As we celebrate Memorial Day, we pause to reflect on those that gave all to protect the freedoms and liberties we enjoy – liberties such as hosting a website such as this, often critical of local government.
In today’s Press of Atlantic City, the not so surprising news came out that Cumberland County is yet again ranked worst for children.
Cumberland County maintains its last-place ranking among the state’s 21 counties. Cape May County improved from 18th to 17th, but Atlantic County dropped from 19th to 20th. Ocean County held steady in 13th place.
The budget introduced Tuesday night increases the county library’s funding by $172,975, to a total of $580,000. However, that is still far below its 2010 funding level of approximately $800,000.
“We were told we were getting an additional $200,000, so I a little surprised to see the new number tonight,” said Jean Edwards, director of the county library, when asked for comment.
It is this attitude that irks me. I am in support of maintaining the county library system. When you start closing libraries, you send a message that you have given up, and you might as well give the entire damned county over to the hoodlums. Unfortunately we have a very vocal contingent that would happily shutter every library and turn a blind eye to poverty simply to see their taxes (the fake farmland assessment abatement is not enough to satisfy some miserly people) cut.
The county has done a somewhat commendable job under both parties, since the demise of Lou Magazzu, in cutting runaway spending and costs. many decisions have been difficult and unpopular. I still see a reckless disregard for ethics as family members and party loyalists are appointed into positions that possibly could be eliminated, at an immense savings to the public. But, then friends and supporters would not be able to pad their public pensions at taxpayer expense!
The library should be ecstatic that they saw an increase in funding this year rather and another threatened elimination of funding. Tony Surace was key, it seems, in moving the library away from the expensive CLUES system to a shared system with other counties.The new system expands what the county offers the residents at a substantial savings. However, I have to question why the people running the library did not look at these options sooner, knowing that their funding was at risk on an annual basis. Their energies were so spent on propaganda, I think, that they forgot that they do have a mandate to be fiscally responsible in this extremely tough economy.
And Whelan and Russo, rather than arguing for a tax increase now because the county might have to increase taxes more next year, should be looking into more innovative ways to ensure that we don’t have these insane tax increases in the future. The talk of combining the county library with the Bridgeton library is worth exploring. Pursuing state and federal grants for anything that will improve the quality of life is another option. Working diligently in favor of taxpayers rather than coddling the unions, and forcing public employees benefits to actually mirror the real world of the private sector would go a long way towards chipping away at escalating, out of control costs.
For instance, county employees enjoy twelve paid days off annually. In the private sector, the best I ever saw were ten paid holidays a year. In my current job, we get the day off (mandatory) but also lose a day’s pay. This is the 21st century reality!
In the private sector, there is no such thing as a pension anymore. It is way past time to eliminate this antiquated give-away. Public employees collect manifold times more upon retirement than they ever contributed. The rest of that money, of course, comes from the taxpayers’ wallets. Once you put all politicians and public employees into a 401k or IRA type of investment, you can damn sure bet that rules would be put in place to protect those investments. As it stands, by the end of the current decade this county will see tax increases if only to keep pace with escalating pension funding shortfalls. This system is broken – and the only solution for the property owners seeing the highest property taxes in the nation are to leave Dodge. And leaving they are – as upper-middle class taxpayers – those paying the bulk in taxes in this state, are fleeing on a wholesale basis.
Very few middle class can afford to leave. They cannot sell their houses and come out in a break-even situation. Property taxes deplete anybody’s ability to maintain any sort of savings. And as those with cushy jobs as bank managers sit back and advocate tax increases because “it will only be $200 a year!” those of us that live from paycheck to paycheck are forced to really cut back on our own budgets as our Freeholders make half-hearted attempts, trying not to infuriate the public sector unions.