The following are Garwood resident, Bruce Paterson’s comments during the Union County Budget commentary session held on May 24, 2007.
Last year Union County finally got a dubious distinction of being in the top 10 of American counties with the highest taxes on its residents. And what did the freeholders do? They increased the budget 3.4% and raised county taxes 5.9%.
I went to a budget meeting back in February. Certain freeholders asked questions. The public could not. Any financial concerns that were brought up and odd it was minimal, was answered by department heads with a “next year we will do this” or next year we will do that”.
Next year is NOW! Over 5 years the taxes skyrocketed putting us in the 10 worst counties for taxes.
Freeholder Adrian Mapp, when he ran 3 years ago said in a publicized debate that he wanted to be part of the budget process. Mapp has a degree and is strong in accounting. He is the only one with accounting and financial experience. But you wouldn’t let him on the budget committee for the 3 cycles he has been on the Board. And now you are dumping him from this next election.
The taxpayers are now on life support! For 5 years we have faced financial disaster and fiscal mismanagement. Now we are in the top 10 worst taxed counties in the nation!
I’m not going into depth in the budget since I only have 5 minutes to comment, but some items that would start us on the road to fiscal integrity:
1) Dump the taxpayer funded booze at the freeholder VIP tent during county events. You’re already drunk with power.
2) Cut down the county car fleet. We had a freeholder who put 30 thousand miles on his vehicle in one year and he lives 4 miles from this Administration Building. A county director uses his to go to exercise class. (This is where Chairwoman BJK leaned to Attorney Barry and BJK said that I am getting “close to the line”.) (After this comment it was reported in the Star-Ledger that photos were taken of a Linden Councilman, who is also a county employee, using his county vehicle on the campaign trail.)
3) Make sure part-time jobs are part-time jobs. Your Union County improvement director sits at home making $140,000 a year for nothing. Stop mailing her the check. She’ll get the message.
4) Make sure the full-time jobs are full-time jobs. You finance director works also as finance officer of Linden. This is disgraceful. And many financial errors have been made since he’s had these 2 jobs.
5) Pay to play- Pass a resolution to stop the millions of dollars that go to professionals who donate money to your political pockets. Since the contracts are non-competitive, it’s easy to fatten up with extra dollars in order for the professionals to donate to your political campaigns. No more dealing with these types of people.
6) Get rid of the retroactive raises and 4-5% raises. For a 400-million dollar budget, I have a hard time seeing any county employee results that are stellar and deserve raises like that.
7) Stop giving out “health benefits for life”. You offered early retirement and about 150 people took it, with “health benefits for life.” You have lost control of benefit costs with this type of mismanagement.
The taxpayers of Union county got big problems and you created them. There is no more future; the future is here and now.
You just can’t make hard financial decisions. Everything’s a mess. The only accountant on the Freeholder Board you are throwing off the Board.
The only choice now is to vote down the budget and vote down the tax increase. Then start again with a zero increase.
Notes: The budget that evening was voted on unanimously with the exception of Freeholder Adrian Mapp who abstained from voting.
The 2007 Budget Hearing’s can be viewed on-line at the Union County Watchdog Association’s Veotag account HERE.