When Union County Manager, George Devanney, released his executive budget for 2007 he placed the onus for the 5.7 percent tax hike almost entirely on the shoulders of the county residents.
He is quoted as saying “the tax increases were necessary to preserve popular services that the residents expect.” It certainly seems as though he was awarding this year’s top winning prize to the principal players in the County’s Annual Blame Game, the hapless taxpayers.
I must admit that I am just a tad confused by the services that Mr. Devanney mentions as contributing to this years increase in the tax levy. He cites Meals on Wheels for seniors, a prescription drug program, outdoor concerts and the development of new parks; this is all a bit odd.
MEALS ON WHEELS - ARE THE SENIORS DRIVING UP THE BUDGET???
It is doubtful that Meals on Wheels has created a major impact on the tax levy unless they plan on appropriating a couple of additional million over last year. There is a suggested contribution of $3.00 a meal from those seniors who participate and can spare the cash.
The program is certainly one that most county residents would gladly support as worth every penny since no one wants grandma to go hungry. The mere hint of its being threatened in anyway would have seniors lining up with their walkers at the polls come November to reelect the incumbent Democrats, not a bad tactic to ensure the support of this large voting block. As Sharpe James, the former Democrat Mayor of Newark always said “you feed'em - you lead'em.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROGRAM - COULD THIS BE THE CULPRIT???
Touted as a means to assist all Union County residents bear the rising cost of prescription medications, the Prescription Drug program was presented as having no cost to the taxpayers, as the county was only a conduit responsible for steering consumers to a company called Add Health. Residents can join up, for an annual fee and receive some drugs at discounted rates at select pharmacies. Since this is at no cost to the county it is doubtful that it has increased the tax levy by much more than a bit of clerical time to answer the phone occasionally and space on the website; after all the resident is dealing with Add Health themselves and bearing the cost themselves.
OUTDOOR CONCERTS IN THE PARK - ARE CORPORATE SPONSORS HOLDING BACK THE BUCKS???
When the concerts in the park, complete with VIP tents, deluxe portable water closets and catering which includes alcoholic beverages are called an unnecessary expense the freeholders vehemently object by saying that there are corporate sponsors who help defray the costs and these events actually cost the taxpayers a mere pittance. So Mr. Devanney share with us all how these events are now suddenly impacting on the budget??
HEY, WHERE DID THE TRUST FUND GO?????
Last but certainly not least is the development of new parks, which the residents supposedly are demanding. Where did the Open Space Trust Fund go? Was not this separate tax a three pronged vehicle to be used for not only historic preservation but for the purchase of land and the development of recreational facilities? Don’t parks fall under this category? Could it be that when the voters approved this additional tax on their homes that this is just what they had in mind?
"WHAT THE RESIDENTS REALLY WANT AND NEED"
Devanney went on to elaborate that “while the county looks for efficiencies the administration believes that the residents also expect services”, which of course is true. The residents expect the county roads to be in top shape, including ice and snow removable when necessary, the existing parks to be usable and in good repair, they expect the county police to provide law enforcement, the prosecutors office to pursue criminals, the jails to be safe environments for both adults and juveniles as well as provide the rehabilitation of offenders, and assist those who are down on their luck and need a hand to get on their feet. In short the taxpayers expect and deserve county government to look after the safety, health and well fare of the residents.
I am sure I am not alone when I say that VIP commodes at outdoor concerts are not on the top of my list of the services I expect.