Letters to the Editor

Response to Mayor Cohen's Letter

Mayor Cohen has made several assertions and misrepresentations in his May 21 letter to you.

1. He should read the pension deferral law and not rely on verbal statements to a third party. If he wanted something in writing, why didn't he ask the State directly and/or simply read the law.

2. A copy of the law was obtained, and I did read it.

Sign Up for E-News

Here are the citations:

a. Fiscal Note Senate, No. 21, 213th Legislature dated March 30, 2009 says in part "i) or provide a description of relevant anticipated circumstances that could have an impact on revenues or expenditures, ii) the unfunded liability will be paid by the employer in level annual payments BEGINNING with the payments due in the State fiscal year ending June 30, 2012—iii) the payments when they start will be ex-cap. iv) the payments when they start in three years, i.e. 2012 will be at an interest rate of 8.25 % over the 15 year period NOT 8.5%."

b. P.L. 1954, Section 24, c.84 (C.43: 15A-24 amended to read--- 24.c. "The actuaries for the retirement system shall determine the unfunded liability of the retirement system, by employer, for the reduced normal and accrued liability contribution provided under P.L. 2009, c.19. This unfunded liability shall be paid by the employer in level annual payments over a period of 15 years beginning with the payments due in the State fiscal year ending June 30, 2012 and shall be adjusted by the rate of return on the actuarial value of the assets."

c. I don't believe one has to be a genius to see that if 15 years starts after June 30 2012 (which is 3 years from now) that the three years from 2009 to 2012 are interest free or cost free or at no charge, whatever one wishes to call it.

3. When Mayor Cohen previously referred to 8.5% as an interest rate, he should know that the only place 8.5% is written in the public law is with respect to the members (i.e. employees of the Town) and their personal contribution to the pension plan calculated on their pay.

4. It sounds to me like Mayor Cohen is currently careless so why should anyone believe him for any of his statements attributed to events of his past 10 or so years in office?

5. Mr. Delia called me at about 2:00 p.m. on the date of the League candidate's night and asked if I knew if the total deferral could be taken by reducing the surplus draw. He asked this because he correctly observed that the Auditors had calculated for us that $301,000 could be taken as direct current year property tax relief and the remaining $90,000 taken as surplus reduction. I checked it out for him based on i) my knowledge of that past calculation, ii) the CFO's statement and iii) the Auditor Mr. Korecky's statement in phone calls between 2 and 4 p.m. on May 13, 2009. Thus, Mr. Delia made a perfectly valid statement as to "checking out" which he did sufficiently for the political campaign purposes of that evening. There are various ways one can check things out and Mr. Delia's was certainly proper. Mr. Delia made no issue of special accounts. I know that an "escrow" type account is not allowed. The Council sub-committee and the Mayor and Council also had copies of budget drafts which show a partial use of deferral in the surplus line as "calculated" by the Auditor Korecky and his assistant Bill Swisher.

6. Mr. Delia's suggestion to place all the deferral in surplus is not a loan and I don't recall he called it a loan. In any case, I will call it what it really is. The deferral of $391,000 is a reduction in the expenditure for calendar year 2009. As such, when we have a reduction in an expenditure, we have a concurrent reduction in the need for revenue since we must, by State law, have revenues equal to expenditures. There are two ways we can reduce the revenues to match the reduced expenditures. One is to reduce the direct or current tax levy and the other is to reduce the surplus "draw" which is primarily past taxes. Both methods provide property tax relief, one in the direct year involved and the other in problems averted in the direct year and flexibility in the subsequent three year period. Obviously, Mr. Delia is a bit more perceptive than either the Mayor or the two Republican opponents who make claims about fiscal responsibility.

7. Mayor Cohen should check with accounting experts. He will find out that the "surplus" is an account listing and not a separate bank account. Money moves in and out of this account listing. The actual money is in one cash account and we do get earnings on the cash. Look at the budget revenue details and you will see a line for interest. No one claims that interest is directly accrued on the specific $391,000 if it was placed in surplus although, in an approximate manner, Mr. Delia is certainly correct that we somehow get interest on this method of dealing with property tax relief. Certainly, however, surplus funds as they move in and out of cash can earn interest. It would take some doing to calculate the amount gained from this. So Mr. Delia is correct in a basic and qualitative way but any specific value would not be immediately apparent. His opponents were caught like deer looking into headlights and I guess the Mayor, even with a day and a half to think about it, was looking into the same headlights.

8. The surplus is indeed primarily past taxes paid by residents and commercial and industrial taxpayers. It is an important contingency type accounting item. It helps us in our cash flow management and is an important aspect of our budgeting process. When we draw a large (about 95%) amount from surplus and simultaneously budget closely, we are on the edge of fiscal problems. When looked at on a multi-year basis, I am convinced that Berkeley Heights needs property tax relief. It is an over simplification to state that as long as we are under the 4% levy cap, we are not eligible. Go and read the entire law cited above and you will see how one can claim the deferral legitimately even while we managed to get under the 4% property tax levy.

It does seem outrageous for Mayor Cohen and any other Council members or candidates for Council to call the State deferral law a gimmick. The legislature has obviously argued this out because the Governor's idea was first rejected and then accepted and then crafted into a written law. I hope Mayor Cohen can explain his definition of a "gimmick" to the Governor and the Legislative Houses. I hope he never gets in one of those positions either because we will not be served well by such name calling or labeling.

I believe now, that any careful reader or official will see that both Mr. Delia and Councilman Bonacci were accurate in their statements and have not misrepresented in any way. Elected officials and the public (especially those who write letters to editors) are certainly welcome to have ideological and philosophical beliefs about financial matters but they should be more careful in their analogies. It would also be wise for the elected officials to get all the facts on the table first before they start opting for their own fetishes. Usually when I played sports the rules were clear first before the competition started. We did not make them up as we went along. We also should try to make comparisons on an "apple to apple" basis not "apples to oranges" as often is said in street vernacular. The Mayor likes to compare the past "mandated" State pension effort with the current "optional" effort. Where is his logic?

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Berkeley Heights

Honoring Sacrifice and Service on Memorial Day

May 25, 2018

On Monday, May 28, 2018, our Nation celebrates our most solemn event, Memorial Day.  In Berkeley Heights tradition, we will honor those who sacrificed themselves so that we may continue to live in the greatest country on earth.  I invite all residents to join us for the parade festivities and, most importantly, gather at our Veteran’s Park for a brief ceremony.

America has ...

Logic and Sensible Spending Take Priority

Logic.  It's what people use when endeavoring to complete things in the most sensible order.  Everyone knows that "logic" means sequencing events in a formulaic, predictable manner.  We learned this at a young age, as we observed Star Trek on TV and came to understand why Captain James T. Kirk relied on Spock as his first officer because his strategic plans were ...

I will draw on my experience to deliver a great future for Berkeley Heights

I am impressed with the day-to-day leadership of our Mayor and Town Council and I hope to help them continue to do great work. As I have been doing my research since deciding to run for a seat on our Town Council, I have learned a few things about all the work that has been happening in recent years.  For example, while plans for the Stratton House development were recently announced, our ...

How the Holi Color Festival Came to Summit; Event Planner Shares Her Story

May 21, 2018

Back in India, Holi was a holiday observed by almost all states. The holiday would be declared at all educational institutes and offices. It's a two day spring festival also known as the festival of colors. The festival signifies the victory of good over bad, the arrival of spring with the fragrance of flowers in the air and aura of warmth and happiness.

Holi festival is the time ...

Rain Didn't Dampen Our Vision for Art in the Park

The rain did not dampen our vision for Art in the Park!! Columbia Middle School was transformed into an art paradise, filled with an array of artists whose talents are nothing short of magical! The Peppertown Park Art in the Park Committee would like to thank all of the artists who came to our very first Art in the Park event. We are in awe of your creativity and immeasurable talents! You all ...

Union County College President Received Prestigious Award from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society

May 26, 2018

CRANFORD – Union County College’s President Dr. Margaret M. McMenamin was one of 35 college presidents from throughout the nation to receive a Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction during PTK Catalyst 2018, the Society’s annual convention, in Kansas City, Missouri, held from April 19-21.

The award honors college presidents who have demonstrated ...

A Better Summer with the Y: Join by May 31 and Have Your Joiner Fee Waiver!

From now through the end of May, new members joining the Berkeley Heights YMCA will have their joiners fee waived, because at the Y we believe that everyone deserves to reach their health and wellness goals. With a savings of up to $95, you can focus on the perks of being a Berkeley Heights YMCA member:

Unlimited attendance to more than 100 group fitness classes a week
• State of ...

The New Providence 2018 Memorial Day Parade Begins at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 28

The Borough of New Providence and American Legion Post #433 invite all to attend this year’s Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 28, 2018.   The parade will begin at 10:00 a.m., rain or shine, at Springfield and Central avenues. Post 433 and the New Providence Community Activities Department have co-sponsored the town’s Memorial Day Parade for more than 65 years. The parade, ...

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 ...

Cycling Champ Laura Van Gilder Returns to Somerville Memorial Day to Defend Race Title

May 26, 2018

 

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Laura Van Gilder, 54-year-old cycling champion from Cresco, Pa., will return to defend her title at the 75th annual Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, attempting an unprecedented fifth win in the 25-mile women's race, just one of several races that begin at 10:30 a.m..

The Kugler-Anderson Tour of Somerville, often referred to as the Kentucky Derby of ...

Upcoming Events

Thu, May 31, 11:30 AM

Canoe Brook Country Club, Summit

Fortnightly Club Scholarship Luncheon

Food & Drink Giving Back

Thu, May 31, 1:30 PM

Coppola Ristorante, New Providence

Lunch and Learn: Dental Implants and the ...

Health & Wellness

Carousel_image_69a5db118db45d8f5de0_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Carousel_image_c9562615f730fddb6122_cabaret

Thu, May 31, 7:00 PM

Gov. Livingston Cafeteria, Berkeley Heights

Gov. Livingston Hilltop Players Host Annual Relay ...

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_9eff927f48bc74910214_committee

Fri, June 1, 6:00 PM

Senior Center of the Chathams, , Chatham Township

Senior Center of the Chathams Glorious Garden ...

Food & Drink Home & Garden

The Evaluation of the College Search

It’s is a bizarre time of year as a college counselor as I find myself at both the beginning and end of this process.  Sophomores and juniors are excitedly and idealistically starting to consider what will be important to them in a school.  At the same time, while only separated by a year or two, my seniors have all committed within the past month to a school and have spent the ...

How to Design Your Ideal Retirement

Would you like to design your ideal retirement? Where do you begin? First of all, what does retirement mean to you? If you’re in a relationship, does retirement mean the same to you as it does to your partner? Do you know if your “ideal retirement” is affordable or just a pipe dream?

In past generations, retirement planning didn’t involve very much. You stopped work ...

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 ...