Fiduciary Responsibility Extends Beyond Development
I am writing this letter as a private citizen of Teaneck for 24 years, and not as a trustee of the Board of Education.
The Jewish Link continues to highlight development as the “cure all” for all of Teaneck’s municipal tax woes. Its not. In the last 7 years, the municipal tax rate has increased 10 percent of current spending.
The Jewish Link continues to highlight development as the “cure all” for all of Teaneck’s municipal tax woes. It’s not. In the last 7 years, the municipal tax rate has increased >26% which is more than double the 12% rate of inflation. Worse, Teaneck has seen its debt level triple to $32 million since 2008. The 2015 budget approximated $71 million. At best, $6M in higher taxes represents < 10% of current spending.
Higher taxes reflect a total lack of financial management and thus, cost control. There is also a lack of personnel accountability. Firing an employee does not absolve the Town Manager from responsibility, and the Town Council from oversight.
A former police officer receiving a pension with limited managerial capabilities runs Teaneck and negotiates with its unions. Budgets generated 4-5 months after the fiscal year begins; a 2014 audit with eight findings including a failure to make timely pension remittances; cost over-runs on nearly all capital projects, including the unnecessary renovation of the “old” police station for $4.7 million-$1.2 million higher than the original budget (inclusive of unused desks!); and lastly, employee and council member abuse, if not illegality associated with the health benefit waiver program that in aggregate may have cost taxpayers $1-2 million during the past few years.
Elie Katz and Mohammed Hameeduddin pay only $900 for a $30,000 benefit while municipal employees, on average, pay an average of 26 percent. Lizette Parker and William Broughton receive a stipend despite being ineligible to receive Teaneck health benefits as employees, active and retired of Bergen County and NJ, respectively.
Higher taxes also reflects missed opportunities. This includes (1) a failure to rationalize staffing levels by undertaking work flow studies to increase productivity and identifying opportunities to use lower cost labor as an alternative to higher-cost employees (e.g., Hackensack Class II officers since 2013, Bergen County dispatch; fire department staffing levels 3x that of NYC) (2) employee contract giveaways in salaries and benefits, the latter including health care coverage costing $30,000 per family with $10 co-payments. The key to cost control is managing salaries and benefits, accounting for approximately 70 percent of spending.
I support development and credit the effort being made to increase the tax base. But, it’s important to put the opportunity in perspective. Developments totaling 628 apartments have been announced, with another possible 350 with Alfred Avenue. According to the Census, the average number of children under 18 per family in New Jersey is 0.87; among families with children, 1.83 children. Applying 0.87 to 628 apartment implies 546 children. For argument sake, let’s say 250 children come to Teaneck. Assuming $23,000 per child = $5.8 million offsetting the entire tax income derived from development.
We are one Teaneck, municipal and Board of Education. More income for the Township Council implies higher expenditures for the Board of Education. Do the math.