Bad Politics

For a few years I left the classroom to be a technology coordinator for my school district. It was a job I enjoyed and at which I excelled. All the while, I knew my position was always tenuous. It’s not that my work wasn’t appreciated, it was that funds to pay for the position came from the state via the Abbott decision. Any reasonable person could see that those funds would dry up at some point. When they did, the position would be eliminated. When money began drying up with flat funding from Trenton a number years ago, out I went.

For years municipalities have funded police and fire employee salaries with Urban Enterprise Zone funds. Districts are created that permit businesses with more than 20 employees to charge half the state income tax on purchases and services. The sales tax is then kept in the community. That money is then used to help businesses. I wrote about UEZ four years ago.

Millville has been using some of those UEZ funds ($500,000 annually) to fund police and fire officers. Now that funds are tight (UEZ funds have been commandeered for the balance of the year by state government), Millville is faced with how to pay these officers.

With no UEZ funds available for the salaries, the only other “revenue” Millville has is the general fund. That fund has been promised to be flat this year by the City Commission. No one wants to raise taxes in this climate. Indeed, it would be political suicide.

So, Millville is faced with losing nine police employees. The police union is understandably not pleased:

“We’re willing to work with the city,” he said. “They’re putting the deficit all on the city employees. I don’t want to see the department go down the drain.”

That is certainly not fair! Reasonable people could see that if these funds ever dried up so would the salaries. It is that time.

Who is responsible for funding the salaries through UEZ?

No one desires reducing our public safety. The number of shootings in town just this week gives residents pause.

The thing is, raising taxes to make up for the bad politics that created this situation is not a reasonable solution. Funding salaries out of UEZ money may have been legal and expedient, but it wasn’t smart. The town is now in a bind. It is wrong to frame the issue as an either/or scenario even if that is how it is played out.

Again, who created this situation?

Last spring Commissioners Quinn and Derella touted their 12 year legacy as to why they should be re-elected. Likewise, Mayor Shannon spoke of his eight years in office. Together, the “Three Js” represented incumbency. Guys, if you want the accolades for what you did, you need to take the heat when it fails. Funneling UEZ funds for salaries has now caught up with you. I agree with your no tax increase stance. The flip side, however, is that you cannot take credit for the increased public safety force since it will decrease.

Perhaps these decisions reach back to when Mr. Finch was previously a commissioner. Does anyone know?

Unfortunately for Millville, Commissioner Vanaman, who up until now was perceived to be the fiscally responsible member, has come out in favor of at least a 6.5¢ tax increase to rectify the bad politics of his colleagues. As much as we desire all our police and firefighters, there is no justification for raising property taxes this year. This stance of his hurts his credibility in my eyes.

I want a strong police force and fire department. Funds should be permanent to support those departments. Making decisions to use tax “revenue” specially designed to generate business is not smart. This isn’t a new issue; we have all seen this coming.

Hold the decision-makers responsible.

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One thought on “Bad Politics”

  1. I agree that UEZ money should not be used for police. And if it is and that money dries up then those positions must be axed like your tech position that was tied to Abbott money that eventually dried up. My only point is that shouldn’t all UEZ funded positions be cut when UEZ money dries up? I have heard Don Ayers say that his position was funded through UEZ. However, I have not heard that his position is being eliminated.

    While I agree that when UEZ money is lost positions funded by it should be cut, I worry that this is not being done across the board. Millville has quite a few desk jobs that pay over 90K/year and best I can tell none of these positions has been cut irrespective of their funding being tied to UEZ.

    As a result I worry that some politically connected people funded by UEZ (at least currently) are being protected while low level positions funded by UEZ are not.

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