Christie writes to Corzine

The governor-elect just sent this letter to Jon Corzine:

Dear Governor Corzine:
I am writing to follow-up on our conversation last week, and to thank you for your kind and gracious offer to take all possible steps to ensure a smooth and orderly transition. During that discussion, you indicated that you would be taking additional steps to address weak revenue collections that threaten to deplete this year’s planned budget surplus and aggravate next year’s multi-billion dollar structural budget deficit.
As you know, I am deeply concerned about the state of New Jersey’s economy and the effects that the deepening fiscal crisis for both fiscal years 2010 and year 2011 could have on New Jersey taxpayers. In order to prevent the crisis from worsening and budget hole we are in from deepening during this critical transition period, I respectfully request that you take the following actions:
1) Place all discretionary grant and state aid accounts, including, but not limited to, Special Municipal Aid and Extraordinary Aid, in reserve.
2) Freeze all new paid appointments and re-appointments to boards and commissions.
3) Line item veto any legislation with a fiscal impact on the State budget.
4) Veto all discretionary spending items in authority minutes.
5) Freeze all professional service, public relations, and consulting contracts.
6) Freeze all pending regulations that would incur additional spending.
7) Freeze all nonessential hires, promotions and raises.
8) Freeze all non-contractual personnel actions, including title changes and transfers.
9) Freeze all transfers of funds and directory letter appropriations.
10) Freeze all new leases, long term purchasing contracts and other long term obligations including certificates of participation.
11) Freeze the retention of all new outside professionals, manager selections, and new contracts for managing alternative investments with respect to New Jersey’s pension funds.
12) Advise and provide advance notice to transition staff and major financial transactions.
13) Strictly enforce, and refrain from relaxing, any existing spending constraints and financial controls.
14) Hold 50% of all operating accounts in reserve to ensure that agencies are not spending more than half of their operating budgets prior to the commencement of the second half of the year.
As we have advised your staff, I have named two experienced New Jersey natives and budget experts, Bob Grady and Rich Bagger, as Co-Chairmen of the Transition Task Force on Budget and Taxes.
I have asked them to assemble a team to make recommendations to address the budget crisis and put New Jersey on a more sustainable fiscal footing. I ask that your staff continue to cooperate with them in providing information and assistance.
I appreciate your cooperation on these vitally important matters.
With best wishes

Chris Christie


About fsnowflack
Fred Snowflack was editorial page editor and a political columnist for the Daily Record of Morristown for almost 12 years. He has won numerous awards for editorial and column writing from the New Jersey Press Association and has written a blog on county and state politics for the last three years. He lives in Ledgewood in Morris County.

39 Responses to Christie writes to Corzine

  1. SolomonDrek says:

    P.S. From Christie to Corzine:

    Don’t forget to fill the refrigerator and pantries in the kitchen before you leave.

  2. P says:

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. The heavy lifting will start in about 60 days.

  3. Ted says:

    This is typical behavior from a new boss. First the new guy blames the old guy. Christie was subtle but recommending these actions suggests that Corzine isn’t aware of the issues or is ignoring them.
    Step 2, the new guy forms a committee, which Christie did in the last two paragraphs
    We’re still waiting for specifics. Christie wants Corzine to stop governing now and defer all decisions to his administration but Christie shy’s away from the tough stuff.

  4. P says:

    First, it’s somewhat comical that anyone associated with the party of Obama would be whinging about Christie blaming his predecessor since that is all the Obama has done the past year (e.g. “Grab a Mop”).

    Second, for someone, who’s been demanding that Christie TELL US HIS PLAN NOW, to criticize him for asking the governor to freeze as much state spending as possible in the midst of financial crisis, which by the way was mainly precipitated by eight years of Dem control, is both silly and hypocritical. Especially when that same person likes to tout his MBA and vast financial background. Any new CEO coming into this type of situation immediately asks all departments to STOP SPENDING, except for things that are legally required (current salaries, contracts, etc.) until they can formulate and implement an overall plan of attack. It’s Financial Management 101.

    Christie won’t take office for another two months and he realizes that an outgoing administration can do a significant amount of damage in that time. Until he is governor, this type of request is not only reasonable, it is essential.

    Third, once he’s governor Christie will have the whole state government at his disposal. For now, he has to rely on a committee to serve in its stead. Suggesting otherwise is also foolish.

    So enough whining about the governor-elect. Keep your powder dry until he takes office. There will be enough to complain about then. Anything earlier continues to smack of sour grapes.

    P.S. What would you have him do RIGHT NOW??? Go to St. Barts?

  5. Ted says:

    Unlike Christie, Obama detailed a plan and implemented it when inaugurated.

    Secondly, Henry Ford II once said;”Never complain”. That is, a good manager will take what he’s given and manage appropriately.

    Third, Christie’s committee will supposedly recommend action but their only blueprint is a letter suggesting Corzine cease governing. Christie needs to lead and throughout the campaign and post election, he’s fallen flat.

  6. P says:

    First, Obama’s “plan” was, and is, to continue to borrow a Trillion Dollars a year for the Next Decade to enact all the social programs that Dems have been pining for the past forty years. It hasn’t slowed unemployment, as he promised, so I’m not sure what value his “leadership” has provided. So it’s probably a bad example, especially in light of the fact that a governor cannot borrow his/her way out of a deficit (thank you Steve Lonegan!) the way a president can.

    Second, “Never complain?!” – Please take your own advice before asking others to do the same. Oh, and the complete quote is “never complain, never explain.” Funny that the guy who is always demanding answers left the second part out . .

    Third, part of leading/governing is Managing a Budget. When revenues aren’t meeting expectations, part of “leading” is to ensure that spending is reduced to match the revenue loss. It’s Budgeting 101. Guess they didn’t teach that where you got your MBA either.

    Since Christie will never measure up to your standards, I’ve told him not to bother to try. And I also told him to “never explain!”

  7. P says:

    One other note – You can now join the Christie team (yes, even you Mr. “I Know Everything”) –

    Just submit your “resume” and let me know when it’s posted. I’ll put in a good word for you. Time to “Grab a Mop!”

  8. Ed France says:

    Great letter. Good start to cleaning up some of the mess in Trenton. So happy to see people like McGreavy and Corzine out of power.The air is fresher down there now. This proves that hopes and dreams can come true no matter how dark things seem.

  9. Ted says:

    For some reason I’ve been unable to respond to Pbrain’s foolish comments. My posts seem to get sent to blog limbo. But I’ll try again.

    As to Pbrain’s Obama remarks, Obama inherited a mess, didn’t complain and moved forward to resolve problems. Christie’s approach seemed to be that he’d develop solutions after the election. Well, the election’s over and so far the only plan is to form a committee to make suggestions. I guess this “very different kind of governor” told us he’d make the tough choices but had no idea what they might be.

    As to Pbrain’s other remarks, I know what Mr. Ford said. I was just going easy on Christie’s whiny complaints.

    Third, Corzine combined cost cuts with tax increases to solve budget problems. Christie however, locked himself into a strategy of only cutting cost. As Snowflack wrote the other day, that’s a tough sell. He’ll have to cut deeply into popular programs. There’s no indication that he’s up to that task.

    Pbrain constantly refers to the public option as an entitlement or social program offering free coverage to all. But he contradicts himself by saying it’s supplemented through taxation. HELLO, the entire program is funded by taxes and we all pay. The concept is while EVERYBODY pays, not everybody needs services. It’s the same theory under which private insurance companies operate. Ergo, it’s not entitlement, it’s insurance. The difference is the public option doesn’t include a profit motive but incorporates delivery system improvements.

    Regarding Pbrain’s criticism of my views on local school boards, benefit costs above 4% are statutory spending cap increases and there’s no incentive to negotiate union buy in’s. Further, annual increases pit the NJEA against 7 volunteers whom I occasionally run into at Shop-Rite. Spending cap waivers are a legislative issue and it’ll take more than 7 of my neighbors to break the union. In the mean time, cutting slush funds takes away the ability to award excessive pay hikes and will cut taxes.

    BTW Since 6/30/2007, RT has kicked around a $3 million slush fund. An extra .5% salary increase for the district’s 240 teachers, earning an average of $55,000/year totals $66,000. Chasing $3 million rather than $50,000 seems to be the right choice.

  10. P says:

    Unfortunately, Mr Doty continues to take readers of this blog for uniformed ignoramouses . .

    e.g. –

    1.) Obama doesn’t complain . . actually, it’s the one thing he has proven good at – blaming Bush for all his problems. That, and not making decisions.

    2.) Christie has months before he takes office. He’s given the governor his immediate request for slowing the hemorrhaging of state finances, and as you’ve noted, it’s up to Corzine to govern until late January. I assume you are not recommending a coup?

    3.) Re:Ford – You intentionally left off the end part of the quote because it didn’t fit your argument. Kind of a cheap trick.

    4.) Corzine never cut anything except our rebates, and aid to municipalities & school districts. And that was only because the income tax revenues went in the toilet and he didn’t have a chance of getting the legislature to increase them any further. He did raise the sales tax and promised it would all go to tax relief. Of course, that didn’t happen.

    5.) Never said that HCR would offer free coverage to all (another lie/distortion), and to keep saying it isn’t an entitlement (and a welfare program to boot) proves that your are truly clueless or a bad liar. Medicaid and Medicare are not insurance programs, and neither is any of the programs that Congress is proposing. In any real insurance scheme all participants believe that the coverage they are receiving is commensurate with the premiums they pay. The three programs all fail this test miserably. Stop pretending this is anything but the government stepping in and taxing some to pay for health care for others.

    6.) For the FINAL TIME – there is nothing in state code that automatically increases the cap on the local tax levy just because health care benefits exceed the cap (and the state heath plan). A district can request a waiver, but it isn’t a mandatory adjustment. But regardless of your inability to read NJ state law, why should a district continue to provide 100% taxpayer provided, gold plated health care plans to all its employees? The increases to those plans will always exceed the state cap, and will simultaneously drive taxes through the roof and help destroy public education.

    7.) Actually, all it takes are 4 of your 7 neighbors to stop (not break) the union. If they are not prepared to fight for your kids and taxpayers they should step aside and let people who will fill their seats.

    8.) Chasing your alleged “slush” fund has obviously gotten you nowhere. But it has changed the focus of attention from where it should be – the ever burgeoning staff comp packages, and moved it to your “7 neighbors.” I also doubt that the average teacher in the district only makes $55K, and the percent increase that should be cut is more like 1.5 – 2%. And you have to look at all staffers, not just teachers. With an annual budget of $47M, your staff salaries should be about $30M, and 2% of that is $600K every year, and growing. Add in the crushing health care increases and you are talking about $1M per year.

    I doubt, if you ever find the strawberries, oops, I meant “slush” fund, that it will either stop your district from spending too much, or stem the increases in compensation. But keep on pushing that rock up the hill.

  11. Ted says:

    Pbrain, the slush fund has been found and acknowledged by the auditor. The only difference is the interpretation of it’s use.

    Pbrain, to quote Casey Stengel, “You could look it up” The average salary is as I quoted. And a 2% cut in RT would total $260,000

    As to Pbrain’s other remarks, I know what Mr. Ford said. I was just going easy on Christie’s whiny complaints.

    Pbrain, you again fail to detail how a local board can break the union or stop them if you prefer. I’ve been part of a board that held the union for more than 2 years. They ended up with a 4.2% increase. Now tell us tough guy, what’ your strategy?

    Pbrain, Health Care costs in excess of 4% are statutory spending cap increases. Again, You could look it up.

    Using YOUR definition, HCR is not an entitlement. Are you know redefining the word?

    Corzine cut rebates to help close the budget gap. How’s Christie going to handle things? There are only two choices. Increase taxes and/or cut spending. I hope he doesn’t cut the programs you like.

    I’m not sure how including Mr. Ford’s complete quote changes my argument. I guess you just like to say stuff without thinking

    Actually Christie’s the one asking Corzine to stop Governing immediately…Unless he gets the OK from Christie first.

    Not many presidents have done as much as Obama in their first year and a half, much less 9 months (or 8 years in the case “W”.

  12. P says:

    Re:My #1 on Obama above, don’t just take my word for it, here’s a famous columnist’s take on the Prez to-date –

    “If we could see a Reduced Shakespeare summary of Obama’s presidency so far, it would read:

    Dither, dither, speech. Foreign trip, bow, reassure. Seminar, summit. Shoot a jump shot with the guys, throw out the first pitch in mom jeans. Compromise, concede, close the deal. Dither, dither, water down, news conference.”

    Bonus points to the first person to recognize the author.

  13. Ted says:

    Pbrain, that’s opinion, not fact

  14. P says:

    You have to look at total staff costs, not teachers’ average salaries. What was the total for RT? It isn’t $13M. And your .5% salary increase drop is too little too.

    Strategy is “Just Say No.” You obviously said “Yes” to 4.2%, too high. Any health care savings??

    1.) The adjustment to the cap is limited by the growth in the state’s plan – i.e., if the SHBP is up 5%, that’s the most the cap can grow; and 2.) An adjustment to the cap does not mandate that the district spend the money as you have claimed in the past. In other words, juts because health care costs are going up at a rate higher than the 4% cap, the district does not have to automatically accept the costs or pass them on to their taxpayers.

    There are many entitlement programs that don’t provide something to everyone, just those that qualify. My definition is just fine, and refutes your ludicrous claim the HCR will not create a new, massive entitlement program.

    Cutting spending to match the loss in revenue is just fine. It’s the way you used to do it in the business world, wasn’t it???

    Please name three important, tangible things that Obama has “done.” Pass HCR – No; Close Guantanamo – No?; Stop the Recession – No; “Fix” Afghanistan – No. Lots of talk, virtually no achievements.

    P.S. Given how little the Left thinks of Bush, using him as your benchmark for Obama’s success is pretty lame. Why not compare him to the Left’s favorite Prez – FDR. How does he stack up against his accomplishments?

  15. P says:

    As always, as firm grasp of the obvious. Of course it’s an opinion, but the way you dismiss it, as if all the junk you write is factual, is, as usual, laughable.

    I also notice that you didn’t bother to identify any of Obama’s great accomplishments, so I guess your line about how he’s achieved more than most presidents was just more “Doty Puffery” (aka BS).

    But moving on to current events, now that George Norcross has completed his legislative shuffle, what great things can we expect from your friends in Trenton?

  16. Ted says:

    p>Pbrain, the classroom teacher head count is 180, total staff is the 240 head count I provided. Slush funds are far in excess of the extra .5%…or even 2%. Regarding contract negotiation, “just say no” makes a nice bumper sticker but there are realities to consider. There will be taxpayers on both sides of the issue and they’re equally important to decision making. Teachers can’t strike but they sure can gum up the works. Financially, any settlement will be retro active so an increase has to be provided for until the contract is settled. If the accrual is too little, there will be a large balloon payment. Come on tough guy, give us a strategy.

    We’re talking about statutory <b?spending cap adjustments that must be passed on to taxpayers. You may not like it, Pbrain but that’s the way it is.

    Pbrain, Pbrain, Pbrain entitlements don’t provide for everyone. Per your definition they provide a free service to those who need it. we all pay taxes, so we’d all be paying for health insurance.

    <p<There's a great article in yesterday's DR that spells out Christie's budget choices. It's not as easy as your simplistic view.

    Regarding Obama, the recession is over. Jobs creation lags (maybe you can google some info), Guantanamo is in the process of closing and we’re a few hours away from a decision on Afghanistan. Not too bad for 10 months work. Stack that up against “W’s” 8 year record.

  17. P says:

    Then you need to really figure out where all the money is going, because a district that’s says it’s only spending about a third of its operating budget on compensation ($55,000 * 240 = $13,200,00 + benefits [another 25%?] would be about $16 – 17M total); against a budget of $47K doesn’t add up. Forget about your $3M slush fund, there’s over $10 -15M in ANNUAL spending that is above and beyond what a typical district your size should be spending.

    And you can’t compare your “slush” fund to a 1 – 2% salary savings each year, because once you use up your “fund,” it’s gone, but those 1- 2 extra percent increases are cumulative and compounding.

    I’m not sure what you mean by a more detailed strategy. Holding out for a fair settlement is pretty descriptive. As for accruals, once you decide what to accrue, you need to stick to that number or something less, obviously. Otherwise, why were you holding out?! You sound like you gave up before you even started negotiating.

    As far as cap adjustments, why don’t you post whatever language you think forces a district to pass along any/all increases because everything I’ve read in the budget guidelines contradicts what you are saying.

    Re:Insurance – You really need to reread the definition of insurance. It doesn’t cover taxing people for cosmetic surgery so you can fund health care for others. That’s welfare. Medicare, Medicaid and the new HCR program are all welfare programs. The rich get taxed to pay for the poor. And they are all entitlement programs because anyone who meets the criteria for the program is ENTITLED to it, and the government has to find a way to pay for it, regardless of how fast the cost is rising. Not sure why those concepts are so hard to understand/admit.

    Last time I checked, you needed two quarters of growth before you could formally declare a recession over. But after Q4, we’ll probably see that, although there’s still a good chance that things may backslide given some of the one-shots the pumped money into the economy. But I wouldn’t exactly cheer for Obama as his “stimulus plan” was weak, took too long to get the money earmarked into the economy, and was mainly a payoff for his liberal backers.

    As far as Afghanistan, it’s about time; and who knows how/when Guantanamo will close, certainly not Obama. As I noted, why not stack him up against one of your lib heroes because no matter what I say Bush did, you’ll never accept it as what you wanted.

  18. Ted says:

    You’ve been concerned about teachers, so those are the stats I presented. Every facet of the education industry is labor intensive and all those people earn a salary. Pbrain. they’re not all NJEA.

    The slush fund is carried from year to year Pbrain. If you get rid of it and prevent future slush, there is a permanent tax cut. To stop the union takes legislative help and even if successful, education is labor intensive.

    Once again you avoid the realities: backlash from NJEA and sympathetic unions. angry parents, financial concerns, etc. Hey tough guy, how long should a contract go unsettled?

    Obviously you’ve never read the guidelines, procedures and laws. BTW we’re talking about spending increases.

    On insurance you’re wrong again. Everybody is taxed and everybody that wants coverage is eligible.

    I’m glad you admit the recession is over and didn’t argue the lagging indicators.

    I can’t decipher the nonsense in your last paragraph

  19. P says:

    All school district salaries are impacted by whatever contract the NJEA agrees to, so the important numbers are total staff, and total staff salaries.

    I guess you can’t find any language that agrees with your oft-stated, incorrect reading of the law on cap changes, otherwise you would have posted it in support of your “position.”

    The word “probably” is not definitive, so I am not agreeing that the recession is over. In fact, yesterday the numbers for Q3 were revised downward by 20%. We’ve got a long way to go before we are out of the woods.

    As far as your “slush fund” rant goes, I’ve tried to point out two things – 1.) you’ve been making it for years and it has gotten you no where (definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result); 2.) I’ve pointed out some real areas to look at, but you are too focused on your “white whale” to recognize sage counsel. So I’m done wasting my time with you. Just let us know if you ever have any success, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Hopefully, saner people whose districts have contracts expiring in the near future will ignore your doomsday advice and press their local boards to only agree to contracts that limit comp increases to at least 2% below “county average”.

    As far as my last paragraph, I’ll put it in terms that your probably used yourself on your own kids – Don’t compare yourself (or a president you admire), to someone who’s accomplishments you don’t respect (in this case, Bush). Given that, compare Obama’s “accomplishments” to FDR.

    P.S. I have zero hope that the NJ Legislature will ever do anything to bolster school districts’ position at the bargaining table. In fact, they’re more likely to impose “arbitration” before they go back to “final offer.” A district waiting for Trenton to save it might as well “Wait for Godot”.

  20. P says:

    Re:Trenton “Helping” School Districts to save money –

    Exhibit # 2,675 from the NJSBA –

    Senate Panel Holds Food Service Wage Bill

    The Senate Labor Committee on Monday withheld action on a bill that would require school districts to pay the prevailing wage to private food-service workers. NJSBA strongly opposes the measure, S-2850, because it would drive up costs for school districts that subcontract cafeteria services.

    The committee held S-2850 on Monday so that it could fully ascertain the bill’s financial impact. It is expected to consider the legislation again on Dec. 7.

    Local school boards have used subcontracting as a tool to direct limited resources to the classroom and to reduce the burden on local property taxpayers.

    In a position statement provided to the committee on Monday, NJSBA explained that its recent survey of local school officials identified nearly $39 million in annual savings through subcontracting. The most common fully subcontracted service was cafeteria operations, cited by 38 percent of the responding districts.

    By requiring that food service workers receive the prevailing wage, which is significantly higher than the minimum wage, S-2850 would reduce these savings.

    S-2850 also runs counter to a provision of the state’s current Accountability Regulations, which requires school districts to operate self-sufficient food service operations.

    The legislature does whatever it’s Labor Masters demand.

  21. Ted says:

    Pbrain, the districts total budget is $47,000,000 about 80% of that is salary or $37.6 million. An extra .5% salary increase is $188,000. If you’d rather chase that instead of an auditor verified $3 million slush fund, be my guest.

    Regarding procedures, I’ve provided references for document, page and paragraph in this and other forums. Apparently you have a reading problem.

    “Probably” is the word you used in regard to the end of the recession.

    The attempt to discredit fell flat. A comparison of the current president the prior one is aways valid.

  22. P says:

    Looks like Christie didn’t ask the governor to do enough on the budget front, contrary to the “opinion” of some –

  23. Ted says:

    Pbrain, looks like Christie dug himself a hole. He blames Corzine for “the nation’s highest taxes”, promises to be a different kind of Governor who’ll straighten the mess without while lowering taxes.

    Okay,I guess he’ll get away with not lowering taxes right away but he’s still locked into solving our problems with spending cuts alone. Wow! I wonder if Christie realizes what that will do to the unemployment rate and by not giving tax cuts, businesses won’t move back to NJ and create new jobs.

    I wish he had a plan.

    BTW I don’t blame you for giving up your school argument. You really don’t have a clue what the issues are

  24. P says:

    I’ll worry about Christie AFTER he takes office. In the meantime, you should worry that your Dem buddies keep spending like drunken sailors even though the state is in a sinkhole of their making. It’s amazing that even staring at a almost $10B structural hasn’t stopped them from proposing more new spending initiatives.

    As far as RT BOE, first, your payroll isn’t 80% of your Operating Budget, but your staff comp is 80 – 85% of Operating Expenses.

    Second, you keep posting these false choices and proclaiming your “choice” as the better one. It isn’t between your $3M “slushie” fund and a minuscule .5% change in comp. Given that comp is going up by about 5% per year, districts should be trying to halve that amount. In the case of RT, that would be a savings of $1M the first year, $2M the second, $3M the third . . ad infinitum. Plus, you could still pursue your one-time “savings” of $3M (or whatever the district’s been stuffing in their mattress).

    Third, here’s the reference that you refuse to supply re:Health Care costs above the 4% cap –

    Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-38, local and regional districts shall not adopt a budget with an increase in their general fund tax levy that exceeds their tax levy growth limitation calculated as the prebudget year adjusted general fund tax levy plus the adjustment for increases in enrollment multiplied by four percent, plus adjustments for a reduction in total unrestricted state aid from the prebudget year, and for an increase in budgeted health care costs.

    The following two cap adjustments are incorporated into the DOEnet software and are available to regular districts:
    1. Adjustment for increase in health care costs
    2. Adjustment for decrease in state formula aid

    The adjustment for a budgeted increase in health care costs applies to regular districts with a projected increase in health care costs that exceed four percent of the prebudget year. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:7F-38(d), the allowable adjustment cannot exceed the average percentage increase of the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), as determined annually by the Division of Pensions and Benefits. The average percentage increase of SHBP is preloaded into the DOEnet budget application. Health benefits are defined as group health and prescription only. It does not include dental, vision, life or any other additional
    employee benefit offered by the district. For use in 2009-10, the average percentage increase of SHBP is 7.0 percent. Therefore the maximum adjustment is the increase of health care costs that exceed four percent but not greater than 7.0 percent, or a maximum of 3.0 percent.

    Please explain to all where a cost increase in a district’s health care plan above 4% (or the SHBP, whichever is greater) requires them to pass that cost along to their taxpayers? An automatic increase to the cap does not obligate a BOE to ask their taxpayers for the money, it just allows them the opportunity.

    The real issue in NJ is that we have too many public employees getting too much in overall comp, with annual increases that are completely unsustainable. This issue must be addressed at all levels of government, especially at the BOE level since their costs are more closely tied to salaries and benefits than any other part of state, county or municipal government. Unless each and every BOE is willing to hold the line on REASONABLE increases to compensation, we are sunk. This means salary increases that are in line with the rise in CPI, and health care packages that share costs between the taxpayer and the employees.

    Part of holding the line on staff costs also includes eliminating all the ridiculous Golden Parachutes that local governments have set up for employees when they retire. RT has a $5.5M obligation to its township employees that will have to be covered as people retire. I almost fell off my chair several months ago when I saw you quoted in the Gannett series about our out-of-control taxes –

    “A large severance package such as the one paid to Chief Kimble was accrued over almost 30 years. The total payout may have been shocking, but the annual impact on tax bills was small,” said Ted Doty, a frequent critic of school spending in Rockaway Township. “The main culprit of high property taxes is the schools, which currently represent 65.6 percent of Rockaway Township’s property tax bill.”

    I realize you have a hard-on for the RTBOE, but I can’t believe that Mr. Ted “the Taxpayer’s Friend” Doty could so blithely dismiss such an egregious payout, especially knowing that it was really just the tip of the iceberg.

    P.S. When the state finally starts cutting school aid your BOE will announce, quite proudly, that they will be able to weather the storm because they tucked away a few extra bucks. 😉

  25. Ted says:

    Wow, 804 words to respond to a mere 112. It appears Pbrain adheres to that old adage; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance try to baffle them with b*** s***.

    First of all, New Jersey’s fiscal woes didn’t come about during the last 4 years much less the last 10.

    Now you want to get into a silly semantic argument? You see P/R as different from total compensation…and that somehow proves your foolish argument? Come back to reality, Pbrain.

    The slush fund covers compensation increases in excess of 4% for a 3 year contract. The fund increases with each year’s revenue in excess of expense (aka profit or excessive property tax), it’s relieved with the extra .5% annual increases…ad infinitum. If you get rid of the slush, BOE ‘s can’t award 4.5% increases. Apparently you’re too wrapped up in argument to see that point. Pbrain, the disease has got to be treated, not the symptoms.

    Pbrain, you’re a foolish man. Since ALL school funds are tax revenue, any cost increase above 4% requires increased taxes or program reductions. The quotes you presented indicate an automatic cap increase for health care costs above 4%. Other costs above 4% must reduce other line items, be approved by a 60% majority of voters or be funded by the slush (or reserve)

    Education is labor intensive. Staff reductions are called for one thing at a time.

    Walt Kimble’s severance results from past contract negotiations. Are you suggesting we break a legal contract?

    PS state aid reductions have already begun…about two years ago. But staff continues to see increases in excess of 4% because of slush funds.

  26. P says:

    People need a fresher on Root Cause Analysis – If a person steals to support their drug habit, is the root cause of their problem their A.) Thievery or B.) Drug Addiction?

    In Teddy’s story above, he would answer A., but he would be wrong. The answer, class, is B. (Drug Addiction).

    Why is this important you ask, because if you cannot identify the real Root Cause, you will forever address the symptom of the problem, as Ted continues to do.

    So to be clear, the problem in the case of the NJ Public Education System is that Boards of Education continue to sign contracts with all staff (driven by their deal with the teachers) that provide salary increases that are growing at a rate that the BOE (i.e., taxpayers) cannot afford, and supplying a benefit package that is increasing at a rate that the BOE also cannot afford.

    In the case of RTBOE, the “slushie fund” is just a way that the BOE masks its bad deal with the staff. Some BOEs just “steal” money from other places in their budget, and other districts (which have already cut all accounts to the bone) just eliminate positions to cover their excessive per person cost hikes.

    But in all cases, the NJEA Contract is the Root Cause.

    P.S. You need to be more clear and consistent regarding allowable cap increases due to health care cost increases.

    In an earlier post you said “We’re talking about statutory <b?spending cap adjustments that must be passed on to taxpayers. You may not like it, Pbrain but that’s the way it is.” (note – emphasis mine).

    But now, you claim that “The quotes you presented indicate an automatic cap increase for health care costs above 4%. Other costs above 4% must reduce other line items, be approved by a 60% majority of voters or be funded by the slush (or reserve).”

    So which is it – If a district’s health care cost increases by 20%, are they mandated by state law to force their taxpayers to pick up the “extra” 16% (above the normal cap), or does the state allow them (via an automatic cap waiver, assuming the 20% doesn’t exceed the increase in the SHBP) to pass the cost along, but not mandate it?

  27. Ted says:

    Pbrain, Pbrain, Pbrain. You continue to chase an issue about which you can do nothing. Even you, the great Pbrain cannot come up with a solution for a BOE struggle against the NJEA..

    Oh you advise “just say no” but fail to give details. It takes a board majority to say no so Peabtain, how do we get there, Pbrain?

    Angry teachers must, under law work without a contract and will have negative impact in classrooms. Oh I suppose Pbrain would say “Fire themlike Reagan did with air traffic controllers!” But Pbrain, it takes documentation, money and three years to get rid of a teacher. BTW over three years the entire board could change. How would you deal with that Pbrain?

    You suggest accruing only the amount the board is willing to pay but fail
    to provide a solution if your wishfull thinking doesn’t happen.

    Hundreds of parents will turn out at meetings in support of teachers, demanding contract settlement. how would you deal with that Pbrain? Oh you might suggest those parents represent a minority of voters…but Pbrain they’re the only people at the meetng or the voting booth.

    Pbrain your simplistic approach falls short in so many ways.

  28. P says:

    Sadly, what we have above is the rule rather than the exception on the vast majority of NJ BOEs. It is also a serious example of the self-fulfilling prophesy – We can’t win, so why bother trying.

    Why not educate your constituents on the realities of school board budgets? In any district, the vast majority of voters did not support the last budget (most budgets pass by less than 5%, and typically the % of people who vote in school board elections is 15 – 20%; therefore, the budget has the formal support of about 10% of the electorate).

    There’s a huge untapped well of people who would support your position if you said you couldn’t continue to support 4.5% raises and fully paid-for health care benefits which result in 85% of your budget increasing by 5% per year. Especially in this economy. Why not energize them?

    Did you REALLY try that? Or did you negotiate in secret and when everything was said and done announce that you got the “best” deal that you could?

    As long as you let “angry” teachers cower you, you will get the people who “do it for the kids” doing it to the kids.

    The NJEA is tough, so you have to be prepared to be as equally tough . . as tough as you are with the pursuit of your “slushie” fund. It’s a shame you didn’t channel that level of anger and commitment into contract negotiations. I’ve already demonstrated why it 1.) has a bigger pay-off; and 2.) is the real root cause of the problem.

    As long as we have people with your defeatist attitude serving on our local BOEs, NJ’s public education system is doomed.

    P.S. Some times the “simplest” answer (which you incorrectly categorize as “simplistic”) is the correct one.

    P.P.S. Thanks for finally recognizing that I am “great.”

    P.P.P.S. Don’t think that I didn’t notice that you DIDN’T answer my question about passing health care cost increases on to our taxpayers. I guess you finally realized that you were misinformed on the topic.

  29. Ted says:

    Actually, I did answer the health care question but let me clarify. All costs of a school system, either above OR below the 4% cap are paid by the taxpayer. Where have you been?

    And the vast majority of voters who go to the polls vote in favor of school budgets. That’s why we’re discussing the problem. Pbrain, you’ve gotta pay attention. Every year I write about tactics used by districts to supress the vote I discuss the issue with county, state. and local officials. Hopefully, vote by mail will open things up.

    I don’t support 4.5% raises…aren’t you paying attention? It’s just that my approach is more effective than yours. People like you bitch about teacher pay but do nothing about the issue. I followed the money that allows payment of the excessive inreases and am working on eliminating it.

    So there you have it Pbrain. I’m working on voter involvement as well as the funds that provide excessive pay increases. You on the other hand think you know the answer and offer unrealistic, not well thought out, simplistic solutions.

    Currently I’m in contact with a CPA working for the DOE to resolve another issue. So what have you done lately, Pbrain?

  30. P says:

    Once again, you’ve dodged my question, so I will repeat it here to give you another chance to “clarify” your remarks – If a district’s health care cost increases by 20%, are they mandated by state law to force their taxpayers to pick up the “extra” 16% (above the normal cap), or does the state allow them (via an automatic cap waiver, assuming the 20% doesn’t exceed the increase in the SHBP) to pass the cost along, but not mandate it? You’ve made this claim in the past, and your response in graf 1 (as usual) does not answer the question.

    I wouldn’t classify 50 – 55% of people voting for a school district’s budget as being favored by “the vast majority of voters,” especially when you consider the fact that so few people vote, which is the norm for BOE elections.

    As for your “success” rate, all I see are mind-numbing LTTE. I doubt they are bringing any additional people to the polls, or to your cause.

    I will continue to advocate pushing the BOEs to be tougher at the negotiating table, and focus on explaining to people how agreeing to annual 4.5% salary increases, as well as continuing to provide health care plans that are 100% paid-for by taxpayers and are increasing at 7 – 10% per year, makes no economic sense, and cannot and will not work under current budget laws, “slushie” fund, or no “slushie” fund.

    It has the beauty of being – 1.) the TRUTH; 2.) SIMPLE (i.e., easy to understand, but not simplistic); and 3.) the ONLY real hope for saving public education.

  31. Ted says:

    Pbrain. all school funding is provided by taxpayers. I don’t see your point. Health care costs in excess of 4% are statutory spending waivers, meaning a super majority vote is not required. To meet any increase, other costs within that fund can be cut or passed through to tax payers. mandate is your word, not mine.

    The number that votes is the only number that counts in the final analysis. Don’t make assumptions about the rest. If we increase the number voting, then we can discuss them. My approach is to write letters, pursue expansion of voting hours and advertise “vote by mail. Letters have been quite effective in the past: i.e. budget failures, referenda failures, halting plans for of all day kindergarten. And I’m currently working with someone from the DOE on financial reporting…What have you done lately, tough guy?

    You can push for tougher negotiations but what’s your specific plan? Harass those are fighting for the same things you desire?

  32. P says:

    ALL government spending is paid for, in one way or another, by taxpayers. I’ve never said otherwise, and that was never my point, but it was a nice try to dodge the question I keep asking.

    I’ve asked you to confirm what you mean by your statement – “We’re talking about statutory <b?spending cap adjustments that must be passed on to taxpayers. You may not like it, Pbrain but that’s the way it is.”

    Do you continue to claim that BOE must fully pass along any increases in health care costs? If they reduce spending in other areas to hold the overall Tax levy at or below the 4% cap, I would argue that they have not.

    And yes, you’ve used the term mandatory spending increases before to describe the process as you see it.

    When you are trying to win a political battle (and that is what the teachers’ contract is), you have to think bigger than trying to appeal to a majority of the puny 15% of the voting population that votes on school board elections. Bush won in 2004 by expanding the overall voter base. I would think if Rove & GWB could do it on a national level, Mr. D., with a bit of effort, could do the same in RT.

    I would also not classify people who agree to bad contracts as “those (who) are fighting for the same things (I) desire.” If they were, I wouldn’t be pressing my case.

    You write letters, I write Blog Posts. Po-ta-toe, Pa-ta-toe.

    You’re only targeting the RTBOE’s “slushie” fund, I’m targeting all the collective bargaining agreements state-wide. Big difference.

  33. P says:

    Expect stories like this to be the norm during BOE budget season until and unless the NJEA stops its ridiculous demands for “county average” salary increases along with fully paid for “Cadillac” health care benefits –

    While some people keep arguing with their BOEs about arcane and obscure accounting issues, the NJ Public School system is going down the drain because union leaders have convinced their membership that to accept anything less than what they got in their last contract (or the district one town over received last year) is an absolute insult to their profession.

    The math doesn’t work.

    I’d really love to see a reporter press NJEA President Barbara Keshishian about where she thinks school districts will get the money to pay her members what the union consistently demands at the bargaining table. They need to cut their expectations in half.

  34. Ted says:

    Christie gave an exclusive interview to Gannett the other day. Perhaps you should read it. The Governor elect recognized the state’s responsibility in closing loopholes that allow excessive health care benefits to pass through to tax payers. Further, he recognized the need for legislative intervention in reducing annual pay increases.

    “Arcane accounting issues” are the vehicle used to feed our broken education system i.e. create slush funds. That’s a battle that can only be fought at the local level. Trying to change locally controlled school boards “collectively” is like sitting into the wind.

    As to the statutory cap increases, either the costs are passed directly to taxpayers or money is drained form funds designated for students…and if students suffer, people are more inclined to pass budgets that increase taxes. Pbrain, you foolishly argue a distinction without a difference.

  35. P says:

    We’ll see if he can get the union-owned legislature to pass either, and if they do, how many additional holes will they add to the Swiss cheese that are in the current caps. Note – Hardening the caps without any language that strengthens managements hand at the bargaining table will only make the situation worse.

    Not sure why your first graf lauds potential changes at the state-wide level, but your second graf claims that things can only be accomplished at the local level?!

    Finally, regardless of how the whole health care cap shakes out, you still have the issue of salaries, for which there is no cap waiver, and as demonstrated by the story I referenced, it is impacting the quality of education in that district.

    You need BOEs to stand up and fight for the kids in their district – No salary increases above the average operating budget increase level (which is lower than the 4% tax levy cap); and teacher contributions towards their health care such that the annual increases are reined in to a similar level.

    As I’ve noted before – They are the Root Cause of the problem.

  36. Ted says:

    The Press can’t get the NJEA to back down. Failed budgets, a new breed of board candidates and expanded involvement in local school elections might do the trick. Vote by mail, a worthwhile Corzine legacy should be marketed.

  37. P says:

    The Pen is mightier than the Sword (or Chalk)!

    Starve the Beast . . you sound like a Reagan Conservative! I love it.

  38. Nice!, found your blog on Yahoo!.Happy I finally tried it out. Unsure if its my Explorer browser,but sometimes when I visit your site, the fonts are really small? However, love your page and will check back.Bye

  39. P says:

    Here’s one item that Christie should have also demanded – Don’t let the rich people leave NJ!

    According to this story – , NJ has experienced a mega-migration of moneyed people out of the state in the past four years.

    We can thank all of the governors going back to Byrne for that, but especially McGreevey and Corzine, whose policies, taxes and mandates have created such a poor environment for small businesses and wealthy people, that they just move elsewhere. Remember that the next time you hear a politician saying “we just want the rich to pay their “fair share!”

    Also, this means that NJ will suffer through a very painful recovery because the economic activity that drives sales tax will not be as robust as it should be, and income taxes will also be below traditional levels. As the story notes, “In New Jersey, the top 1 percent of taxpayers pay more than 40 percent of the state’s income tax.”

    Just another piece of the Corzine “Legacy.”

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