Tag Archives: Derella

Joe Derella & Political Speak

At last evening’s Millville City Commission meeting, Bob Tesoroni questioned the Commission regarding economic development. Until this year, Millville employed Don Ayres as the economic development officer. This man was paid approximately $110,000 annually. With his benefits, it was estimated Mr. Ayres earned about $150,000.

In what was touted as a money-saving move, Mr. Ayres retired from the city. The city did not fill the position. Instead, Mr. Ayres went to work in the private sector. Millville hired his firm to do the same job he had been doing.

In a cost savings move, the city sourced out economic development to a newly formed nonprofit entity with a board of directors, which includes long-time civic leaders to the Millville Urban Redevelopment Corporation. This action will initially save the city $100,000 a year. And it is hope and expected that corporation will become self-sustaining within two years.

No longer is the $150,000 coming from the general fund to pay Mr. Ayres and his benefits. Rather, Millville is paying this private firm more than $225,000 annually.

This may seem like typical politics.

Not according to Commissioner Derella. The money-man of the Commission (and soon to be a Cumberland County freeholder), Derella defends with a straight face that this is indeed a cost savings for Millville.

Follow this logic . . .

When Mr. Ayres was an employee drawing $150,000, some (but not all) of his salary and benefits were paid by Millville city property owners. The balance of the compensation was funded by UEZ funds.

When Ayres retired, property taxes were saved.

Now, the $225,000+ Ayres’ firm makes from Millville is 100% UEZ funds; no property tax dollars are spent for economic development.

In Mr. Derella’s eyes, this is a cost savings.

Yes, I am scratching my head too.

This issue clearly highlights the misunderstanding Derella and other politicians have regarding public money. UEZ money to these folks is considered free money. It is not property or income taxes so they feel it can be used without concern. Need to toss political favors to folks? There’s UEZ. A little short in general funds? There’s UEZ. Want to build a theatre? There’s UEZ. Theatre wants more? There’s UEZ. Bank pulls out of theatre project? UEZ to the rescue.

UEZ money is magic! 🙂 It does anything the politicians want.

Want to claim repeatedly that you cut costs? Shell out $250,000 more of tax dollars for the same work and say you’re saving money. It only makes sense if you use political speak.

For the rest of us, UEZ dollars are tax dollars.

Quinn & Derella’s Tenure

Commissioner Quinn made his case for abatements and the defense of his term as mayor and commissioner in Millville today on his Around the County show. He pointed out how many more tax dollars are brought in because of the Walmart and Target shopping plazas than those properties generated 15 years ago when they took office. I agree, more tax dollars are generated now. We can even stipulate that the abatements were responsible for bringing in many of those businesses.

Quinn and Vice Mayor Joe Derella (his guest today) congratulate themselves for this.

Yet, while I agree I like eating at Buffalo Wild Wings, and we shop at Shop Rite and Target, at what cost do we accept this progress?

Is Millville better off today than it was 15 years ago? I think that is a difficult case to make. Yes, there are more shopping opportunities. But also far more taxes. There’s more debt. There are boondoggles that are promised taxpayer support as “too big to fail.” There seems to an uptick in violent crime. I know I am now concerned driving through certain parts of the city, particularly with my family in tow.

Have you driven down 4th Street recently? It appears to have many boarded up dwellings.

If the commissioners are going to take credit for the success of the city, they need to be held accountable for all of it.

Millville Taxes Too High

The Millville City Commission has some explaining to do.

All year we heard about a zero-increase budget. Such a budget passed. Then the state changed the amount municipalities are responsible to pay into the pension fund. The shiftless City Commission decided there was nothing it could do but to raise taxes to cover that cost. The extra amount was $108,000. That resulted in a “slight increase”. There were analogies to boxes of Girl Scout cookies and the like all to get the taxpayer to fork over more money.

Today’s news is that everything has changed once again. The pension payment is still needed, but energy savings will offset the proposed tax increase.

That’s good, Bob. Why the hell are you ranting today?

If $108,000 was needed for pension payments and $375,000 is saved via energy savings, where is the extra $267,000 going?

This is why taxes always go up. That money should not sit in the city’s bank account; rather, it should be returned to the taxpayers.

Instead of a zero-tax increase this year, Millville should be proposing a two-box Girl Scout cookies return to the taxpayers. It isn’t much, but it will be appreciated.

Don’t let this money sit idly because we know it won’t. That quarter of a million dollars will be spent. There are no line items for it, so don’t let the city snowball us. Demand they return the extra.

This is how government is supposed to work. As it becomes more efficient, the public benefits. There is no public benefit to having these politicians have extra money sitting around.

What do you think their response will be when asked about this?

Solving Millville’s Budget Problems

In today’s Daily Journal, Vice Mayor Joe Derella is quoted as saying:

We cut as far as we could and couldn’t make any changes.

Commissioner Derella is wrong.

Just yesterday the same newspaper ran an article stating that Millville had money to give to developers.

The city has several financing options, including:

# Through the NDC, it could offer a developer loans and federal tax credits to help finance the project.

# The city has money in its Urban Enterprise Zone accounts, but Shannon said using those funds is less likely due to an ongoing state review of the UEZ program that might result in that money being unavailable.

# The city could use funds from its Revenue Allocation District to offer loans to a developer. The hotel, in turn, would generate more revenue for the district, which allocates half the tax on new development and uses it for restoring properties in Center City and the 3rd Ward or other projects.

Let’s look at the RAD money. If you are not familiar with the Revenue Allocation District, Carl Johnson has an excellent post about how Millville provides the tax abatements to businesses, siphons off half of the taxes that are actually collected, and then farms out that money to homeowners in certain neighborhoods (not mine, mind you) to fix up their homes.

business is lured to the area with promises of tax abatements.

In return for creating jobs, businesses are given five years of tax breaks to offset the costs of starting up a new location. The first year they pay no property taxes, the second they pay 20% of the assessed taxes, then 40%, 60% and so on until by the fifth year they are paying taxes on the full assessed value.

. . .

Incentives and programs are created to entice homeowners to locate in these areas, and to repair and maintain their properties. The work you are seeing done on the house is the product of these programs.

So, businesses are provided tax abatements. As they do begin to pay some taxes, the city puts half of it in a pot for Johnson and others to improve their properties.

According to the quoted article above, Millville pools this money. It makes sense. No one knows when someone in the RAD area will need something new for the home. Money has to be on hand.

Yet, someone is feeding the reporter information that RAD money may be available to loan to a developer.

Loaning public money to a private developer to develop public land with money that already is diminished from the public coffers because another private business was provided an abatement so some homeowners can improve their homes sure seems like a convoluted plan.

If there is so much money in the pot right now that RAD homeowners don’t need to entice a private developer, the city can certainly find ways to capture that money for its use.

Surely there is $100,000 worth of city expenditures within the RAD district budgeted. The RAD district is:

an 820 acre area comprising the three central neighborhoods, the downtown, and over two miles of Maurice River Waterfront including old glass manufacturing sites and a vacant textile mill. The northern end of the RAD includes a 60 acre site where Union Lake Crossing

As such, the city can easily tap the RAD fund. Put together a resolution with some language that includes forsooth and whereas as well as neighborhood revitalization and all will be as sound as the program is now.

Sure, the private developer doesn’t get the money. Sure, the public-private venture is delayed. Sure, Derella et al. don’t want to do it.

But, there’s the $100,000 they said couldn’t be found.

Don’t want to do that? Okay, find something else in the budget. If you can’t, enact this plan.

What cannot be done is to raise taxes. Don’t blame Governor Christie. You were elected to solve the city’s problems. Part of those problems is dealing with state mandates. It is the city who is hiring employees whose pensions the governor is requiring the city to fund. An alternative would be to lop off a few employees. Isn’t taking the RAD money easier?

If the city cannot/won’t hold the line on taxes this year, it never will. They promised us a zero-tax increase budget. Hold them to it.

FWIW, Johnson’s house is currently for sale.

Millville Budget Proposal

Vice Mayor Joe Derella just finished presenting the proposed budget for next year. There are plenty of things I need/want to research, but allow me to applaud Derella for a job well done.

Millville has proposed a no tax-increase budget. From I can glean, we are not putting off our bills to a later date. It appears to be a sound budget.

Derella made a strong point for abatements this evening. He outlined costs that Millville pays that the county and school budgets do not fund, but reap the benefits from. The property re-evaluation is one of them. That is a strong argument in favor of abatements.

There is plenty to research. Derella made plenty of comments covering Lou Magazzu’s butt at the county. He also took a big swipe at Governor Christie too. This budget proposal would have been even better without the political rhetoric.

Even so, good job guys. Now, let’s start trimming for next year’s budget. Given that the crappy economy still exists, your city teachers haven’t received a pay increase this year, etc., increasing taxes next year makes no sense either. 😉

A Deal for Whom?

The Daily Journal is reporting that a deal has been reached between NJMP and the Millville City Commission. It appears that NJMP will be able to build a noisy ATV track on land closer to my home. The city will get nothing. What kind of deal is that?

Oh, NJMP will change the direction of its loud speakers and turn them off during the club races. That is not the noise I hear at my house. NJMP will change the start times for some races. Again, that does not affect the noise I hear at my house.

Finally, NJMP

also agreed to make a “good faith effort” with clubs to reduce noise emissions.

What? This means nothing.

NJMP co-owner Joe Savaro stated:

We do have noise that disturbs some folks, but it’s minor compared to the benefit we’ve brought in.

Translation: We don’t care about you.

Commissioner Finch and the rest of the “Noise Committee” were out-negotiated. This is what happens when amateurs run things. The city conceded to what NJMP wanted. The city got nothing in return. Nothing!

My solution? Right now each and every City Commissioner is a “Hell No” for re-election. Each one. They are unfit to represent the residents of Millville.

I can’t wait to see these politicians explain once again how they will monitor the noise and look after us. It is clear that Finch, Quinn, Derella, Vanaman, and Shannon are incompetent.

Quid Pro Quo But for Whom?

Quid pro quo is an exchange that is supposed to be even. “I’ll do this for you if you do that for me.” In the political world that has taken on pejorative connotations. Politicians are not supposed to work in that fashion, although I certainly see a place for it at times.

There’s a case of it happening right here in Millville. Protecting their investment, the Millville City Commission is negotiating with the New Jersey Motorsports Park. That’s probably backwards; NJMP wants something and is leading the city politicians around by the nose.

An agreement that was going to revolutionize the ratable base in town, put people to work, and generally lift Millville up to heaven brought a racing track to town. That agreement had the owners of the track being able to option a piece of land from the city to build an ATV track.

NJMP has not been successful thus far. It is hemorrhaging money. It is so bad that it needed the taxpayers to float $400,000 for operating expenses this year. Never heard about that? Yeah, the local papers aren’t much on reporting bad news about NJMP since it advertises so heavily.

In an effort to bolster its revenue sources, NJMP has decided that if it could build the ATV track on land it already has, it can save the million dollars or so it would need to spend to buy the land in the agreement. So it decided to go back to the lap dog City Commission to get permission.

While bringing no tax benefits to the city, it has brought plenty of noise. What was hailed as a low din that wouldn’t be noticed, has been an in-your-face noise generator. It culminated a few weeks ago with its racing to midnight. That even got some of the fence sitters ticked to the point of complaining. Ticked off taxpayers complain to the City Commission.

Politicians know they sometimes actually have to do something. It can’t all be about themselves as they can’t be re-elected if they don’t occasionally do something. The noise issue has been enough of an issue that commissioning a couple reports and stonewalling hasn’t been enough to appease those whom they need votes from. They actually formed a committee!

Unfortunately, that committee is more of pushing things around on the table kind than anything with teeth. The local paper reported on the quid pro quo that the committee has put forth.

Finch [Millville City Commissioner Dale Finch] stated the committee would ask how NJMP officials would be willing to address resident complaints if the commission decides to reopen the development agreement to allow the ATV track.

There you go. Do something about the noise to get the taxpayers voters off our backs and we’ll grant you the right to build the ATV track on the land you already own.

Of course, Millville loses in this deal. We won’t get the money from the sale of land that was already agreed to. That land was further away from the town’s residences.

And what faith can taxpayers/voters have that this committee will negotiate anything good? The first round got us a track that has negatively affected our homes. Local politicians are no match for the corporate track owners and their lawyers.

The committee formed is filled with many of the same folks who were on board when NJMP first came. The rest are politicians. Only Commissioner Vanaman lives in an area affected by the track. No one from the public was part of negotiating team.

When Commissioner Quinn and Mayor Shannon have to abstain from votes regarding NJMP because they are so entrenched with them, that leaves but 60% of the City Commission to do the people’s business. Dale Finch, career politician with huge Democratic ties to others who are on the Green Flag Committee at NJMP, may not have our interests front and center. Commissioner Vanaman has a horse in this race, but I am not convinced he has the clout to steer the committee. He didn’t get the general public involved, did he?

Consider me skeptical with the prospects that a good deal was negotiated on behalf of those affected.

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.

Commissioner Derella Disappoints

Millville’s Commissioner Joe Derella is a disappointment. As chairman of the Revenue and Finance Committee, Derella is responsible for crafting the city’s budget. Derella decries the difficulty in the job and then raises taxes.

Even those not paying attention have known that since Chris Christie was elected governor, cuts were coming. Yet, Derella acts as though the municipal cuts were a surprise. And what does good ol’ Joe propose? Why yes, he thinks another raise in local taxes is in order.

Millville Revenue and Finance Commissioner Joe Derella called the numbers “a disappointment,” adding they raise the potential for higher property taxes at the local level.

“You try to prepare for something like this, but we didn’t think (the cuts) would be this large,” said Derella, of the nearly $1 million reduction in aid to befall Millville.

“In Millville, we’re looking at a potential budget gap of $3.6 million. Now, add this to that, plus the loss of Urban Enterprise Zone funds.”

Derella doesn’t get it . . . not at all. Government spending is out of control. Cutting state spending only to have local spending increase nets the taxpayer absolutely nothing. But Derella has little to worry about. He was re-elected just a year ago, and by the time he is up again for re-election, folks will have forgotten the tax increase. This is the same modus operandi that Freeholder Lou Magazzu uses. There’s enough frustration among taxpayers, however, that there may be a backlash if Derella and company raise taxes again.

The first cut to the municipal budget should be any benefits the Commissioners earn. Derella uses a novacare.com instead of the millville.org address listed on the city’s web page. Certainly he should not be earning health benefits or paid the $4200 buyout for forgoing those benefits as a part-time elected official. Mr. Derella, what say you?

Tax increases cannot be the solution to the budget each year. When do we not have an increase in taxes? How about this year?