Scotch Plains Taxes & Sewer Utility Report
Saturday, September 14, 2013 • 11:44pm
Now that the summer is ending and the November election for a Scotch Plains Town Council seat is fast approaching, it is a good time to review Scotch Plains’ financial situation. The Town’s finances were obscured in the news over the summer by the Mayor’s endorsement of Republican Governor Christie and an exciting Town Council meeting on Shady Rest/Scotch Hills.
You may recall that the current Town budget included quite a bit of increased spending. The increases were largely due to salary increases and higher costs for new outside service providers hired by Mayor Glover and the Democrat majority. Reining in spending was not a priority. Only the Public Library saw its budget cut. (The Democrat cuts have resulted in the Library now being closed all day on Sundays and on Mondays until 1 p.m.) The current budget also saw a relatively low municipal tax increase. There was a red flag, however; the tax increase was less than the over-all increase in Town spending.
The simple math of that imbalance led many to wonder how, on paper at least, the spending increase was being funded. Many suspected that the imbalance was being papered over by unrealistically low spending projections, using cash from the Town’s sewer utility, overly optimistic revenue projections and by using up the Town’s reserves which had been built up and carefully maintained in prior years. It was pointed out that the purpose of the sleight-of-hand tactics used by the Mayor and the Democrat majority on the Town Council was to obfuscate what they were doing – low balling expenses, over-estimating revenues and using reserves in order to postpone necessary tax increases in order to make themselves look good with their first budget since they took over control of the Town Council.
Now we have evidence that this is exactly what Mayor Glover and the Democrats were doing. Last week the Town Council received a report from a consultant it hired to determine if the sewer utility could be closed and the sewers brought back into the Town budget. (It can’t, at least not without a public referendum.)
The consultant’s report, apparently without realizing the damming effect on the Mayor and the Democrat majority, let slip an important budget tidbit. The consultant’s report, prepared after discussions with the Town’s financial people, estimated that even without dealing with the sewer issue taxes next year will rise by about $400,000 over and above the increase allowed by the 2% state mandated tax levy limit. Obviously non-political people with financial expertise concluded that last year’s budget underestimated expenses, overestimated revenue, left us with inadequate reserves, or all of the above. This is just as some of us Republicans who were paying attention predicted would be the case.
So in 2014 Scotch Plains residents are in for a hefty tax increase to make up for this year’s fiscal shenanigans – a tax increase over and above the 2% state limit and, needless to say, substantially higher than last year’s tax increase. It seems that the Mayor and his Democrat majority did not work enough of their “budget magic” to hide the shaky state of the Town’s finances beyond this November’s election. Llewellyn Jones, a Republican with significant financial experience, is running in the November election against Mr. Beckerman, a loyal member of Mayor Glover’s Democrat majority and a consistent supporter of the Mayor. We’ve had enough political games. It is time to put Scotch Plains’ finances back on solid footing. Let’s start examining spending, cutting what’s inappropriate (and that’s not the Library), and making the difficult decisions we need our Town Council to make in order to get our town’s finances back on track. This November voters in Scotch Plains will have a chance to head back in the right direction and a vote for Mr. Jones will start us down that road.
Very truly yours,