May 27, 2006

“Walk the Walk and not just Talk the Talk”

The Number 1 issue in last years gubernatorial campaign was property taxes, and according to the director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute the lack of any forth coming relief is a key factor in our governor’s slumping approval ratings. It seems that eighty-four percent of voters polled said that property tax reform proposals during last year’s campaign season proved to be “more talk than action.”

New Jersey residents have been pushed to the limit of their pocketbook’s endurance and in some cases are considering selling their homes and moving out of state to escape the highest property taxes in the county.

Though I try not to give too much credence to polls, there was one earlier this year that bears paying attention to. A Quinnipiac University poll’s results released in January of this year showed that some 92 percent of New Jersey voters say that state is facing a serious budget problem this year and a majority say they would rather cut services than raise taxes to reduce the projected budget deficit. It would seem that folks would rather be able to stay in the old homestead with less help and interference from government, this makes sense, but is anybody listening?

Here in Union County our Board Chosen of Freeholders is getting ready to approve this year’s budget of over $410 million, which will increase the tax levy on real estate owned by the residents to 50% since the year 2000. I came to the realization reviewing county spending over the years that part of the problem is that county government is attempting to be all things to all people. What has gotten lost somewhere along the line is the purpose that county government is meant to serve, and that is to ensure the health, welfare and safety of the residents.

Somehow they have managed to insinuate themselves into our lives in areas that quite honestly they do not need to be and we are paying for it dearly.

A starting point to manage revenues would be to seriously consider Zero Based Budgeting, a system that simply provides for necessary services first and the frills later, much like one would do at home. Providing a means to see where the money is actually going would probably be an eye opener to those who insist that there is no wasteful spending on the part of county government. For example, telecommunications has been brought to light this week as the Freeholders enter into an agreement to provide internet service between county offices via a fiber optic network. I can only hope that this maneuver will save some money as the total cost of telecommunications to include cell phones, pagers, Blackberrys and telephone service was over $7 million in 2005, or an average of $2,349 per employee. Looks like someone went over their minutes.

I challenge the tax payers to look around and think hard about just what do they get from a county government which spends over $1million dollars a day? Where does all the money go? Your tax dollars are being wasted on high salaries for administrators, that there are too many chiefs getting cars, cell phones and Blackberrys and that is taking away from fulfilling the needs of the residents such as making much needed and timely repairs to county roads, thus ensuring your safety. It is time that these Freeholders start to “walk the walk and not just talk the talk”.