Point Beach Opposes State Bills that May Cut State Aid

The bills would reduce state aid to towns that reject state mandates for shared services with other towns

Towns will get less state aid if they reject state mandates for shared services if a set of state bills becomes law.

And the Point Beach mayor, most of the Point Beach Council and the New Jersey League of Municipalities are not happy about it.

Mayor Vincent Barrella and most of the council expressed opposition at their Tuesday night meeting to the portion of the companion state Senate and Assembly bills that would financially penalize towns if they ignore a state commission's dictates for specific shared services.

Mayor Vincent Barrella said that if Senate bill, S-2 and its companion Assembly bill, A-1171, become law, they could ultimately mean Point Beach loses as much as $200,000 in state aid and that it should be a concern for all municipalities in New Jersey.

"This should send a shudder down the spine of every mayor and local governing body member in New Jersey," Barrella said in an interview on Thursday. "This is a frontal assault on home rule."

Not everyone agrees. At the Tuesday night meeting at Councilmen William Mayer and Tim Lurie voted no on the opposition vote.

"There are things in this bill that could be positive, to help towns share services," said Mayer, who was sworn in on Jan. 1. "There is some merit to the bill."

"If you want to vote against home rule, go ahead," Barrella countered. "People who bought homes in Point Beach did so because they want to live in Point Beach."

Barrella said he believes, from talking to local residents, that they want to continue to live in Point Beach, with its current level of services, and not be merged into Point Borough or forced into any shared services they don't feel will save money or work efficiently.

"Well, if you don't want to merge with the Borough, what about Bay Head?" Lurie asked.

Bay Head Mayor Wiliam Curtis and Council President John DeFilippis could not be reached for comment.

Lurie also said at the meeting that any proposal for shared services still goes to the voters.

"But if the voters turn it down, the state cuts the funds they think we would have saved," said Councilman Bret Gordon, who was sworn in on Jan. 1. "Anything that invalidates the vote of the residents is something we have to oppose."

Councilman Stephen Reid said, "I work in Trenton and the last thing I want is for Trenton to tell us how to run our town. I'm with you, Mayor."

Reid is a senior vice president at Capital Public Affairs in Princeton.

The council's 4 to 2 vote has no immediate, direct impact on the progress of the bills, but serves as an opposition message to Trenton.

Copies of the council's resolution opposing the bills are being sent to Gov. Christie, state legislators, mayors throughout the state, the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Conference of Mayors.

Who is backing the bill, how it would work and where it stands

Sen. Stephen M. Sweeney, (D-Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem), is sponsoring the bill, with Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth, and Sen. Kevin J. O'Toole, R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic.

Derek Roseman, a spokesman for Sweeney, said in a telephone interview that Barrella is "overreacting" when he cautions the bill could make Point Beach lose $200,000 or any amount of state aid.

"This is not going to be the state rushing in telling the town what to do," Roseman said. "It's not going to be a shotgun wedding. This bill calls for an independent state commission to meet with the towns to try to work out the best plan for entering into shared services or consolidation to save money.

"For some towns, there may be no way to share services and save money, so the commission won't say they should do that," he said. "But for other towns, that are ignoring opportunities to share services and save money, the commission will work on a plan with the towns to do that."

The process would call for the state commission, the Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC), to come up with a plan that would be put to a public referendum.

If the referendum vote is against the state finding, the state would reduce state aid by the amount it thinks the town would have saved through the shared service it is rejecting. Towns can appeal to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

"In my opinion," Barrella said, "the likelihood that the DCA will override the commission is infinitesimally small."

The bill says there will be no aid reduction if towns reject a "consolidation," which is a merger of municipalities into one.

While Roseman acknowledged that towns who ultimately reject the commission's findings are subject to reductions in state aid, he said that would be a last resort after the towns have ample opportunity to present their facts and figures to the commission and after putting the matter to a public referendum vote.

"If the commission says the town can save money through a shared service and the town votes it down, then we're not going to continue to subsidize inefficient government," Roseman said.

Barrella said he could go along with the bill if it stopped short of usurping the will of the public.

"But the fact that the public can vote on this and the state can penalize the town for not going along with what they want is what I object to," he said.

Carrots and Sticks

Legislators felt compelled to include a punitive element in the bill because, Roseman said, "nothing else has worked."

"We tried offering grants and encouraging towns," Roseman said. "We tried the carrots and they didn't work. Now it's time to break out some sticks."

The New Jersey League of Municipalities has a different take on why the "carrots" didn't work.

"The carrots had been eaten by the time they got to us," said Michael Cerra, the League's senior legislative analyst in a telephone interview. "It's historic. It's nothing new. Years ago the towns had handshake agreements on what we now call 'shared services.' The state didn't back them up with enough administrative and financial resources.

"The state has provided seed money for towns from time to time and then taken that seed money away," Cerra continued. "There have been promises the state would help absorb up-front costs and then that was taken away. The state has never made sustained efforts to assist towns with this on a long-term basis."

So when League officials spotted the threat of state aid cuts in the bill last year, they started meeting with Sweeney and his staff. As noted in a Dec. 8 League letter on its website, the primary concern is the "penalty part" of the bill, Cerra notes. (The Senate bill was introduced last year as S-2794 and re-introduced this year as S-2 and the Assembly bill had been A-3918 and is now A-1171.)

"We don't think there should be a penalty, we're hopeful that can be worked out," Cerra said. "The focus needs to be on removing barriers to have cost-effective shared services."

"We've been working with the legislators on the language, they've been very open to us and we've had a lot of discussions," Cerra said. "I'm not quite sure where we'll land. These are two bills that will likely be heard."

Roseman said the Senate bill has been referred to the Community and Urban Affairs Committee and will probably also be reviewed by the Budget Committee.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said in an email on Friday that Christie is working with the key legislators on the bill.

"The Governor supports consolidation and shared services as a way to take control of costs and further reduce property taxes," Drewniak said. "He has spoken enthusiastically about his common goals with Senate President Sweeney and other legislative leaders in this regard, and we continue our work with them as this legislation progresses."

When asked if Christie supports the punitive portion of the bills, Drewniak said, "For now, I’m not going to add anything, which is customary during development of legislation."

As for the amount of state aid Point Beach has received in recent years, the amounts are as follows, according to data from Point Beach Borough Business Administrator Christine Riehl:

2011 $571,362.00 2010 $571,383.00 2009 $743,790.00 2008 $758,362.00 2007 $885,723.00 2006 $869,704.00 2005 $869,718.42 2004 $869,704.00 2003 $803,051.72 2002 $797,252.22 2001 $797,786.00

Barrella said he urges any municipal officials who have questions or objections to contact the League of Municipalities and their state legislators as soon as possible.

"Right now the snowball can be stopped, before it starts rolling down the hill," he said.

Darlene Motto February 02, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Opinionated, The two things that concern me as a resident of my town, are the schools and safety. I do not want to jeopardize the safety of our town or the reputation of our schools. It blows my mind, we have some residents that go after our schools and police. I understand times are tough, some salaries in certain positions might have gotten out of control, like Mike said with Union employees, hopefully we can compromise so we can help the entire town move forward, like he said it did not happen over night, it was decades and I am sure if anyone of us received nice raises over the years, would not say, "NO" I do not want the raise. However, I have a problem when we have residents that will complain that they do not want approve money, so we can put more police or specials to train them for snap, crackle, pop program to keep control over the summer crowds, or that they do not think teachers deserve a fair raise to teach our students, yet they have no problem spending money freely to pick up businesses garbage, giving back a tourist tax on a Hotel room that most towns, states and countries pay, it is a world wide tax and paying for boardwalk damages. We need to set some priorities, It is great to have all these ideas, but you need money, and some things should always come first and safety and schools should be first and second on the list, the facts are, if your schools and safety goes down, so does your town.
Darlene Motto February 02, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Opinionated, Lastly I wouldn't know if I know you, being you choose to hide under an alias name. I do not know if you have kids in the schools or if you are even interested in the schools, I find those who do not, really does not care and are all for lets consolidate all these towns, or someone who used the system and their kids are done do not care either, for the life of me, I will never understand why? Everyone should be concerned about their schools and safety, it is the two most important issues that are going to determine if your homes values are going to stay up or go down. Just look at some of the choices other towns made, it is hard to go back as a town once you decided to make bad choices for the town you decided to buy in. What do think happened to all the towns that were at one time considered nice? Lastly I feel at least I am giving MY OPINION wether you agree with or not. I find many will not say it out loud, or they will hide behind an alias name on issues. I think some is just being a bit of hypocrite on many issues, they are thinking the same in their head or hiding under an alias, not willing to say it out loud or under their real name. I do not know what town you are from, but let's say you are from Point Pleasant, I am sure if the state wanted you to consolidate with Brick and Lakewood and become one, you would have a huge problem with that. Or lets say you are from Wall and they wanted them to consolidate with Lake Como, their would be a problem.
Darlene Motto February 02, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I lived in Wall Township for a few years, they do not even want to admit West Belmar is part of Wall, they pay Wall taxes. The Allenwood section, does not want anything to do with all the other areas of Wall, some will say I am not from Wall, I am from Allenwood, that is who they pay taxes to also. They want to be considered a separate town. Then you have the other issue, Wall does not have their own zip code, being Wall is such a huge town, different areas that borders another town is where the residents will pretend they are from, so if you live on the border of Spring Lake, Spring Lake heights, Sea Girt, Manasquan, Belmar etc... that is were they pretended they are from, guess who they pay their taxes too and the school they attend. They built these big beautiful houses in Wall, on the Neptune border, after residents moved in, they did not realize that the zip code would be Neptune, then they made a stink, we want our zip code changed, I do not live in Neptune, I live in Wall, selectively they did not want to be connected to that town. That is the reason I moved out of Wall, so as far as your remark goes for me to get off my "High Horse" I was never on one to begin with. I am not going to go into detail of some of the remarks that I might have made about schools, it was in general. Unfortunately I worked in a school system for 10 years, I seen plenty of what was going on, to many issues that were clearly wrong that the school would not admit and always denied.
Opinionated February 03, 2012 at 03:59 PM
You know Dalene, I have come to a conclusion. I retract the "high horse" connotation because many people speak highly of their towns out of pride. Unfortunately some feel a need to debase other towns in order to build up your town and I feel you are guilty of that. As for my handle, I thought it described me very well. However, considering the amount and length of your posts, I have no choice but to relinquish the title "Opinionated" to you. I hope you will attend (if you don't already) ALL of your Boro Council meetings and express your concerns and views. Good luck in dealing with your "summer visitors". I'm certain Mr. Barella would welcome your presence.
Darlene Motto February 05, 2012 at 01:25 PM
You know Opinionated, Everyone thinks they got it right or has a handle on issues very well, as you claim about yourself or myself. Well, you do not. It is not about right and wrong, it is called an Opinion. Everyone has them and are entitled to them wether you agree or not. That is what makes this country so great and what we stand for. I am not guilty of anything. I speak my mind, because it hurts it bite my tongue. I do not care what town someone lives in, that is their choice and the reason they purchased the town they are in. If you do not like your choice you move like I did several times. I lived in several towns, Newark, Elizabeth, Linden, Rahway, Clark, Manasquan, Wall and Point Beach. The town I disliked the most was Wall talk about "High Horse, and what I have seen. The town I loved the best was Elizabeth. I do not want the state of NJ dictating or forcing the town I choose to be in with any other town. Not, Brick, Pt. Pleasant, Bay Head etc....Like I said I am sure the other towns do not want to consolidate in another town either. I am sure many are thinking this, but they are afraid to speak out loud with their opinion because of a possible backlash so they whisper their opinions behind everyones back. I wouldn't want your name, so you can keep the "alias" name. I am not afraid to reveal my name, but I guess you are, so keep on whispering your opinions 'OPINIONATED' I try to attend Boro Council meetings, so I can see first hand what transpires myself.


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