Archive for the ‘Debt’ Category

Bonding Blank Check

Whatever Union County can’t get from raising taxes as much as is allowable under the tax cap and stealing Open Space Trust Fund money they bond for each summer. Here is a history:

The jump to $59 million in 2016 was a record but at tonight’s meeting that record will be shattered:

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Mayor Woodruff is Questioned about Taxpayer Support for Doubling Town’s Debt.

The Berkeley Heights Town Council is pushing forward with a $33,000,000 municipal complex that seems to have very little support from the taxpayers.    During the February 7, 2017 Berkeley Heights Town Council meeting a $28,000,000 bond ordinance was approved for this project.    The $28,000,000 will more than double Berkeley Heights debt.   Under normal circumstances,  the voters in town would be able to petition for a referendum under either the Home Rule Act of Faulkner Act to put the approval of this bond to a vote.     However,  the Town Council chose to bond under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law which denies the residents their right to a referendum.

During an executive session, a closed door meeting,  the town discussed a non-binding referendum but it was decided that it would cause a “moral dilemma”.     A non-binding referendum is one way for the town to gauge the resident’s interest in a project.

During a discussion period on Feb 7,  a resident asked the mayor: “How do you know that the people of this town want to double the town’s debt?”.   The mayor stated that they didn’t.

Local officials are elected to make decisions for the town.   However large decisions with long-term impacts on property owners should not be able to move forward by the will of a very small number of people, elected or not.   Long after they have left the council the town will still be burdened with this debt ( 27-40 years ).

Here is a video of the Mayor’s response:
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Debt Payment History and Freeholder Meeting Tonight

The real cancer in Union County is not the accelerating taxes but the unbridled and non-voter-approved debt that has been piling up so that even the massive tax increases we have gotten fall within that sieve of a budget cap.  Even with recent historically low borrowing costs debt payments since 2004 have skyrocketed:

UC-Debt Payments

Though there is no new bond ordinance on tonight’s freeholder meeting agenda to pay for the fiasco that is the building of a courthouse through the UCIA they will huddle over it:

fh-exec

 

Union County Debt – $580 Million

As part of an interview with Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen in the Westfield Leader:

Mr. Bergen discussed a wide variety of topics with The Leader’s editors, from the county’s $580-million debt to initiatives ranging from recreation and county emergency dispatch services to an animal shelter.

The more than half a billion dollars of debt includes a $59-million general improvement bond that was expected to be approved Thursday, August 18. The freeholder board has adopted general improvement bond ordinances in nine of the last 11 years during the summer. This year’s approval is by far the biggest in that time, exceeding 2011’s $49.6 million. It is $15 million more than last year’s.

This year’s bond includes $8 million more for parks and recreation, $4 million more for Union County College and $4 million more for the Gordon Street Bridge in Roselle over the freight rail tracks linking North and South Avenues.

Those ordinances over the years are linked to below:

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$59 Million Bond Ordinance – 2016

Whatever Union County can’t get from raising taxes as much as is allowable under the tax cap and stealing Open Space taxes they bond for each summer. This year it is $59 million:

776-2016 BOND ORDINANCE TO AUTHORIZE THE MAKING OF VARIOUS PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS AND THE ACQUISITION OF NEW ADDITIONAL OR REPLACEMENT EQUIPMENT AND MACHINERY, NEW ADDITIONAL FURNISHINGS, NEW COMMUNICATION AND SIGNAL SYSTEMS EQUIPMENT, NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS EQUIPMENT AND NEW AUTOMOTIVE VEHICLES, INCLUDING ORIGINAL APPARATUS AND EQUIPMENT, IN, BY AND FOR THE COUNTY OF UNION, STATE OF NEW JERSEY, TO APPROPRIATE THE SUM OF $58,933,154 TO PAY THE COST THEREOF, TO APPROPRIATE STATE GRANTS, TO MAKE A DOWN PAYMENT, TO AUTHORIZE THE ISSUANCE OF BONDS TO FINANCE SUCH APPROPRIATION AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE ISSUANCE OF BOND ANTICIPATION NOTES IN ANTICIPATION OF THE ISSUANCE OF SUCH BONDS.

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The Westfield Leader noticed that the amount was a little higher this year:

Union County freeholders introduced a $58.9-million-general-purpose bond ordinance last Thursday, by far the biggest ticket item on the 11-page agenda….The bond was $15 million more than a similar ordinance passed last year and the largest amount of what has become an annual summer action over more than a decade by the freeholders, eclipsing the $49.6 million bond adopted in 2011.

The only details…were included in the printed agenda, and read aloud….The wording was similar to past years. A public hearing and final vote is scheduled for Thursday, August 18.

Looking over the Ordinance itself provides no more detail as the word ‘various’ is appended to practically every line item.

 

County Debt tops $1 BILLION

Current bond debt:
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Agenda session explanation:
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But there’s more:

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UCCF 5/26/16: Bond Games

Ordinance 774-2016 moved $87,560.53 in bond money around from its stated purpose to make “various renovations and improvements to facilities”:
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While Ordinance 775-2016 was a prelude to doing the same thing for the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA):
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This ordinance is to sell $1.25 million in bonds to purportedly provide funding to the Union County Improvement Authority in connection with:

  1. office space renovations being undertaken by the Authority at its Park Madison Building in Plainfield to accommodate the relocation of the State of new Jersey Workers Compensation Court from Elizabeth, and additional County offices, and
  2. the settlement of litigation involving the proposed South Wood Avenue (Linden) redevelopment project.

Already, according to sheet 12 of the 2016 Union County Budget, the UCIA is being subsidized:

UCIA AID

Apparently, for their purposes, it is not enough.