Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect on last Monday’s Township Committee Meeting, I can write this with more clarity. I was going to start out my blog with: “Citizens of Barnegat - Our Township Committee has done it again. They never cease to amaze me with their sheer and utter arrogance, lack of respect for the residents of Barnegat and absolute disdain and disregard for the ethics of the office they hold. I feel I must put my thoughts in writing and get some of these facts out in the media so more people in Barnegat can read about some of the real truth, as opposed to the smoke and mirrors the Township Committee dishes out. This Township Committee cannot continue to operate as if they are running a dictatorship.” Soooo…. instead of starting out with the above, I’ll begin as follows:
There are several topics where the Township Committee brought out their “smoke and mirrors” gun at last Monday’s meeting. To dissipate some of that smoke and turn the mirror back on the Township Committee, I will present some facts. My focus will cover these issues: BOE vs Township fiscal responsibility (really irresponsibility); the sidewalk issue; their role in reducing the property tax burden; excluding the BOE from their garbage negotiations; labeling themselves as full-time employees in order to obtain health care insurance and appointments of people from one community to various township boards. Of these six issues, five are truly tied to fiscal mismanagement. Because these issues will require lengthy dialogue, I am choosing to break up the topics and spread them over a few blogs so as not to bore you too much with long dissertations.
On 1/11/12 the Township Committee saw it in their “divine” wisdom to hold a press conference at which all five members of the Committee attended. The subject of this press conference/meeting was: School District ‘Fleecing’ Taxpayers by Keeping Budget Surplus. The township made no attempt to contact the BOE to get the facts regarding this surplus and instead chose to election grandstand with this press conference. Had they spoken to the BOE, they would have found out that much of this surplus was already targeted as “tax relief.” First, all budgets should build in a reserve and it is just good fiscal planning to do so. In addition, the BOE’s surplus resulted in two givebacks of aid to us – one from the federal government (which cannot be given back to the taxpayer but must be used for rehiring teachers) and the other was as a result of reinstated state aid where Christie was forced to give this back to the schools. This too is ineligible for tax relief this year, but will be next. Another reason Barnegat had an excess surplus was that we had to budget for, among other things, putting in the sidewalks for the Safe Routes to School program – since no contract was awarded for this work when the BOE’s budget was finalized, and they couldn’t risk this not happening. I’ll talk about the sidewalk issue in another blog when I discuss how the Township just doesn’t know how manage and govern.
Continuing on the “surplus” issue, the School Board had their regular meeting on January 17 and they also took out an ad in The Barnegat Leader and thoroughly explained the reasons for this surplus. Then our Mayor made a statement that he would not entertain any comments on this issue at the Township Committee Meeting. I guess he thinks he can usurp our freedom of speech. What he did instead, was open the Township Meeting with his Mayor’s Report and commented on all the supposed “positive” things they did to work with the School Board, their practice of fiscally restraining actions compared to the BOE’s increase to the tax burden, etc. – each and every one of them a twisting of the truth. In fact, the relationship between the town and BOE went downhill when two members of our Township Committee (Lisella and Bille) joined forces and began to get involved as if they were the liaison to the schools, when actually, Al Cirulli was the liaison. They have inserted a wedge between the township and schools (like the McMahon and Company days) and it is a wedge which must be removed. At the Township Committee Meeting, the President of the BOE, Lisa Becker, got up to speak and put the truths out in front of the everyone – the BOE is the elected body who exercises fiscal responsibility not the Township Committee, but yet she’s the one who extended an olive branch to the Township Committee indicating how important it is to work together.
This kind of outrageous behavior I’ve described and will continue to describe, MUST stop, and the only way it will stop is at the ballot box. Our taxes have continually increased over the years due to the Republicans’ fiscal mismanagement. These Republicans think that they can ride rough-shod over the residents and taxpayers of Barnegat. At the “ballot box” we have to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with their performance. Not only must you vote them “OUT,” but you must get involved. Perhaps we can draft two members from the Board of Education to run for Township Committee, since I believe they know what it means to be fiscally responsible.
Maybe what we need to do is form a Barnegat Taxpayers Association, as existed in the past – but I think that old Taxpayers’ Association was run by the Republicans. What we need is a group of concerned citizens of Barnegat (representing all Parties) who care about doing the right thing – not what might be self-serving or politically expedient.