Dear Editor:

The All-Democrat Union County Freeholder Board has proposed a budget that does not include an increase in the levy from 2019 to 2020.

While this is a nice step, it does not preclude a couple towns from seeing an increase from the county, and for that reason it does not go far enough. Don't just take it from me; a letter from Garwood Democratic Mayor Sara Todisco asked the Freeholder Board to go further into analyzing their surplus and ensure that no town in Union County sees a tax increase.

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As one of the Republican candidates for Union County Freeholder, I would go one step further and squash the following spending projects that are totally out of touch with the reality of 1 million New Jerseyans being currently out of work. To put that into perspective, if we placed all our unemployed New Jerseyans in a line socially distanced 6 feet apart, that line would stretch from the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth to Marathon, FL in the Florida Keys.

Here is what I would address in the budget as your freeholder, because as we know 2020 is not the same as 2019 and our spending should reflect that:

  • $14.6M in the Parks & Recreation Capital Budget highlighted by Warinanco Park Turf Sports Field Resurfacing and Parking Upgrade, Mattano Park Turf Sports Field and Facility Upgrade, Ash Brook Golf Course Irrigation and Tee Box Renovation, and Professional Services for the Parks Master Plan
  • $11.9M in the Engineering Capital Budget highlighted by the 2020 road resurfacing project, as all road resurfacing may not be essential at this time
  • $3.7M in the Parks Maintenance Capital Budget. This is highlighted by budgeting for playground and tennis court resurfacing in 2020.
  • $1.9M in the Human Services Capital Budget highlighted by new furniture and headsets.

Projects like this should be placed on hold until further notice and here's some more items that should be addressed:

  • ~$3.0M in salary increases in 2020. I understand some of these have been negotiated in 2019, however there should be a moratorium on future raises until further notice.
  • All non-essential personnel should be analyzed to see if they can help the state Unemployment Office, which still struggles today to get everyone their long overdue money.
  • And for good measure, I would jump into the salaries and wages lines of the freeholders themselves, which has somehow climbed to almost $500K this year!! If I were present on the board today, I would give back some, if not all my salary back, and would ask that we remove the freeholder aides into perpetuity.

Democrats and Republicans agree, we can do better in Union County! It is time to replace the current freeholders with leaders with the courage and insight to make noticeable changes that will impact your lives for the better, like future budgets and future economic viability!

Joe Sarno
Scotch Plains, NJ
Republican Candidate for Union County Freeholder