Curley votes no. Offers no cuts and defends rejecting $800K savings from State program. Continues to soak taxpayers for health insurance
The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders adopted a $448 million budget on Monday, March 19. The final budget is $1,450,000 (.03%) lower than originally proposed last month and $2,750,000 (.06%) higher than the County’s 2017 budget.
Property taxpayers will see the County’s portion of the tax bill raise by $1.50 to $25.00 for the year as the tax levy increases by $1,525,000 (.05%) over 2017. The budget as originally proposed last month included a tax levy increase of $3,024,750. The 2018 County tax levy is $304 million.
“The Board has worked diligently to provide a fiscally responsible budget for our residents and businesses that allows us to continue to offer the highest level of services and facilities, while meeting all statutory requirements,” Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said, “We are currently using the same amount of fund balance as the revenue that we regenerated during the year. This should put us in a position of future financial stability with all bond rating agencies.”
The budget passed 3-1 with one abstention. Freeholder Gerry Scharfenberger abstained, saying the majority of the budget had been crafted prior to his appointment to the board last month to replace Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso.
Disgraced Freeholder John P. Curley voted against the budget claiming that the tax increase was politically motivated to hurt his remote chances of reelection. Curley said, “I have no comment,” when Arone asked him where the budget should be cut further and he defended $800,000 in expenses the County incurs to administer the federal Family Care program (part of Medicaid) that the State of New Jersey offered to take over from the Monmouth taxpayers in 2015.
Impreveduto calls for additional savings and eliminating health benefits for freeholders
Curley said the County should do more outsourcing, but when it came to the processing of Medicaid eligibility applications by the State approved and financed contractor, Xerox, Curley said he had a problem with them and that he fought for Monmouth taxpayers to continue to incur that cost by having County employees do the work.
The $800,000 issue was raised by Freeholder Patrick Impreveduto as possible source of further savings. County Administrator Teri O’Connor said she has a meeting scheduled with Acting Commissioner Carole Johnson of the State Department of Human Services to seek approval to enter the state financed program administered by Xerox. O’Connor said that Morris County has been participating in the program and that there have been no issues with Xerox.
Impreveduto suggested an additional cost savings by calling for a resolution to prohibit freeholders from taking health benefits, saying he thought the resolutions would be passed unanimously. Curley objected, saying he takes health benefits, and then attempted to change the subject to the fleet of County vehicles and his objection to using the proceeds of the sale of the County’s nursing homes for tax reduction. All the other freeholders indicated they would vote to prohibit the practice.
A debate among the freeholders ensured over whether or not elected officials are employees of the County and therefore subject to the provisions of ObamaCare which would make them eligible for health benefit.
The debate ended with Arnone asking County Counsel Michael Fitzgerald for legal opinion to clarify whether it is permissible for the Board to prohibit freeholders from taking health benefits.
Fitzgerald said the situation is legally ambiguous because of a State law that prohibits legislators elected after a certain date to participate in the State’s health insurance plan.
Fitzgerald said he would have to hire an outside attorney for the requested legal opinion because it only impacts Curley and that Curley is suing him, the freeholders and O’Connor.