Unhappy on the right

That would be Rick Merkt, the one time assemblyman and one time gubernatorial candidate from Mnedham Twp,
In an oped that we will publish over the weekend, Merkt says it was the governor “who blinked” by abandoning the 2.5 percent constitutional cap.


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.

59 Responses to Unhappy on the right

  1. Ted says:

    Rick, I don’t think Christie blinked. I just think political reality set in.

  2. Ken Bank says:

    Since we already heard from Christie’s primary opponent Steve Lonegan I guess the other primary opponent wants to stay relevant and not get left out.

    Could this be the beginning of a Lonegan/Merkt axis against Chris Christie?

  3. Ed Ramirez says:

    This from a guy that in fourteen years in the assembly did absolutely nothing is funny. His claim to fame was that he stopped a lot of bad legislation. Rick could not carry Christies brief case.

  4. Tom Lenox says:

    Fred, I’m not exactly what you’d call a big Christie supporter. Who cares what Merkt has to say, though? He’s been called a washed-up, has-been by GOP loyalists in the area. His gubernatorial campaign was a joke.

    Aside from the legislation for students with intellectual disabilities to walk with their same-age peers at graduation (Which I totally support, to be fair), what did Merkt ever accomplish while in Trenton?

  5. Kevin Nedd says:

    The reality of all this is that neither proposal will “LOWER” property taxes, whic is what Christie promised while running for governor. When Christie puts something on the table that will result in the “LOWERING” of my property tax bill, only then will he ave done something of value. If he doesn’t, he will suffer the same fate as Howard “the duck” Popper.

  6. Dan Grant says:

    You can’t lower property taxes without changing the way we fund education in this State and the Legislature isn’t going to do that. If you eliminated all Local Government the average Property tax payer would save about $90.00 a month but that means no police, no snow plowing, no library, no Recreation, no Tax Collector, no planning board, no health department. no local Court System. So buy a gun and a snow shovel and vote for Christie.

  7. P says:

    Memo to Nedd – Poppy is “dead,” so stop beating that horse. And if you think that Christie is going to suffer the same fate as Howard the Duck, then I have a slightly used bridge in NYC to sell you. 😉

    Dan – Not sure where you live, but in Morris county, most municipalities cost the average homeowner something in the neighborhood of $200 per month, not $90. School districts are still “king” at $500, and the county clips us for $100+.

    But saying that changing the way we fund education in NJ is going to lower property taxes in Morris county completely ignores the fact that it will raise income taxes by an even greater amount. The money has to come from somewhere, and given Morris county’s status as one of the highest per capita income counties in the country, you can be sure our residents will ALL be paying a lot more to “fix” the property tax problem.

    The real solution is dividing up the existing property tax relief fund more equitably. There should be a minimum amount sent per student, and it shouldn’t be $0 as it is today for dozens of districts.

  8. Dan Grant says:

    Average property tax bill in Morris County is about $7000 and 18 percent of that goes to Municipal Government (which is also funded by other non tax revenue.) An increase in the State income tax would insure that everyone contributes not just property tax payers on the cost of education and the increase in income taxes would be nowhere near the reduction in property taxes. Income taxes have the advantage (if you can call it that) of being based on you earning money. Property taxes are forever and it doesn’t matter if you run into problems and lose income they remain the same. Also in my Town the County takes as big a bite as the Municipality. You need to look closer at your tax bill.

  9. P says:

    Dan – you may want to recheck YOUR numbers. According to the state’s DCA – http://www.state.nj.us/dca/lgs/fiscal/2010_data/10mis/1421_mis_2010.pdf, Montville’s taxes are apportioned as follows –

    County – $12.7M (14%)
    School – $59.3M (65%)
    Town – $19.1M (21%)

    And according to Gannett’s DataUniverse site – The average property tax bill for all the towns in Morris county was $9,140 last year, so you can assume about $9,500 this year (Montville’s avg. house was taxes $10.8K!).

    And looking at other towns around Morris county, I think I was a bit conservative, munis actually take 20 – 25% of the avg. property tax bill.

    So you are wrong on the average tax bite, wrong on the size of the tax bite going to town governments and WRONG about your own town’s tax bill breakdown.

    Three Strikes, Yer Out!

    As far as raising our Income Taxes even higher to give us Property Tax “Relief,” haven’t we heard that siren song for the last 35 years. Every time they want to raise the rate we’re promised the Moon, but get less and less every time.

    Time to stop the insanity. Fix the aid formulas first so the suburbs get a fairer return on their current tax dollars. Right now the average town in Morris county probably gets back less than $.03 for every $1.00 it citizens pay in Income Taxes and the 1/2 of $.01 from the Sales Tax that’s “dedicated” to “relief.”

  10. Dan Grant says:

    I will admit that I looked at the county abstract of ratables and there seems to be some difference between those numbers and the States. Montville’s numbers also include $1.6 in an openspace fund for the Township which was voted on by the residents. That being said, I am not looking for the promise of “Property Tax Relief” we have all seen how that has worked out. I am looking for a restructuring of all Educational Expences away from property taxes not some minor aid for property tax relief. If you think you can control property taxes with minor caps on 65 percent of the tax collected your kidding yourself.

  11. P says:

    For you, it’s a cap on 86% of your property tax bill, not 65%. And a 2% cap with exceptions for health care and pensions (I doubt the enrollment or catastrophic exemptions will be invoked any time soon) probably limits your increase to about 2.5/2.75% per year. Much more manageable than the 4% Corzine cap with even more exceptions. That gave my governing body the opportunity to jack up taxes over 5% this year.

    Regardless of how you collect the money, the real issue is restraining the growth of expenses.

    Public Sector unions have to stop expecting salary increases in the 4 – 5% range. They also have to pick up more of their HC cost than the puny 1.5% of salary they have to now, AND, allow themselves to be moved into more affordable plans. Places that still have Traditional (fee for service) coverage can be paying as much as $25K for Family coverage.

    For now capping tax levy increases will keep the downward pressure on wages, but not HC. That’s why they need the “tool kit”, and eventually, a constitutional cap of increases, including the state and county governments.

  12. Dan Grant says:

    You are just not getting the point. I want a broadbased tax to pay for Education and reduce property taxes. You want a slow bleed that will keep the high level of taxes in place. They are at absurd levels right now and the only thing that is happening is that local Government is starting to replace taxes with fees and the burden to the home owner remains untenable.

  13. P says:

    We already have an Income Tax to fix the Property Tax problem. How’s that working??

    How much higher would you have to raise the Income Tax to compensate for a reduced Property Tax? Or are you also looking to jack up the Sales Tax too?? And if so, will there be any retails other than gas stations and restaurants left in NJ when we have the highest rates in the nation, by far?

    And after you’ve made all these wonderful changes, what stops the NJ Supreme Court from swooping in are re-allocating all the revenue as it sees fit a la Abbott? When you’re done with your master plan do you think anyone making more than $100K, and who isn’t employed by the state, county or local governments will want to live in NJ. And how many of them will escape to NY, PA or DE if they are close enough to commute?

    This past school year, Camden’s school district received about $266M from the state and $82M from the Feds to run its school system. Local tax payers put up $7.5M! The same as the year before, and again, the same for this year. In total, they spent over $28K per child.

    So changing the way we are taxed is just like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to have a better accounting of where or money is going, and the current systems that should have over $10B for tax payer “relief” needs to be more fairly distributed.

  14. Dan Grant says:

    P, You like to argue without reason maybe you just think your te smartest person in the world and if you don’t agree it mut be wrong. There is an old joke with the punch line “The Smartest Man in the world just jumped out of the plane with my knapsack”.
    For the third time the real problem is the need to pay for education through a broad based tax nt property tax relief not a cap on spending but a real reform of educational expence. I am starting to believe that this tax issue is prety much for whiners because it i a problem you guys love to talk about but really don’t want to do anything about. The other thing you want to abandon is the cities and the people who live there.

  15. Ted says:

    Dan, excessive cost is the problem not the method of funding municipal government or schools. A broad based tax spreads the burden but does nothing to stem cost growth. It’s kicking the can down the road, albeit a bit further than caps

    Since 2007, Corzine’s 4% cap kept taxes to an annual growth rate between 5-7%,. At those rates, taxes would double every 10 years. What will a 2% cap bring? Between 3 and 5% growth? A 5% growth rate will double taxes in 14 years…again kicking the can down the road.

    Christie began his journey with a call to cut spending but settled for Corzine’s policy of playing kick the can.

  16. Dan Grant says:

    Ted, One of the reasons that the costs are out of control is that local School Boards who are elected cater to local Parents Organizations and they are the primary votes because most people don’t bother with school elections. They also don’t have the will or ability to negotiate with administration or the teachers. Under a broad based funding State would bethe pimary negotiator and could also put caps on numbers of administrators and establish a salery guide for them. What is being lost in the equation is that most school districts have pretty good teachers and NJ is rated a consistant number 2 in the nation in education.

  17. Ted says:

    No Dan school boards cater to the teachers union who also direct the Parent Teacher Association.

    However, you’ve correctly identified staffing, contract negotiation and lack of voter participation as problems. But why not resolve those issues instead tearing down the old system.

    Let’s start with voting. Vote by mail was quite effective this year. In Rockaway Township it made the difference. The school budget passed per machine count but failed when all votes were counted. Since vote by mail is here, why not promote it more.

    With greater participation from voters, school boards would be forced to serve the entire community, negotiate better contracts and staff more efficiently. Dan, when you understand the problem, solutions a simple…and less expensive

  18. P says:

    Dan – Impress us with your vast storehouse of knowledge – What type of “broadbased” tax are you proposing? What would be the rates be? How much revenue would it raise to offset the money lost from the property taxes you’d eliminate or scale back drastically?

    You tell us you have The Answer, but all I see is gorilla dust.

    Oh, and how do you plan to address the rate of increase of local government spending? Does your plan allow for 4 – 5% salary increases and Cadillac health care plans that increase at 15 – 20% per year? If not, what are you doing to arrest those costs which drive 70% of your property tax bill?

    P.S. Never said I was the smartest person in the world, just a few IQ points higher than you.

    P.P.S. When I heard the knapsack joke it was about the “smartest” woman in the world, and her name was Hillary!

  19. Dan Grant says:

    P, Wrong, the joke is older than that, it was Henry Kissinger and it was a “Hippy’s” knapsack which establishes the time frame. Hillary was still in College.
    Both of you guys ignore the roll of decades of unfunded mandates from the Legislature on both Local Government and School Boards and the Courts mandate to provide an equal education to all of NJ’s Children. NJ doesn’t have the Top Sales tax in the nation and many states allow for local sales taxes to aid in the cost of local government and schools. Alabama for example has a combined sales tax of 12 percent wth local and state combinded. NJ’s Income tax is also not the highest in the nation when you count excusions to income but we do have the highest property taxes which fall painfully and disproportionately on people on fixed income. I would love to see school elections in November to increase participation but be prepared to shoot our educational standing in the foot because no budget is going to pass.

  20. P says:

    So you’re recommending a doubling or tripling of the Sales Tax as your broad based “solution”?? Aren’t sales taxes, especially ones that have zero exemptions (as any version that would be replacing a Property Taxes $$ would have to have) even more regressive than the current Property Tax scheme?

    Other questions –

    Neither Income or Sales taxes are stable sources of revenue as the current recession has shown. How do you handle a 20% drop in revenue – Cut support to schools and municipalities? Raise the rate even higher? People are freaking out about 5% cuts in total spending, what would 15 – 20% look like?

    Right now a lot of low income people don’t pay property taxes directly, their landlords do. So reducing Property taxes will shift the burden from landlords to renters. How “fair” is that??

    As for legislative and judicial mandates, I haven’t ignored them, but what’s your fix for that? Are you supporting Christie’s remake of the state Supreme Court? Have you protested in Trenton to get the Dems to stop adding costs to school districts and municipalities without financial support?

    Explain why you think moving BOE elections to November is a good idea even if it will result in destroying the schools?

    Right now your “solution” isn’t even a good slogan, much less a real plan.

  21. Ted says:

    Dan, I agree unfounded mandates are a problem for municipalities (not schools) and should be addressed.

    Regarding November school elections, there are logistical problems. For example a July – June school year would be covered by two budget years or proposed budgets would have to be prepared six months in advance instead of 2 as it is now. We already have vote by mail, why spend time and money (that we don’t have) developing new systems?

  22. P says:

    Ted – Not sure how you can say unfunded mandates aren’t a problem for schools . . . The constant addition of regulations, reporting and oversight, special ed mandates, expansion of education to include preschool for kids as young as three, definitely drive a district’s costs without a dime from the state. Note – It used to be pennies on the dollar, but with the cuts in state aid many districts are now fully funding all the programs the state mandates with no end in sight. That’s why you’re going to see several districts try to turn themselves into charter schools.

  23. Dan Grant says:

    There is also the issue that many districts deal with on special needs children and the costs associated with those needs. There is a level of expence that the state is supposed to start picking up the costs and that just never happens. BYT P. where do you get the idea that the Sales Tax or income tax would have to tripple to fund education and why do you assume that the reductions in property taxes wouldn’t be greated than the increase in other taxes. There are many states that don’t rely on property taxes.

  24. P says:

    Dan – What makes you think you wouldn’t have to double or triple the rates? Have you done the math? Do you know how much the Property and Sales Tax schemes generate in income every year? Do some research and then tell us how your “plan” would work.

    Unless you plan to cut the cost of education the amount of revenue would have to match or exceed the loss of Property Taxes.

    And dismissing my questions with a “There are many states that don’t rely on property taxes,” shows that you either know the answer, but don’t want to divulge how wrong you are, or, that you are really clueless, much like most political savants.

  25. Dan Grant says:

    P. I gather you are one of those who supported the Whitman Income tax cuts that stole revenue from Towns and incrased property taxes disproportionately. I served in local goverment and saw first hand the theft of the Gross Reciepts and franchise taxes and th pensionhollidays that have had such a bad effect on our pension system. I want abroad based tax for education to at least be studied because from everything have read on the subject it will give property taxpayers huge relief onver any increase in income taxes in which we rate 20th out of the fifty states. Forcing seniors ou of teir homes only leads to greater educational expense but I waste my typing because it is clear that you are one of those no it alls that never served a post where these things were your job. If I am wrong please tell me where you served. Snarkman.

  26. P says:

    Dan – Questions –

    1.) What is a “no it all”?

    2.) Why can’t you answer a simple question – What would the rates for either a higher Income tax, or Sales Tax, or both be to make up for the loss of the Property Taxes you would eliminate in favor of your “broad based” tax plan?

    3.) Do you even know how many Billions of dollars that are raised every year that go to pay for the schools? Or how much the Income Tax or Sale Tax schemes raise every year? You talk about what you’ve “read,” how about looking up that info and doing some basic arithmetic.


    As far as what you’re reading, it’s obviously socialist propaganda. Try this table from the Tax Foundation – http://www.taxfoundation.org/files/sl_burden_1977-2008-200808071.swf

    If you look at the most current year – 2008 (at the bottom) you’ll note that for the third straight year we are, sadly, #1. And that’s on a percentage of per capita income, not just absolute taxes paid. So once again, our problem isn’t where the money is coming from, it’s that we are way overtaxed in general.

    P.S. Have you been taking lessons from Nedd? “Where did you serve?” Really, can only those who have risen to the level of council/committeeman weigh in on these issues? As a Tax Paying American I am insulted by these “restrictions” that Libs try to place on my Freedom of Speech.

    P.P.S. You are wasting your time if you think I’ll ever agree to you “plan” of a new Broad Based Tax structure to replace Property Taxes without some real data.

  27. Dan Grant says:

    I don’t know to what level broad based taxes would have to go to reduce property taxes but it needs to be studied in a non-bias way but neither do you. You take a idealogues conservative approach which is either based in fear or greed. I do know that many states have much lower property taxes and still manage to educate their children.

    When you raise the spector of socialism you lable yourself as a wing nut and the point I was making about serving in local government is not about your right to have an opinion but rather how lacking of facts you position is.

  28. P says:

    Dan – You should have stopped at “I don’t know.”

    And your lack of curiosity is scary. It isn’t that hard to look up some of the info –
    How much does NJ spend on Public Education?
    How much comes from the state through the income Tax and one half of one cent of the Sales Tax?
    How much comes from local Property Taxes?

    I’ve done the research and that’s how I know that you’d have to more than double the take from the Income Tax, or almost triple the take from the Sales Tax if you eliminated Property Taxes as a source of revenue for public schools. It isn’t base on my “ideology,” it’s based on facts and mathematics. Wish we could say the same about your position.

    As for your claim that your “service” has provided you with some insight, in this case, it obviously hasn’t.

    P.S. The reason other states have lower property taxes is because they don’t spend as much as we do. As long as you ignore that issue and instead focus on where to get all the money that the politicians and public sector unions want to consume, no matter how many times you change the scheme, you’ll still be paying more.

    Back in the mid-70’s our governor swore that imposing an Income Tax would solve all our Property Tax problems. Today, we still have the highest Property Taxes in Americas AND one of the highest Income Taxes too. Real Progress.

    P.P.S. Explain to me how pointing all this out makes me a “wing-nut?” And how ignoring facts, mathematics and history doesn’t make you another feel-good liberal who’s doesn’t want the facts to get in his way? Kind of like Obama and Health Care “Reform”!!!

  29. Dan Grant says:

    P What is P anyway wy don’t you use your real name. P is something tha gets flushed.

    “Kind of like Obama and Health Care “Reform”!!!”
    That really says it all about any of your positions and your ideaology. If you don’t believe that all People are entitled to a reasonabl level of heathcare then why would you care aboutthe level of education all children should be entitled to?

    MY term in public service showed me that you can’t wag the dog of property taxes with minor cap restrictions. Anyone who says you cn is just lying for political reasons. We have always had caps. It isn’t new just as there were always way to side step the cap.

    When Whitman took away control of the Gross Receipts and Franchise Taxes and gave pension hollidays to municipal government payments she did it to reduce the Inome Taxes and who was it that benefited from that? The top 10 percent while property taxes began to rise to unsistainable levels. YOu want to do nothing that will help and I am saying have an honest study of the efect6s of a broad based tax WITHOUT regard to idealogogy. You just want to stick to yours without even considering an alternative. Every Senior forced out of a 3-4 bedroom room home is replaced by a family with children that need to be educated.

  30. P says:

    Hahahahahaha. Even beats Ted’s “Pbrain” mock. Unfortunately, as I’ve noted in the past, when people start questioning my name, my CV, etc., I know their argument is weak and/or non-existent. I love my anonymity, just like you, Ted and Nedd love your notoriety. And in the end, does it really make a difference?

    As for my position on HC and Public Education, you’ve once again assumed facts not in evidence. What I care about is honest accounting, not a lot of “ends justify the means” feel good legislation that just puts us further in debt.

    Still waiting to see how your new magical tax plan would work. Hard to believe that you’d propose a “solution” with nothing more than a few slams about a governor who left town a decade ago.

    Last time I checked the Income Tax’s top rate was raised substantially since 2004, and yet we still are broke, have no rebates and Property Taxes have continued to climb at an unsustainable rate. Why not tackle the Expense side rather than the Revenue side?

    And if you want to talk about inequity, how about every twenty/thirty-something year-old having to pay into bankrupt Medicare and Social Security systems that will never pay them back what they put in, unlike today’s seniors who are getting a fabulous return on their ‘investment”!!!

  31. Ted says:

    P, your premise is inaccurate. You assume those using their real name seek notoriety. Actually, it’s because they have nothing to hide.

    As to what “works” for funding public education, any tax will do the trick. Once again the issues is cost control. Corzine tried caps and the policy failed. Now Christie is going to try the same policy. That is a cap on all costs except the ones causing the most problems; pensions and health care…Christie also created an exception for “emergency expenditure. Just a guess, but I think we’ll be seeing quite a few emergencies next year…and once those funds are in the base, they’ll grow as surplus at 2% annually.

    Dan’s broad based approach spreads the burden but does absolutely nothing to slow cost growth. That’s the reason the NJEA has promoted the idea for years

  32. P says:

    For school districts and municipalities, salaries are by far the biggest issue. So the fact that they fall under the cap is critical.

    Health care is in second place, but growing at a rate that has made it a real issue, and if left unchecked, will soon match salaries as the #1 problem driving property taxes. And that’s why it is one of the critical “tool kit” items that must be passed.

    Pension costs for school districts are relatively minor because the state “pays” most of the costs, including TPAF and SS contributions for the teachers. In fact, many districts have bigger problems with their energy and transportation bills. Pension costs are an issue for municipalities, however.

    As for Emergencies, that waiver does not apply to school districts, and I suspect that the state will only be making allowances for towns hit by natural disasters, not ones of their own making.

    The latest caps should keep next year’s Property Tax increases in the 1.5 – 2.5% range. And if that’s where they stay until the legislatures gets up the courage to stand-up to the public sector unions and force them to really contribute to HC and accept plans that aren’t as rich as the current Cadillac bennies, we will still have high Property Taxes, but the growth will be a fraction of what we’ve seen for the past decade.

  33. Ted says:

    P, salaries are the highest cost issue in education…and it will always be since education is a labor-intensive industry. Whether 4 or 2% compound growth , yes salary is a problem but will be limited by the cap. When salary growth is limited but pension benefits are not, tbargaining units take current salary to the max and go nuts on the non-restricted Benes like pension and health. And regardless of whether the state or local pays, it’s taxes (you’re making Dan’s argument)

    As far as emergencies go, are you trying to say that if a boiler breaks down, all the surplus is gone and a district can’t cover under the 2% cap kids freeze? P, emergencies are exceptions for schools and expect several next year

    Based on experience your property tax growth estimate is a bit low. The 4% cap held taxes to between 5 and 7% growth. In addition, expect the “timing game”. Districts are famous for increasing prop tax by 2 times the cap. You see, when a school year increases by 4% , that equates to 2% on a calendar basis…where have you been?

  34. P says:

    Ted – Read the law – No exceptions for school districts for emergencies. And would everyone in the education profession please get a better argument for an “emergency”, the boiler breaking has worn out its welcome.

    As far as paying its share of the school distircts’ pension costs, the state hasn’t, although it’s continued to accumulate the liability. That will be one of the next things that the legislature attacks because no one wants to continue to fund the current broken system.

    Not sure how you get to 2x cap. Under the latest cap, the average statewide was 3.7% last year, under the 4% cap.

    P.S. When a district increase its levy for a school year 4%,it equates to 2% applied to one calendar year, and 2% for the next, but it only covers half of each year. If you string them together, it still comes out to 4% for the whole calendar year, even under your fuzzy math.

    P.P.S. But I still agree that the paramount issue is to attack costs and the rate of increase of the big drivers – salaries, health care & pensions. They should not be considered beyond a district’s control as it is so often put. And if districts can’t control them, then bring on the tool kit caps.

  35. Ted says:

    Trust me, no one really buys the boiler argument but no one will ever call the bluff. Not even Christie. Now I’ll call your bluff, give me the specific cite from the bill.

    Taxpayers pay teacher pensions, no matter the funding vehicle. And make no mistake NJEA goals won’t change. They’ll just take less current salary and more in pension. A compromise that kicks the can while allowing Christie to look tough.

    Give us a reference for your 3.7%. Is that total property tax or just the school portion?

    The timing issue may be over your head but every school fiscal year, July-June covers the 2nd half of one calendar year and the first half of the subsequent. Because Government uses calendar, only half the 4% is called increase. When the subsequent year begins the clock restarts and the 2nd 2% in not an increase

    I don’t think you understand the term “labor intensive”; salaries are and will always be the major cost driver in education even if you cut salaries. Now cutting those salaries is either a subjective determination of the value of teachers and/or a staffing choice to cut the total. You’re not qualified to do either.

    Finally, you say “tool kit” caps as if you know what they are. Olay, I‘ll bite. What are some of them?

  36. P says:

    Ted – Cannot cite something that isn’t there. You said it includes a waiver for “emergencies,” you cite the language that supports your case.

    The state didn’t break out the various components of the tax increases, the 3.7% is the total damage.

    never seen a BOE state their increase for one-half of the school year. Not sure what type of fuzzy math/voodoo economics your guys in RT use, but they are an anomaly. Point us at one budget presentation that shows a BOE’s tax levy increase this way.

    Labor Intensive – “Trying to explain simple budgeting to Ted!” Of course we know the public education system is Labor Intensive – Labor costs eat up over 75% of all the money spent.

    I didn’t say “cut salaries,” I said “cut the rate of increase.” There’s a big difference. Do I need to explain that to you too? And what makes me any less qualified to make that statement than you, the BOE or the NJEA?!

    As for the Tool Kit, #s 5 & 22 are the most critical (if also the ones least likely to pass) –

    Bills effecting municipal and county government:

    1. Constitutional amendment to impose a 2.5 percent cap on increases in the property tax levy increases for municipal, school and county taxes, cap banking is allowed.

    2. Constitutional amendment to place a 2.5 percent cap on spending for state government operations (excluding state aid to municipalities and school districts and direct property tax relief); cap banking is allowed.

    3. Reform in selection of arbitrators for union contracts.

    4. Arbitrators are mandated to consider impact of union contracts on property taxes, no such requirement in current law.

    5. Arbitrators are barred from making contract awards that exceed 2.5 percent cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

    6. Pension benefit reform – eliminate eligibility for state retirement systems for non- government groups and associations.

    7. Pension benefit reform – cap sick leave and carry forward of vacation for current employees.

    8 & 9. Shared services reform – when local units decide to share services current law requires buyout of union contracts, bumping and other civil service protections that destroy the efficiencies of the merger; this proposal eliminates certain civil services protections when services are shared. (Two bills required to amend different statutes).

    10. Allow employee furloughs by local government to save costs.

    11. Allow counties and municipalities to opt out of civil service municipalities by ordinance or referendum initiated by 15 percent of the voters.

    12. Public employee discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

    13. Police employee discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

    14. Firefighters discipline reform – reclassify many offenses as minor to avoid lengthy and costly hearings for relatively trivial infractions.

    15. Employee discipline reform – revise appeal process of employee disciplinary hearings to reclassify many offenses as minor.

    16. Revise layoff rules to allow less senior, but more essential employees to avoid bumping.

    17. Give the state Civil Service commissioner more day-to-day control as when the Department of Personnel was a freestanding department.

    18. Increase testing and appeal fees for civil service promotional exams.

    19. Allow Civil Service commissioner to make seasonal appointment for nine months.

    20. Allow municipalities to offset property tax refunds against State income tax refunds.

    21. Expand parties that may bring challenges to Council on Local Mandates to includes groups, like the League of Municipalities. (Currently, only individual municipalities can do this and is too costly for one town to “go it alone.”)

    Bills effecting public education:

    22. No school contract award in excess of 2.5 percent cap, inclusive of all salary, benefit and other economic contract provisions.

    23. School districts could once again impose a “last best offer” contract under certain circumstances.

    24. Executive county superintendents approval of all union and superintendent contracts. No approval of contracts with:
    * Salary/benefit increases exceeding the 2.5 percent cap;
    * Pupil contact time per day as set by regulation;
    * Minimum number of work as set by regulation;
    * Prohibition on contracting out auxiliary/ancillary services.

    25. Executive county superintendents would be required to implement sharing of school business functions across districts and with municipalities.

    26. Pension reforms similar to those affecting municipalities.

    Bills effecting higher education:

    27. Revise fact finder decision standards (when awarding a new employee contract) to account for decrease in state aid level, effect on tuition, and benefits already provided to employees.

    28. Designate state colleges and universities as employer of record for collective bargaining.

    29. Allow state colleges and universities to hire faculty members for a probationary period.

    30. Remove classified employers from Civil Service status and include them within each institution’s personnel system.

    31. Allow separate workers compensation program management for colleges.

    Bills effecting election reform:

    32. Require only single ballot to each household instead of multiple ballots to all voters residing in household.

    33. Move school and fire elections to November.Here is a breakdown of Christie’s proposals:

  37. Dan Grant says:

    ” Dan’s broad based approach spreads the burden but does absolutely nothing to slow cost growth. That’s the reason the NJEA has promoted the idea for years”

    Actually by being under state control for wages, because of a broad based tax, you stand a much better chance of controlling wages. All including Administration would become state employees and you would eliminate this insane Local Board policy of making Administration personal “Free Agents” always looking for the next district fool enough to pay them more and they always find one.

    Teachers are another matter. The cost of living requires a certain income level like it or not. Good Teachers, and that is most of them, deserve it. Everyone seems to want to cheapen the job. Education will suffer and so will America. We keep looking downward to hurt people and that is not where the money is.

  38. Ted says:

    Dan, what you propose is the elimination of local control. I’m sure the NJEA would like this situation but I ‘m sure municipal residents won’t stand for further imposition of state rules or disproportionate disposition of funds. Dan, local control of education is as old as this nation it isn’t going to change in our lifetime.

    The problem is a local board’s ability to negotiate on a level playing field. Just fix that problem and stop seeking union support for your next political campaign.

    Dan, good teachers do deserve good pay but when their average salary exceeds the state average that argument falls apart. Equally foolish is the COL argument. Teachers can live wherever they wish. Off the top of my head I can name two mid career RT teachers earning $80,000 plus salaries who commute from PA, a lower cost of living area. If you’re going to argue COL, why shouldn’t we adjust their compensation to fit the area in which they live not work?

  39. Dan Grant says:

    Local control is a myth and has been for a long time and now it is even more deminished with an imposed cap. Local voters only had a best a 3 percent control over the local budget. As far as the actual running of the district it is really mandated by the County and the State.

    As far as a level playing field that is up to the Local Board to have the backbone to control costs. They don’t. the 4-5-6- percent increases are in their provence and they haven’t shown a willingness to fight the local unions. Under a state contract and state guidelines for a pay scale it would take the control out of the hands of local boards and let the State pla the bad guy.

    I think it would work and reduce local property taxes which don’t just need a cap they need to be lowered.

  40. P says:

    Grant – Why not run the whole show from Trenton – Schools, municipalities, counties . . . April Fools. The only thing worse than local control would be a centralized command and control bureaucracy with the unions dominating the landscape.

    And you still haven’t adequately described your “broad based” tax, how it differs from the current Income tax (which is broad based, but has solved nothing), or why this would magically force us to cede all control of our school districts to the cleptocrats in our state’s capital (but not municipal government?).

    I think you’ve really gone off the rails. Come back to us Daaaaaannnnnnnnnnnn.

  41. Ted says:

    Local control is far from a myth; it’s just that local power has been abdicated to collective bargaining units. I’m not sure were you got the 3% control number but I think you mean to say signed contracts are fixed costs and not locally controlled. If so, you’ve sold out to the NJEA mentality.

    First of all labor agreements a semi fixed at best. That is they’re valid for only three years. And they are not imposed on districts, local BOE s negotiate the deal. Now in the past union influence over local boards has been strong, it change thought process… as evidenced by your views.

    Christie is changing that. He’s exposed many union excesses and broken the emotional stranglehold over the public. He also highlighted the extreme drain of education on the state economy. The approach is putting control back in the hands of voters.

    The system worked quite well this year, a 49% failure rate for budgets and in RT as well as Roxbury there was exceptional success.

  42. Dan Grant says:

    P. Let me tell you who is off the rails and that is the people like you that don’t seem to get it. Trenton already runs our lives as far as education they just don’t help pay for it. Either you are in a vey high income tax bracket, don’t own a home or are just an idiot that doesn’ want to solve the most pressing problem most homeowners have and that is the property tax. You say do nothing or simply stop providing a quality education because it is all the fault of the “cleptocrats” Many States have State sales taxes and then either county or municpal sales taxes that help solve this problem. Righ now property tax payers pay 96 percnt of the cost of education along with building the buildings and facilities.You can blame the excesses of Unions but the truth is that the locally controled educational system is a political system and without the protection of unions, the employees become political plums to either gain favor or be fired on a political basis instead of cause.

  43. P says:

    Grant – 1.) Knew you couldn’t just walk away. 2.) The state, using our Income and 1/2 of one cent of our Sales Tax, actually pays for 40% of the cost of the public education system in NJ. Unfortunately, because the state supreme court now dictates the system’s aid formula, we get screwed. Just shifting the revenue stream from one form of taxation to another isn’t the real issue. It’s the fact that the whole system costs too much, and the suburbs are treated like a piggy bank. It’s a great system if you’re a member of a public sector union, or an Abbott district.

    So in summary -We have an Income Tax, a Sales Tax and a Property Tax, all of which pay for our public education system. What other tax would you like to add (or increase) to fix the problem???

    BTW – Your ignorance on this matter is mind-boggling.

    P.S. I fall into none of your three categories.

  44. Ted says:

    Dan, last year the state funded 8% of the local budget in RT. And that’s after the 4th quarter withhold of aid. After this year’s aid cut the contribution is still over 3%

    Now if the state takes over the contribution becomes 100% but the amount that constitutes 100% is no longer the choice of local residents and the NJEA gets to consolidate its efforts on Trenton,,,just when the local electorate wakes up.

    Don’t spend all those NJEA contributions in one place

  45. Dan Grant says:

    “The state, using our Income and 1/2 of one cent of our Sales Tax, actually pays for 40% of the cost of the public education system in NJ”

    Well you have answered my question about you being an idiot. You pretend to know all and really know nothing about This subject. Get a County abstract of ratables and take a look at the precentage of local property taxes going to education. It isn’t 60 percent it is between 90-96 percent for all of Morris County. I haven’t a clue where you get your 40 percent number unless it comes from the 31 Abbott Districts alone. We can’t begin t fix what most people like you can’t understand. Again a direct question. Do you have an income so high tht you would pay more in income taxes then your property taxes, Do you even own a home or do you pay low rate of property taxes.

    Ted, I don’t get any support from Teachers Unions as you well know they endorse the Republicans in Morris County.

  46. P says:

    Grant – You started off days ago saying, “You can’t lower property taxes without changing the way we fund education in this State and the Legislature isn’t going to do that.” The numbers I gave you were for the State as a whole because that’s what we were debating.

    The fact that you have no clue about how much public education costs, or where the funds to pay for it come from is just another example of how you toss out garbage (that you claim as fact), which then leads to your ridiculous claims about how we can “fix” the problem.

    Educate yourself and then come back to us. Most of this info is available on the web if you know how to do a search. Right now you’re just embarrassing yourself with every new post.

    P.S. I’ll even give you a head start – http://www.state.nj.us/education/stateaid/1011/ has lots of useful inf. And then look at this budget – http://www.asburypark.k12.nj.us/asburypark/lib/asburypark/documents/USERFR2010.htm?1857Nav=|&NodeID=109 and explain to us how your own district can educate about 50% more kids for 10% less – http://www.montville.net/207310118165242230/lib/207310118165242230/Budget%20User%20Friendly.HTM And then explain why we shouldn’t spend more of our time trying to ensure that the money already collected isn’t spent more wisely.

  47. Dan Grant says:

    First off if you are so proud of your “informative posts” start by using your real name especially if you are going to be so insulting. Nothing short of that is cowardice. Second take a look at your own property tax bill and your towns school budget. You can determine the amount of educational funding that comes from local propety taxes if you own a calculator. You are governed by hate so ask a friend to help you see what I am talking about. You will see that, outside of the Abbott Districts, local municipalities pay on average 94-96 percent of the cost of education and that doesn’t even take into consideration the cost and maintainance of the buildings and facilities. Clearly PROPERTY TAXES are not something you care about.

  48. Kevin Nedd says:


    With respect to your first point, it will never happen because it requires courage. End of discussion.

  49. Dan Grant says:

    Kevin, You are 100 percent right. I have no idea why a person would feel they have a legitimate position and not put their name to it. I do see “P’s” reason because he is a pretty arrogant and insulting guy and doesn’t want his neighbors to know what he is like so he hides.

  50. P says:

    Grant – People who call people “idiots” shouldn’t whine when they get undressed because of their lack of knowledge or ability to do financial analysis on budgets. They also shouldn’t moan about “hate.”

    Grant/Nedd – I’ll consider posting my real name when Fred finds a group of posters who don’t practice the Politics of Personal Destruction as you two love to do.

    Nedd – Re:”petty” and “arrogant,” check the mirror dude, you are the epitome of both.

    P.S. Calling me a coward or lacking courage hasn’t worked in the past, what makes you think it will now? And everyone else can see that you two are more interested in hurling insults than cogent arguments.

    P.P.S. I’m still waiting for Mr Grant to flesh out and justify his “broad based” property tax replacement plan. In Morris county the state currently provides 8 – 15% of the cost of public education, depending upon how you do the calculation. As far as statewide, the Abbotts get over 60% of the total aid, but there are also many less wealthy places that get a substantial amount of aid from the state.

    He still hasn’t described how changing which taxpayer pocket the money comes from fixes the real issue. All he cares about is having HIS property taxes lowered! Come up with a real plan and maybe you’ll garner some support Mr Grant.

    P.P.P.S. Grant – Do you know how much financial support the state provides to your own district this year?? Hint, it isn’t $0, or anywhere near that number.

  51. Kevin Nedd says:

    More trash talk from a coward who is too chicken to post with his real name. End of discussion.

  52. Dan Grant says:

    Your just another right wing zealot. There are plenty of them around so you shouldn’t be afraid to use your real name. You guys have gotten away with this deflection of name calling to the point where the “Media” just calls it bickering allowing the substance to go unanswered. You still haven’t responded to any of my questions about which tax hurts you more. Why don’t you start there.

  53. P says:

    Bye Nedd, again.

    Dan – You proposed a bogus solution and I’ve been waiting since your original post for you to explain to all of us how/why it makes any sense for anyone but you. And your latest question ignores my previous answer – It isn’t about shifting the burden from one tax to another, it’s about lowering the overall cost. The public sector unions love your POV – Don’t talk about cost, just who we plan to have pay for our salaries and benefits. When we’ve maxed out one source (property taxes?), let’s just tap another -sales tax and/or income tax.

    So stop pretending that you can ignore the question by calling me names – What are the details of your “broad based tax plan” to replace the current property tax? What would the rates look like? Simple questions if you understand the issue and the current revenue sources and amounts. Do YOU?!

    P.S. Ensuring a fiscally sound basis for any proposal doesn’t make one a “Zealot,” but constantly harping on a “solution” for which one has no real understanding does.

  54. Dan Grant says:

    What is clear is that you don’t. The present system of payments is unsustainable and your answer is to attack middle class people because they have a Union which you like all Conservatives hate. Your figures on Montville are wrong and you try to twist them to appear that you are right. You won’t answer the question about which tax is higher for you so I guess that is an answer. The whole Conservative Movement is all about the “Me” generation and all you give is “No” to any proposition which could improve the situation. What I have said repeatedlyis that a Broad Based Tax has o be a part of the answer for rolling back property taxes not just capping them. You are a pretty arrogant guy fo someone with no credentials.

  55. P says:

    1. Which of my Montville figures are “wrong?”

    2. You still haven’t defined your “broad based tax,” which leads me to believe that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. So the fact that I would like some facts about it before I jump aboard the SS. Grant-Titanic doesn’t make me a “right wing zealot,” just someone who believes in insisting on a measure of fiscal sanity in any proposal, especially one that would cover $20B of changes in the tax code.

    3. What is really unsustainable is the rate of increase in compensation for public sector employees. How we pay for them is a secondary issue.

    As far as “credentials,” I don’t need no stink’in credentials! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand municipal and BOE budgets, although I do wonder about your abilities, “credentials” and all.

  56. Dan Grant says:

    Montville gets 89 percent of the cost of education from property taxes and increasingly is placing fees on extracuricular activities. They also charge for safety busing. The state provides 2 percent in state aide. your figures were I believe a claim of 40 percnt in state aid. On average most towns in Morrisare at the 2-6 percent level in aid.
    When you go to the school report cards for Towns in Morris you see that Class room costs are about half of the cost per student of their total education costs. The real burr underthe saddle are the admin costs which I agree are totally of base. (More)

  57. Ted says:

    Dan, check your property tax bill. I think 69% of property tax goes to schools To get the % of education that property taxes fund, divide the local tax levy by the total operating expenses

    The numbers are easily found on the user friendly budget, which is required to be posted to the district web site. You’re gonna be surprised to find that local taxes fund around 80% of education…in RT it’s 82% and that doesn’t include property tax for debt service

  58. P says:

    Grant – Everyone can read through the thread and see that I never said that Montville gets 40% in state aid. Please take a remedial reading course. Also, I gave you the numbers for Morris as a whole, please reread that post too.

    Thanks for trying to answer some of my questions, now, take a shot at the Big One – What is your “Broad Based Tax Solution,” AND, what would the rates have to be to make up the $12B or so that local taxpayers provide to support public education via property taxes?

    And it’s nice to see that you are finally realizing the the cost of public education is very high, but you blame it on administrative costs only. Those too are broken out and they make up less than 10% of the per pupil costs, so they may be a small contributing factor, but they aren’t the biggest driver.

    The fact remains that the suburbs have three big issues:

    First, there’s the issue that plagues all sectors of government in NJ – employee compensation is rising at too fast a rate. Salary increases of over 4% per year coupled with Cadillac health care benefits that are growing at 10 – 20% per year are slowly bankrupting the state.

    Second, NJ’s special ed laws make it very expensive to educate the many students who are determined to have issues requiring special assistance from the local school district. The state and the judiciary have provided many mandates, little funding, and no caps for private providers.

    Third, the state aid formulas require suburban workers to pay for their own school districts and municipalities via their property taxes, and then fund the urban districts and cities with their income taxes.

    Work on those three BEFORE trying to enact another tax to supplant/supplement what already exists. Otherwise, I guarantee the ‘burbs will just end up paying more and getting even less.

  59. P says:

    I guess Dan only has time for a colloquy with Fred about who’s seen more old-time baseball Or, maybe my simple questions are too tough for the former pol?!

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