UCCF 1/26/17: Revaluations?

The letter:

Dear mayors and council members of the 21 Union County towns, the Freeholders and manager of Union County government: this is a taxpayer and resident of the county.Toward the serious and expensive issue of town-wide reevaluations that we towns face, I submit a proposal that will make all the 21 town governing bodies and the County Freeholders look like heroes to their constituents, based simply on redirecting excess residents’ tax monies back to the constituents needs.

First some background and then the proposal: On May 16, 2014, April 23,2015 and May 22, 2015, I noted in letters to the towns the ongoing process that Union County government, by selling Runnells Specialized Hospital will remove all operational costs from the county budget and, thus, if the county did not reduce county taxes from the savings, they would accrue in the vicinity of $15 to 23 million that year. I had explained this to the Freeholders at their budget meeting back then, but they possibly did not understand the gravity of the unexpected good fortunes. One positive response that was motivated from my questions and commentary was the reactive creation of the Union County infrastructure grants to the towns. This grant program was created out of the $4-million profit gained from the Runnells sale.

Last year, 2015, the second full year after the Runnells sale, according to my prognosis, the county budget suddenly exploded with a $50-million surplus, a whopping and unheard of 10 percent of their budget of $500 million! Most of this is certainly the direct result of the “Runnells operating cost savings.” Yet over the last two years, in observing the county budget cycles, even though their running fund balance was growing fast, the freeholders still increased the county taxes a total of another $14 million.

Presently, this is the third year of the Runnells cost savings, and again I am predicting that there could be approximately $65 to 75 million in surplus. Note these monies may not appear just in the direct budget line item called surplus, but, like the other years, the county may feel the need to spread these monies around and within myriad line items of their 2017 budget but may have no tangible offsetting appropriations.

In the past year, attending the freeholder meetings, Union County has not identified any major pressing cost impacts on the horizon they need to take care of. In the next few weeks, the county manager plans to submit a draft budget to the Freeholder finance committee so this is the perfect time to enact this.

The proposal: Just last year I noted to the freeholders for this 2017 budget year, the possibility of the county achieving a “zero” tax increase which has never been achieved in the known past. But since the costly re-evaluation of all towns are close to being mandated by the state, this concern must take priority in the minds of the governing bodies both on the local and on the county level. This suggestion would take the form of a county grant to all 21 towns. An approximation of the cost for all 21 towns re-evaluation if totaled up would be in the range of $25 to 30 million and the grant could easily take shape as a 50 percent matching type grant (or a 100percent cost coverage would even be a better idea). The details either could be hashed out in an inter-governmental committee, or if you like, I offer my services to get involved in addressing the details with the towns and/or other residents could also get involved. This would go toward towns already paid for re-evals or in the planning stage. We now have the guaranteed resources to put this expensive re-valuation headache to bed.

With the county having a great $15 to $20 million extra cash flow annually and no pressing expenditures, the next possibility could be to build a central archive for all the towns documents, much like Passaic County has. This is also a pressing item to be considered downstream as a shared service. Or an alternative shared service could be to pay down county and local town debts freeing up even more cash flow. These would make great freeholder initiatives.

I would certainly look forward to any and all governing bodies input and consent and the recognition that this constructive idea would alleviate the cost burdens on the taxpayers. Let’s get this done!

Bruce Paterson, Garwood


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by readslikeamofiabook on January 29, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Good luck with that. Only thing that matters to these fools is campaign contributions and pension padding. PERIOD.


  2. Posted by RichFortunato on January 30, 2017 at 5:40 am

    Bruce – Doesn’t the County tax department have a role in making sure that municipalities properly and timely conduct revaluations? I seem to recall the State mentioning that when it went after some other towns recently. So that may be another justification for using this surplus to fund the revaluations.


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