
Spending increases 7.00%
Taxation increases 12.257%
Equivalent tax rate increase, excluding ratables is 12.11%
1ST WARD JODY ALESSANDRINE 391-8598 firstname.lastname@example.org
AT-LARGE SCOTT PING 399-0413 email@example.com
AT-LARGE MICHAEL ALLEGRETTO 432-8739 Michael.Allegretto@prufoxroach.com
2ND WARD GREGORY JOHNSON 457-4764
MAYOR SAL PERILLO 703-7675 firstname.lastname@example.org
AT-LARGE KEITH HARTZELL 399-5324 email@example.com
3RD WARD JACK THOMAS 399-9586 firstname.lastname@example.org
4TH WARD ROY WAGNER 399-4429 email@example.com
Below is an article that appeared in the January 18, 2008, edition of the Press of Atlantic City. Mr. Miller’s article is very informative and gives us some thought provoking comments about the presentation of the 2008 Ocean City Budget by Mayor Sal Perillo. There are several statements that need to be commented on prior to our members and taxpayers of Ocean City reading this article.
Because of information given to Michael Miller by the city, he states in the article
“… the city's payroll is increasing by just 4 percent.”
FACT: It is important that you understand that the increase in payroll for fulltime personnel increased more than 6%. This 6% includes pending salary increase of $400,000 that was erroneous listed as a FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) figure rather than being listed as the full time salary number. The pending salary increases are associated with the ongoing contract negotiation with the firefighters union.
“The city plans to eliminate two (2) positions this year in addition to the nine (9) positions cut last year.”
FACT: These nine positions were funded but the positions were never filled. In reality, there were no cuts in personnel associated with those nine positions.
O.C. mayor calls for 12% tax hike
By MICHAEL MILLER
Staff Writer, 609-463-6712
OCEAN CITY — Mayor Sal Perillo spent most of his budget address Thursday touting last year's accomplishments, such as savings with trash contracts and an upcoming beach fill.
He saved the bad news for last — a proposed 12 percent tax hike in his spending plan.
"We already know that 2008 will be a difficult year, not only for Ocean City but for all communities in New Jersey," Perillo said.
Ocean City for the first time in many years saw a staggering drop in equalized property value from $14 billion last year to an estimated $12.5 billion in 2008.
In his eight-page speech, the mayor neglected to mention a few important figures — such as the total budget ($60.5 million) and the amount to be raised by taxation ($42.9 million).
And he fudged the tax impact, declaring in his speech an 8 percent tax-rate hike for 2008. (The tax rate is actually going down this year, thanks to the revaluation.)
The mayor is proposing a tax rate of 34 cents per $100 of assessed property value. This year's property revaluation makes a comparison with last year's tax rate unhelpful. But the tax levy—the total dollars city property owners must pay—will go up by an estimated 12.2 percent.
Perillo blamed several factors outside the city's control for the tax hike. City pension costs are increasing by $700,000 this year. The city must pay the library 15 percent or $500,000 more this year. All told, these factors alone increase the city's budget by more than $4 million, Perillo said.
The mayor touted the island's comparatively low tax rate—36th lowest of 39 towns in Atlantic and Cape May counties by his account. But many residents here pay significantly more in actual tax dollars because of the high value of their properties compared to those in neighboring towns. The city plans to cut two more full-time employees this year in addition to the nine cut last year. As a result, the city's payroll is increasing by just 4 percent.
The city plans to spend $20 million on capital improvements this year using $11 million in grants. One of those projects will provide solar power to four public buildings using $1.6 million in private funds.
The city plans to spend $5 million on roads and drainage and will replace equipment on three playgrounds.
The city will begin construction on a 7,000-square-foot senior center next to the public library. Ocean City also will benefit from an $8.8 million beach-replenishment project to begin in a matter of weeks.
As part of his budget message, Perillo announced several new initiatives. Soon, the city will offer a reverse 911 system to notify residents by phone, e-mail or text message about flooding or other emergencies.
The mayor is launching a tax-abatement program to encourage residents to rehabilitate historic buildings instead of demolishing them.
Cape May County plans to build a new 7,500-square-foot senior center next to the library, which also is expanding.
Under Ocean City's form of government, City Council may set the tax rate and simply let the administration determine how to meet it. But past councils have made specific recommendations about ways to cut taxes, and this year likely will be no different. Various budget meetings are scheduled for later this month.
To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press: Mmiller@pressofac.com
“What, me worry?”
FOR MANY YEARS FAIRNESS IN TAXES HAS SPOKEN AGAINST AND HAS WARNED OF THE DESTRUCTIVE IMPACT THAT THE UNREASONABLE BUDGET INCREASES WOULD HAVE ON OUR COMMUNITY. UNFORTUNATELY THOSE WARNINGS WERE MET WITH CYNICISM AND SARCASM YEAR AFTER YEAR. THE FOLLOWING IS A LETTER WRITTEN BY JIM TWEED, A FIT BOARD MEMBER, AND WAS PUBLISHED IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER.
“What, me worry?” I’m beginning to feel like the clueless face of Alfred E. Neuman smiling out from the cover of “Mad” magazine. At least that’s how the taxpayers of Ocean City must be seen by some. The millions of dollars in increases in pensions, health care costs, and contractual salary obligations are being treated as if it’s news. It’s only new if you have not been paying attention for the last 5 years. There have been voices warning us about this for at least that amount of time. They have routinely been dismissed as “pockets of negativity,” “angry,” or some other disparaging remark. After Ocean City’s auditor, Leon Costello’s presentation last Tuesday, those “weirdo’s” now look like biblical prophets.
I wonder if anything will really change. Some will look for people to blame. That’s much easier than finding a solution. It’s also a waste of time. The leader we elected under whose watch all those contracts were negotiated has been gone for more than a year. We even named a new Public Works building in his honor. We’re the ones that look stupid, not him.
It’s the choices we make in the future that will make a difference, not the ones we made in past. But who’s going to step up to make the “tough decisions” that Mr. Costello warned us about. It’s not the professionals’ jobs to do that. They just give us the facts. Our elected leaders decide what to do with them.
Here’s my prediction. No one from the Council or the Administration will step up. Councilmen have learned that those who try the hardest get burned the most. If you try to even talk about the roots of a problem Council chambers will fill with union members, testimony of tearful tales will be touted if meaningful efficiencies are proposed, and Councilmen will be inundated by phone calls from those who don’t want their rice bowls even looked at too closely, let alone touched. Why will this happen? Because it works. The easiest thing to manipulate is peoples’ fears. Of course Councilmen are going to be persuaded that the public doesn’t want any changes in public safety. They’re the ones who show up. The rest of Ocean City is too busy, too tired, too old, or too scared to attend Council meetings. They suffer quietly, maybe show up on Election Day, hope for the best, and go home. After the election they are the easiest ones to ignore.
It’s been over a quarter of a century since “defined benefit” pension systems began to be replaced with “defined contribution” systems. Yet government employees are still on a different playing field than those in the private sector. They still contribute a fraction towards their own health care plans compared with the rest of us. Why? Is it because they work harder than you? Where in the private sector do you ever see anyone stand around to watch someone else work? Is it because their job is more dangerous? Tell that to a soldier serving in Iraq for much less money.
If there’s someone out there, either on Council or the Administration, who’s willing to sacrifice their popularity in order to make tough choices please step forward.