After last night’s virtual meeting of Red Bank’s Mayor and Council I am absolutely frustrated and irritated with the lack of responsibility or foresight to preserve the solvency of our Borough’s financial future.
Frankly, all residents, businesses and visitors to the Borough should be fed up with this poor management and no longer tolerate it. Of interest to me was Resolution 201-100 which authorized $1.7 million in temporary budget appropriations for the 2020 budget.
Although this is procedural based on the fiscal year of New Jersey municipalities and the forthcoming approval of a full budget I still had questions for the Mayor and Council on exactly how these numbers were formulated. Per the notice of the meeting’s virtual nature any questions were asked to be sent before the meeting to which I did, but the responses were a bit shocking.
Prior to the meeting Councilman Michael Ballard responded to me that there had not been any type of finance/budget meeting with the Business Administrator, any other Council members on the committee or even the Mayor. So how did the Borough formulate these numbers in the temporary appropriations? Would you ever do this in your personal finances?
The incompetence deepens when I asked these questions publicly. Councilman Ballard confirmed, publicly, that no budget/finance meeting was conducted and Mayor Menna had made a comment previously that any ‘adjustments’ would be made later, whatever that means in financial terms. Of course, the Business Administrator provided a standard bureaucratic answer to why a continuing resolution was needed and, as typical, responded to none of my concerns.
COVID-19 will have negative consequences on our tax base and the severity of those consequences is still to be seen therefore we need to prepare. With all the other concern with this crisis why do the Mayor and Council have no financial responsibility to the Borough? Why are we approving budgets without any consideration to what the numbers are or how they impact the Borough?
I specifically asked if there was any challenge to Borough Department Heads (and the Mayor and Council), to enact spending freezes, budget cuts of starting at 5% with a challenge to achieve 10% in cuts? Of course, the response is there are too many issues in salaries and benefits that I have heard year after year from Councilman Ballard since he’s been elected to office.
Salaries and benefits aside, there are many other areas that can be cut from various materials and supply purchases, vehicles, equipment purchases, unneeded contracts, suspension of certain functions of the Borough and on and on. We have a Borough government of elected officials, appointed officials and other employees that should be challenged to make hard decisions to aid in maintaining the solvency of the borough.
Mayor and Council must immediately initiate a spending freeze on all discretionary spending and request proposed budget cuts starting at least 2.5% preferably at 5% and challenge all Department heads to propose upwards of a 10% budget cut.
Why is this so important? We have witnessed tax hikes over the past few years while also experiencing tremendous growth in our tax base that should have equated to a stable tax rate. The rise in taxes can directly be attributed the decision-making of the Council to simply raise taxes versus making the hard decisions they were elected to make.
The negative consequences we are looking at include halted or rescinded projects in the Borough that would fortify and raise our tax base, the loss of small businesses, devaluations in home values. This all means higher taxes with no cuts. It only gets worse in the coming years with tax appeal filings going up and the rate of successful appeals going up leaving the Borough responsible to pay those appeals back. Again, more and more taxes. Property owners should no longer be an endless means of revenue for the Borough of Red Bank.
Red Bank has a problem and I hope to bring this more attention; more residents and businesses need to get involved and educate themselves.
Red Bank's Mayor, Council members, and Business Administrator are betting that you won't educate yourselves and challenge the status quo. Over the past three years, I am only one of two residents that have challenged the Borough budget. We are in a crisis with COVID19 that is decimating our economy and the solvency of our Borough; status quo is not an option Red Bank.
Red Bank’s Mayor and Council Can Do Better; We the People Should Vote Better!
Stay Safe and Healthy,
Thomas R. Wieczerzak