I would like to commend Governor Christie for signing the 2% property tax cap into law.  This is an important first step in reining in New Jersey’s exorbitant property taxes.  While the cap is something that is long overdue, it is only part of the equation in dealing with property taxes.  The other half of the solution is the 33 bill proposal known as the “Mayor’s Tool Kit.”  This is critical in giving local governments the ability to control costs and cut spending.  Things such as health benefit costs, union contracts, state pension contributions, and unfunded mandates are usually the largest factors impacting local budgets and unfortunately, are beyond the control of local officials.   One of the bills in the tool kit would also allow towns to opt out of civil service.  This would aid immeasurably in managing personnel more efficiently and cost-effectively, while fostering a wave of shared service agreements and consolidations, saving taxpayers countless tax dollars.  Currently, it is nearly impossible to broker a shared service agreement between a civil service town and a non-civil service town.  Binding arbitration reform is also essential to stop outrageous, unsustainable contract awards.  Moreover, pension reform is critical to bringing the pension system back to health while alleviating the crushing burden on municipal budgets.  With all of the 33 bills in place, local mayors will finally have the tools to be able to deal with budget-breaking components that until now, have been untouchable.  The Mayor’s Tool Kit is now in the hands of the State Legislature.  I urge every taxpayer to contact their state representative and demand they support these most critical pieces of legislation and give local governments the tools they need to deal with municipal budgets.

Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger

Middletown Township