Candidate Statements

Candidate Statements

$1.3 Million Tax Break - For Who?

$1.3 Million Tax Break - For Who?

SUMMARY -There is quite an uproar amongst Berkeley Heights residents since Connell received a tax break of about $1.3 million.  This was a result of a large reduction in their 2010 assessment of four properties at Connell Corporate Park.  The current status is that the Tax Assessor defended his action in public and the Governing Body is waiting for the current Mayor to assign our Tax Consultant Lawyer to tell us how to appeal this action.  The appeal was suggested by Resident Taxpayer Sean Manns and endorsed and requested by Councilman Bonacci.


Here is my version of the series of information passed on, since this action was taken (by the Tax Assessor, Mr. Edgar in Dec. 2009).

Sign Up for E-News


  1. Connell via several designees came to the Tax Assessor in December 2009 requesting assessment reductions on their properties.
  2. Mr. Edgar said he kept Mayor Cohen informed in December by phone and/or other means.
  3. Mr. Edgar also informed Mayor Cohen by memos in January and February (public records) which no Council member admits seeing until May or so.
  4. Mr. Edgar, in those memos, told the Mayor that he should plan on legal fees in the 2010 budget for attorneys to help with other appeals.  He also said there would be no appeal from Connell since he settled with them.
  5. Mr. Sincaglia, VP of the BOE, told the Acting Mayor Bruno and Council at the March 23, 2010 School Board budget presentation that there was a large tax assessment reduction which raised the tax rate for the school tax.
  6. A few days later, resident Sean Manns saw Councilman Bonacci in Town Hall, discussed the budget and noted that he had seen the Tax Assessor and was disappointed in the numbers.
  7. As a Councilman who had not been previously informed of the action and consequences, I went to see the Assessor to gather information.  I also obtained copies of letters he sent in January and February to Mayor Cohen.  After several meetings and discussions I asked the Assessor for details for the current governing body and myself.  The result was a May 25, 2010 memo by him to the Mayor and Council detailing the results of his actions and the $1.3 million dollars (this is a public record).
  8. I sent an e-mail on June 28, 2010 to the Mayor and Council expressing my concern and suggesting follow-up and action (see attachment #1 for public record). I received no responses.
  9. As a result of further inquiries by me to the Assessor, he sent a July 12, 2010 memo to the mayor and Council (received by all on July 20 as a public record) detailing all changes in assessments from calendar 2009 to calendar 2010.  I received no response from anyone on this either and no Council or Executive meetings took place to my knowledge.
  10. Mr. Manns sent an e-mail to Mayor and Council expressing his concerns and followed up by coming to Council meetings on August 10, 24 and September 14, 2010 (public record).  The August 24, 2010 attendance at a Council meeting by Mr. Edgar resulted and was covered by the local newspapers, however, I was out of state and not in attendance.
  11. At the Sept. 14, 2010 Council meeting I entered into the record a list of questions (see attachment #2), which only Mr. Bruno answered in public thus far.
  12. At the same Sept. 14, 2010 Council meeting, Mr. Manns obtained a statement from Mr. Bruno that Mayor Cohen told Mr. Bruno about the Connell assessment but Bruno did not confirm when or provide any details.
  13. On Sept. 16, 2010 Mr. Manns via e-mail to the Mayor and Council (public record) informed us the Town could make an appeal.  It was based on his discussion with the County Tax Administrator.  He suggested that the Town investigate how to proceed and he offered to help.  He received e-mail responses from Mr. Bruno and myself that that it was a good idea and we should proceed.
  14. At the Sept. 28, 2010 Council Meeting, I called for the Mayor to assign follow-up and define the procedure we could follow and to present us with an approach we could vote on.  Mayor Woodruff suggested Mr. Sol Wolf, our tax consultant lawyer could do this and it was agreed.


I hope that action will be forthcoming at the Oct. 12, 2010 Council meeting so that we can vote and pursue this important matter.  It means a significant cost impact for all taxpayers in 2011 if action is timely and positive.


I will close by stating that I believe the Tax Assessor has some rational to his setting of the assessed values but his judgment on a number of counts was poor.  I believe he could have held to his own calculations and lowered the tax less than he ultimately did.  If I am elected Mayor, I feel that I can correct this situation by any of the following or a combination of actions; namely:

  1. Appoint a new tax assessor
  2. Appoint a Tax Board of three persons rather than an Assessor
  3. Appoint a resident Advisory Committee to provide an overview of major tax assessment changes.


Lacking any further positive tax action on this matter, we could ask Connell to contribute $1.3 million per year for 10 years towards a library, community center, town hall and senior center.


Sincerely, John C. Bonacci, Mayoral Candidate - Candidate Statement #3-10-06-10

Attachment 1—e-mail of Bonacci on June 28, 2010

Attachment 2__ public statement of Bonaci on September 14, 2010.


Attachment 1- Bonacci e-mail of June 28, 2010




Jack Conway <>

To: <>


RE: Connell Tax Assessment


Mon, Jun 28, 2010 3:24 pm

John - ......I copied him on this for you[]
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 3:15 PM
To: John Bonacci; Robert Woodruff; Joe Bruno;; Jack Conway; Jack Conway; Elaine Perna; Kevin Hall; Craig Pastore;;
Subject: Connell Tax Assessment


Check if I missed anyone on this list (no e-mail for assessor).

I am just finding time to comment further on the May 25, 2010 memo of Bob Edgar, the Tax assessor, since my original enquiry to him.  A number of residents are showing deep concern about this tax reduction expecially because of the budget activity.  Not all the concerns are valid but the perception is.  I believe the governing body needs to address this issue in public but if there is a confidential aspect under the Sunshine Act 9 items then this could occur first. 

Here is the way I see it in some chronological order and please note that I have discussed this with the Tax assessor on several occassions and as recently as this a.m. and am still waiting for more details to satisfy myself and my learning curve. 

1.  I first became aware of this in a qualitative sense on MArch 23, 2010 when Mr. Sincaglia of the BOE raised the issue for Mr. Bruno, the then Acting Mayor and for Mr. Cohen the prior MAyor.  When I responded to Mr. Sincaglia's comment it was simply to clarify the relationship of the tax assessment to any actual tax not the specifics of pros and cons on that assessment.  This means that there is no impact on any overall budget in balancing taxes with expenses.  However other tax payers can be affected since the relative assessment changes who pays what portion of any absolute dollar tax.  That is, if one person goes down, others must go up whether they be residents or other commercial or industrial payers.

2.  Mr. Edgar did keep Mayor Cohen informed of his mtgs and decisions (memos of JAn 25, 2010 and Feb 1, 2010 and perhaps other discussions).  Council Members and the Administrator and other appointed officials may or may not have received copies.

3.  No one went into any further questioning of the actions taken even with respect to the Alcatel Lucent status or the numerous other appeals made by tens of residents.

4. I am waiting for a list of the individual and total of the other appeal requests for 2010 whether granted or not.  It behooves all of us  to study this when it becomes available and make any judgments necessary.  I am also waiting for some copy or definition of the law regarding "economic rent or value" whatever the legal term is. 

My bottom line at this moment is that the Connell adjustment was untimely and inappropriate and I am disappointed that the MAyor (and perhaps Mr. Bruno) were more aware than the rest of us and did not pursue this matter.  For the wrong reason, I commend Mr. Sincaglia for bringing this to light in public and also Mr. Sean Mann for pursuing this as a resident for whatever motivation he had. 

I look foraward to the other information and to any comments and a future joint discussion of this matter. 

Sincerely,John Bonacci


Attachment 2- Comments-Council 9-14-10 by John Bonacci


I will use my time to catch up with the Connell Tax Break since Annette and I were out of state with our children and grandchildren on Aug. 24 when the Assessor was here.


I have a list of questions for him and for all of us even though I have been researching the situation since late March when Mr. Sincaglia first raised the issue as part of the School Board presentation.  Mr. Manns saw me in Town Hall a few days later and told me he saw the Assessor and the Connell re-assessment was large.  I then met with Mr. Edgar the Assessor several times to gather information.


He sent a May 25 memo to the entire governing body and a July 12 memo to the entire governing body. One started out “at the request of Councilman Bonacci”  and the other “Councilman Bonacci was in to follow up and asked “.


In between those memos and visits I sent a June 28 e-mail to the entire governing body, the Administrator and the Clerk and the Town Attorney.  I stated that many residents were concerned because Connell’s savings resulted in other taxpayers higher  cost in a difficult budget year.  I asked that the governing body look into this adjustment privately and in public because I felt it was untimely and inappropriate.

So my questions are:

  1. Did any Governing Body Member use Blackberry Messenger, text mail or e-mail to discuss the Connell taxes?
  2. Who informed Mr. Sincaglia and when was he informed?
  3. What did the Tax Assessor say to Mayor Cohen or the Township Attorney in Dec. 2009?
  4. What did Mayor Cohen say to the Tax Assessor in Dec. 2009?
  5. Why didn’t the Mayor and/or the Tax Assessor inform the Council of this large change in Dec. 2009 before it was consummated?
  6. Did the Tax Assessor ever do one this large before and not talk to an appraiser or lawyer or consultant?
  7. Why didn’t Mayor Cohen bring it to the Council when he received a letter direct to him in January 21 and 25 and Feb. 1 of 2010 when he said here are the figures you are interested in?
  8. Why didn’t Mr. Bruno as the Acting Mayor on March 23, 2010 get the same information as Mayor Cohen and/or bring this to the Council for discussion?
  9. Why didn’t Mayor Woodruff and Council respond to my e-mail or the data provide to them on May 25 and July 20?
  10. Why didn’t the Assessor stick to his calculated values, which were about halfway between what Connell had and what they asked for?
  11. Why didn’t Mayor Cohen or the Tax Assessor poll the Council on whether we could afford an Appeal by Connell or not?
  12. Can any taxpayer under the law appeal the Connell assessment in the Tax Appeal Court?
  13. Can the Township financially support in an appeal any Taxpayer, like Mr. Manns who seems to have done all the work and makes a strong case for unfairness to all the Townspeople?

Now, I am still doing some research and developing ideas on current and future procedures and believe perhaps we can have a Tax Forum with the public. I submit this

status and questions into the record for further consideration. –JOHN C. BONACCI

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Christopher Rinaldi for Town Council - Leadership, Judgement, Experience

May 17, 2018

My name is Christopher Rinaldi.  As a long-time member of the Republican Party, I am running in the Republican Primary on June 5th for Township Council and Republican Municipal Committee of Berkeley Heights.

As a follow-up to my Candidate Statements from the last two weeks, I would like to share with you a few areas of direct work experience garnered over the past 25 years that I believe ...

Redevelopment: Taking the First Step Together While Protecting Berkeley Heights

Redevelopment. It’s something that takes careful planning, foresight, the ability to negotiate for the most favorable outcome, and, of course, patience. I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to reach all of these milestones. Tomorrow, on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, we as a community will take the first step together in the culmination of these efforts, when the ...

I am Proud to be Your Mayor

Honesty and results. Those two principles characterize my service to our community for the last nine years. I served on Town Council for four years and have been your Mayor for five years. I appreciate the opportunity to serve you and our community, steering it in a positive direction. During this time, I have learned about our Town, identified areas for improvement and been privileged ...

Taxes up, Services down.....At least someone is listening

May 15, 2018

Do you feel as if you are getting good services from the town for what you pay in property taxes? I don’t, and wanted to thank the one Council person who voted NO on this year’s municipal budget which will increase your taxes by more than 3 percent, exceeding the cap.  Thank you, Susan Poage, for listening to taxpayers.

When our Mayor grants raises by executive order ...

Who Is Dmitriy?

Who Is Dmitriy?

That is the question I asked myself in the past year or two. I first chanced across him online in community conversation. When an issue seemed to go nowhere, people starting to get ugly and nasty, personal attacks escalating, in would pop Dmitriy and with one comment, he could sum things up. He based his  opinion on information he knew, coupled with what he could glean ...

The NO vote on the Budget

I read today's letter to the editor from Councilwoman Susan Poage regarding her reasons for voting "no" on the town's 2018 budget. As I attend most meetings of our Township Council, including the one on May 8, I want the public to be aware of some facts that are not contained in Mrs. Poage's letter.

The 2018 Budget development process included public meetings on Feb. 26, ...

Kids Can Change The World

May 20, 2018

Karen De La Maza is the founder of “Kids Can Change The World”, a program designed to instill humane values in children while developing essential life skills and positive leadership. Karen and her family relocated to NJ from her native Mexico City in 2008 for her husband’s job.

Karen has always had a strong passion for helping people in need. With ten years of experience in ...

Racing to the Finish and Supporting Cancer Survivors


MAY 13, 2018 SUNDAY | BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ—On May 13, the Summit Area YMCA welcomed over 1,000 participants to the 17th Annual Mother’s Day 5K Run/Walk at Memorial Field, in Berkeley Heights. This family-friendly event also hosted a fun magic show, invigorating Zumba dancing, a tot trot, face painting and music.

Matthew Byrne of Berkeley Heights won first place ...

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Offers Free Community CPR Classes and Plant/Flower Sale to Raise Funds for Relay for Life

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - National EMS Week – a time to celebrate EMTs and the important work they work do for our nation’s communities was established in 1974 by President Gerald Ford.  This year National EMS Week is May 20 to May 26 and the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad (BHVRS) can think of no better way to celebrate EMS Week than by teaching YOU, our ...

Bee Day at Hanson Park!!

Please join the Hanson Park Conservancy on Saturday, June 23rd for Bee Day at Hanson Park!  At 2:00 PM Grant Stiles from Stiles Honey will be sharing his knowledge of bees with his presentation, “Fundamentals of Beekeeping and the Importance of Honey Bees in Our Society.”  Bring your blankets and chairs and enjoy the beautiful surroundings as Mr. Stiles answers all of your ...

Fallout Continues from Lawsuit Against Mountainside; Police Chief on Administrative Leave

May 19, 2018

MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Police Chief Allan Attanasio is the latest member of the police department to suffer repercussions from a complaint filed against the borough on May 11.  Attanasio, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was “placed on administrative leave,” on Thursday by Borough Administrator and former Police Chief James Debbie, said  Lt. Joseph ...

Video Shows School Board Member In Altercation With Police at Traffic Stop in South Orange

May 16, 2018

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - South Orange Maplewood School Board Member Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad got into an altercation with a South Orange police officer who stopped her for speeding last month, in which she used profanity, complained when she was issued a ticket and called South Orange Police Chief Kyle Kroll “a skinhead cop.”

Lawson-Muhammad also appeared to suggest that she would ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

New Providence Community Pool parking lot, New Providence

CSA Community Yard Sale

Giving Back

Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

New Providence Community Pool parking lot, New Providence

CSA Community Yard Sale

Giving Back


Sun, May 20, 11:00 AM

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Headquarters, Berkeley Heights

Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad Offers ...

Sun, May 20, 12:00 PM

Trailside Nature & Science Center in the Watchung Reservation, Mountainside

29th Annual Spring Garden Fair & Plant ...

Green Home & Garden

Sun, May 20, 2:00 PM

Miller-Cory House Museum, Westfield

History of Silhouettes & Craft for Children


Sun, May 20, 2:00 PM

Summit High School, Summit

Summit Symphony Orchestra Concert

Arts & Entertainment

Don’t Make These Three Mistakes About Social Security

Social Security has been around for decades and it’s not about to disappear. Why? Social Security is not an entitlement ("gift") that can be taken away - it’s a forced savings scheme that Americans pay into in their working years in order to secure a pension for life. Ideally, Social Security should not be your sole source of income in retirement but even comfortable ...