On June 8 the Union County freeholders will be adopting a budget which will once again raise property taxes without quitting spending more money. In the past freeholders have ominously threatened “If you want us to cut spending, then tell us where we should cut, senior services, safety services?”
Here’s the Union County Watchdog Association’s top 10 list of things freeholders can cut in 2006 and residents won’t miss a bit.
1) Pay to play – adopt a resolution banning it
Countless dollars could be saved if ‘extraordinary and unspecifiable service contracts’ were sent out to bid instead of being given to campaign contributors.
2) Pension padding – adopt a resolution banning it
In 2005 the county hired Gov. Richard Codey’s brother. Although they could have had Robert Codey for free with the state picking up his salary, Union County supplemented his pay by $46,731 putting his total salary at $140,000. This boosted his pension to about $33,000 dollars more than what he would have been eligible for had he retired a year earlier. After working a short time in the prosecutor’s office, Codey retired at the age of 55 with an annual pension of $98,000, automatic annual cost of living adjustments and health insurance throughout his retirement.
3) County vehicles – sell them.
There are approximately 163 employees with 24-hour car privileges with gas, insurance and maintenance provided by taxpayers. There are very few county employees that need a car to get them to work in an emergency. The county manager isn’t one of them. George Devanney is not certified in any emergency management techniques. There is no good reason why he and most other county workers can't drive their own vehicles to and from work, during lunch time and especially after hours.
4) Gas pumps – close them
The county spent approximately $182,000 on gas in 2005. The county claim’s that there is no paper trail for a citizen to inquire about employee’s individual gas consumption. With taxpayers paying about $3.00 a gallon for their own gas, the county needs to adopt a system where gas fill-ups can be accounted for - or better yet - stop the perk.
Most executives in major corporations aren’t given blackberry’s at company expense. In 2005 the taxpayers paid $61,656.42 for county ‘public servants’ to have this gadget.
6) Cell Phones and Pagers – hang them up
In 2005 over 7-million tax dollars were spent on Union County phone services. Divide that by 2,981 county employees and it comes to $2,349.86 per employee. Privileges are clearly being abused with $249,346.92 being spent for employee cell phones and $25,578.00 on pagers.
7) Home Internet Service – unplug it
In 2005 $60,469.11 was spent on internet service. Many county employees have their home internet service paid for by the taxpayers.
8) Creative consulting services
The county has been awarding the same $72,000 annual contract for creative consulting services for at least nine years, as well as paid millions of dollars for the actual work which was produced in the form of marketing pieces and commercials which are released mostly during the campaign season (see #9). MediaSquared, Inc. also does work for the Union County Democratic Committee for freeholder campaigns. We have to wonder if the freeholders are getting their campaign work produced at a reduced fee by this firm because the taxpayers are paying them $6,000 a month for undocumented consulting work.
9) Mailings and commercials at election time
Freeholders spent over $375,000 on mailings and commercials in 2005. Most featured freeholders who were up for reelection and resulted in ELEC complaints which are still pending. As if this wasn’t humiliation enough for taxpayers the freeholders continued this practice into 2006.
10) Raises & nepotism & cronyism – oh my!
In 2000, 868 employees made over $50,000. Today that number has almost doubled to 1,530 employees. In 2000, 29 employees made over $100,000. Today that number has almost tripled to 74. We find it to be no small coincidence that there are 542 employees who have the same surnames as elected Democrat officials. We can’t say for sure that all these people are related, but we can say for sure that we have no way of knowing how many cousins, in-laws, etc. with different surnames are on the payroll. An example of this is the appointed county manager, George Devanney. He is the nephew of State Senator Raymond Lesniak. Devanney’s mother-in-law is on the county payroll. All three have different surnames.