Many thanks to Governor Christie for realizing the potential taxpayer savings from privatization. It's the only way to shrink the size of government without diminishing services.
I'm Tom Getzendanner, a retired international banker who's been an elected official right here in Summit for six years now. We have two specific suggestions.
The first is to adopt GAAP accounting standards as mandated by GASB34 in 2000. These were supposed to be phased in nationwide by 2005, depending on how big your town. Yet New Jersey remains the only state in the union still using OCBOA standards which focus on cashflow instead of economic profit.
What's the relevance to Privatization you say? We have a quasi-business entity called a Parking Utility that grosses over $2 million revenue annually. OCBOA lets it record a positive cashflow, enticing us to remain in the business. However when fixed assets are depreciated properly, maintenance jumps to $20 from $5/space, losing money because we under-price our service. It's only sustainable by having unlimited borrowing capacity!
Governor Christie doesn't think the state should own parking decks. NJTransit has reached the same conclusion. GAAP accounting results are the only way I can convince my fellow Council members that Summit shouldn't operate a Municipal Parking Utility either.
Secondly, our municipal budget currently contains $193,000 for street lighting and $260,000 for fire hydrants, which benefit all property owners in Summit. Yet these costs are buried inside the property tax envelope that hits only taxable Ratables.
Couldn't our legislature instruct the BPU to change how fire hydrants and street lights are billed? If NJ American Water Company (in our case) included a new line item in each homeowner's monthly bill, based on usage for all utility-payers in Summit, it would no longer let Tax-Exempt organizations off the hook.
If JCP&L were allowed to include a street lighting charge in each of their monthly customer bills, it would no longer be an appropriation from the Municipal Operating budget if you see my point.
This is not just a cosmetic fix, but something that spreads a burden more fairly over an entire user group, based on consumption, not whether your property happens to be tax-exempt.
Tom Getzendanner is a Councilman from Summit and made these comments in testimony before the Privatization Taskforce on April 14, 2010.