Next Monday (December 9), the South Orange Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on Ordinance 2013-19 which will forever alter the rich culture and history of South Orange Village. For nearly 150 years, South Orange has been governed by a VOLUNTEER "Board of Trustees", which also includes a "Village President". The fact that these unpaid volunteer positions have had these unique and distinguished titles is part of the rich history and traditions of our Village that have made our town unique. Now in a single vote, the Board of Trustees is planning to propose revising our Village's Charter, changing their titles to Councilmember/Mayor plus allowing for these volunteer positions to be given monetary compensation, paid for by your property taxes.
This is wrong for so many reasons:
Serving as a volunteer is a longstanding Village Tradition
Since the Village was settled, serving as a member of the Board of Trustees has been an honor and a privilege for those who want to serve the community. In all that time, this honor has been done by VOLUNTEERS who were not paid for their service. People served the community because they wanted to do the right thing for the Village, not because they were looking to supplement their income. This tradition is an important part of the culture and history of South Orange and should not be changed.
Providing compensation is not necessary
Serving the Village on the Board of Trustees is a part-time position. The Village already has a large payroll of full-time paid staff that handle the day-to-day operations of the Village. As a former member of the Board of Trustees, I can say firsthand that serving on the Board of Trustees does not require a financial outlay for any mandatory expenses. I personally maintained an extensive email list and online blog to frequently communicate with residents - neither of which cost a single penny. In addition, the Board of Trustees already receives complimentary admission to many political fundraisers, a complimentary parking sticker to park in any permit space downtown, two free nights at the Borgata in Atlantic City for the annual League of Municipalities convention and other perks. No cash compensation is required for the Board of Trustees to complete their duties.
Changing the Charter opens a Pandora’s Box
Altering the Village Charter to provide monetary compensation to the Board of Trustees will open a Pandora’s Box that can never be closed. What begins as a modest “stipend” today, will inevitably grow over time. Simply do a search for Congressional salaries over time as an example of how, when given the opportunity, politicians love to pay themselves more and more money over time.
Our Taxes are already beyond excessive
In this time of flat incomes, reduced services, reduced staff, and skyrocketing property taxes, we simply cannot afford a new expense added to the budget. We simply cannot afford it. There are some that make the ridiculous claim that without payment, some people cannot afford to run for office. I think it is far more important that with our oppressive taxes, too many people can no longer afford to live in our town and this situation only reduces all of our property values. The taxes in South Orange are outrageous and we need our elected officials to find ways to REDUCE the budget, not INCREASE the budget by adding an additional expense to pay themselves.
I hope you will join me in expressing your opposition to these radical changes to almost 150 years of our Village's long proud history.