Above you’ll find the recording of the June 22nd council meeting. It’s just under an hour long so it’s an easy watch. If you’ve got limited time I’ll summarize what I took away from the meeting.
Pete Heinbaugh challenged some of the changes to the budget and questioned how a decision was made to change the budget. When he didn’t receive much in the way of an answer he directed his questions towards the tax abatement numbers and how there was a large difference in the township’s income than what was actually included in the budget. Mr. Heinbaugh argued that the numbers are in black and white and not something that can be speculated. This apparently struck a nerve with Mr. Cardis who couldn’t control his temper and had to be talked down by other members of council. All and all there were a lot of hurt feelings by the time Mr. Heinbaugh finished asking questions and speaking. It seemed pretty obvious after this exchange that the best interests of the people were on the wrong side of the podium.
Paul Krug came to the mic to express his thoughts on the council’s dismissal of the Citizen’s Budget. If you remember, earlier in the month, Mr. Cardis called the Citizen’s Budget irresponsible. Mr. Krug took the Citizen’s Budget to a group of financial experts and had them review and they disagreed with Mr. Cardis’s assertion. Mr. Krug then went on to comment on the council’s decorum towards the citizens. There were no immediate responses to Mr. Krug’s statements. More on this later…
Ray Polidoro asked the council if they would acknowledge the fact that they are able to balance a budget on election years, but are terrible at it on non election years. Mr. Polidoro also brought up that next year is an election year with 5 large contracts to be negotiated and would suspect a tax increase in the 2021 budget, but has a suspicion that the mayor and council will find a way to put forth a balanced budget next year to avoid an increase during an election year.
Councilman Dan Hutchison added some of his thoughts at the end of the meeting on how much he appreciates the people that show up to challenge council’s decisions. Right….
Council President Orlando Mercado wrapped up the event by addressing Mr. Krug’s comments earlier by saying that his decorum is what the residents have voted for over the last 16 years, because they keep re-electing him. Mr. Mercado also stated that the true Citizen’s Budget is the budget that is done by council, because we elected them to do our budget.
Mr. Mercado isn’t wrong in his statements. We are responsible for the failures that happen during every election year and every tax increase. I know the response to that is always “I didn’t vote for them” but that simply just isn’t enough. YOU need to be sure everyone you know who can vote does vote. 35,000+ registered voters in Gloucester Township didn’t show up to the last election. You’ve got to wonder what would happen if they did. If those unhappy are indeed the silent majority, our silence is costing us quite a bit of money.
Is challenging council a waste of time? If it’s a waste of time, than you can just move along with your day and be sure that the same people will be in office for a very long time. If you don’t think it’s a waste of time, we need your support. Go to http://188.8.131.52/register/ and sign up. You don’t have to be a financial expert or well versed in politics. We just need your voice and your ideas.
Details from Sam Sweet’s Facebook post on the meeting:
The highlight (there were lowlights) of the evening was Mr. Pete Heinbaugh questioning the budget subcommittee and the changes that they recommended regarding the 2020 budget. Mr. Heinbaugh referred to the GT budget prepared by Tom Cardis as fictitious. Mr. Cardis took umbrage with this statement. Perhaps Mr. Heinbaugh confused the word FICTITIOUS (not real or true, being imaginary or having been fabricated) with the word FACITIOUS (artificially created or developed) So let’s look at some items and see:
Fact: The tax abatement amount is $2,584,503 (EXACT NUMBER FROM TAX ASSESSOR) Fact: Tom Cardis originally recognized $2,000,000 then changed it to $2,100,000 which is still $484,503 under budgeted. His reasons don’t make sense (that is for another post)
Fact: Interest on Investments was originally budgeted for $100,000 then changed to $150,000 an increase of $50,0000
Fact: The average Interest on Investments the past two years was $200,000. Did GT lose investments? Did the interest rate suddenly go down? Again Mr. Cardis’s reasoning is not quite clear
Fact: Social Security was budgeted by Tom Cardis in the amount of $2,200,000Fact: Social Security expense is a calculation. It essentially 7.65% of Salaries
Fact: Social Security expense was lowered to $2,100,000. Fact: That is a $100,000 mistake. The number is technically too high still, but what is another $20,000 or so.
Fact: Mr. Cardis said the Citizens Budget was irresponsible to use run rate.Fact: Business Postage, Admin Meeting Expense were budgeted the same exact amount the past 4 years despite not even coming close to the budgeted amount in prior years.Fact: The introduced budget is filled with all sorts of these examples (too many to list here) Fact: If run rate was actually used, expenses would have been much lower.
Fact: This budget was issued on May 11, 2020 ( right in the middle of COVID) Fact: Mr. Cardis used the same exact revenue number as prior year’s despite COVID
Fact: Municipal Pool Fees (REVENUE) were budgeted for $70,000 (same amount as the last 5 years) despite the pool being closed. But yet the average municipal pool fees have been $89,731.
Fact: Construction fees (REVENUE) were budgeted for $600,000 (same amount as the last 5 years) despite the construction office being closed. But yet the average Construction fees the past 5 years has been $967,580.