Letter: Ventnor tax increase ignores reality

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Ventnor tax increase ignores reality Ventnor tax increase ignores reality To the editor:

In hearing that the Ventnor City Commission passed a budget with a 5-cent increase and those overall taxes will go up 15 cents with the addition of school and county taxes, I felt compelled to voice my displeasure with the increases.

 

For the following reasons and concerns, I feel that the commissioners who voted for the increase are not looking at the total picture.

1. Declining population. Ventnor’s population is at 1970 levels: just over 10,000 people.

2. Ventnor’s poverty rate is 10 percent of the population.

3. Declining commercial base. Drive around and look at the empty storefronts. Appreciate the owners who have made improvements to storefronts. Nice job at VentnorPlaza.

4. Sandy recovery. Many people are still waiting for the state to approve house raising. Many have had major out-of-pocket expenses. Second-home owners have had to pay for their house-raising by themselves. Most of the house-raising in Ventnor so far has been out of pocket by second-home owners, according to the company that gave me an estimate on raising my house.

5. Declining house values. This is not just Sandy-related; there are realtors telling people to buy in Margate so they can get higher commission. Blame the city, realtors, commercial property owners from outside the city, and citizens. We all have to work together to make Ventnor more aesthetically pleasing. Kudos to the Beautification Committee. They do their best to improve aesthetics.

6. Debt being 10 percent of the total budget is too high. This needs to decrease before any more bonds are bought.

7. Employee accountability.

The other concern is the budget process itself. Ventnor uses the calendar year for its fiscal year. Standard operating procedure has been to pass the budget in April or later of same calendar year. This means they pass temporary budgets prior to having a public hearing on the operating budget. Some of this, I hear, is caused by the state. I consider this a bad business practice. The budget should be passed between October and December of the previous year. If surplus is needed in the budget, it can be amended at a later date.

Secondly, the lump-sum budget that is published on the website does not provide enough information. Just showing ‘Salaries and Wages’ and ‘Other Expenses,’ which I understand is the way the state of New Jersey receives the budget, does not provide the citizens with enough information. The budget should be presented with line items for each department, not as a lump sum. In ‘Salaries and Wages,’ each position should be listed with base salary plus a line item showing overtime, part-time and seasonal pay.

I appreciate the time that Finance Officer Toro Aberdon spent with me answering questions over the phone about what some of the increases were in each of the budgets. I was able to speak with Mayor Bagnell, but not able to make a connection with Commissioner Sarno by email.

As a retired department head with 34 years in local government in Virginia, I have an understanding of the difficulties of preparing budgets, the needs of employees, the needs of equipment, and doing it in difficult economic times. There were years we went without raises. Three years in a row of not getting any new equipment like police vehicles, trucks, fire trucks, ball-field machinery, and had 5 percent cuts in our operating budgets. Yes, it was tough doing more with less, but it was in the best interest of the city and citizens to do it.

Wake up, Ventnor commissioners. You might not have a commercial district the way taxes are going up. Know people do not want another tax, but feel a local option sales tax of 1-2 cents could be an option to increase revenue, and not property taxes. It is time we citizens do not accept these increases as ‘just the way it is and always has been.’

Sean Gleason

Ventnor


blog comments powered by Disqus