UPDATE: August, 27, Curley pulls nursing home sale resolution
Freeholder John Curley called this morning to say that he has pulled his resolution to sell the Monmouth County owned nursing homes from this week’s agenda. County CFO Craig Marshall is on vacation. Curley wants Marshall available to address all of the financial concerns regarding the proposed sale. Curley expects to reintroduce the resolution in September.
Reductions in Medicaid payments for long term care under the Affordable Care Act have led to increasing deficits at Monmouth County’s two government owned nursing homes.
The John L. Montgomery Care Center in Freehold and the Geraldine L. Thompson Care Center in Wall are owned and operated by Monmouth County’s government. Property tax payers have been subsidizing the long term care of the elderly, disabled and infirm residing in these facilities for decades. From 2007 through 2013 the cumulative deficit funded by Monmouth property tax payers was about $40 million. Despite cost cutting measures and union givebacks, the combined deficit this year is on track to exceed $13 million plus the cost of repairs and capital improvements required to keep the facilities in compliance with state and federal regulations, due to cutbacks in the amount that Medicaid pays for patient care under ObamaCare. 98% of the patients at Montgomery and Thompson are insured by Medicaid.
Freeholder John Curley has been pushing his colleagues on the all Republican Board of Chosen Freeholders to sell the nursing homes for years. Every time the issue gets traction or public attention, patients in wheelchairs and staff members of the nursing facilities show up at Freeholder meetings and plead with the Freeholders not to sell the facilities. The patients’ stories are heart wrenching. The declarations of love for their patients by the staff members are moving.
Monmouth County Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry
Amidst a summer awash in bad news, there is a very good news story I’m pleased to share regarding the redevelopment of Fort Monmouth; a topic I am asked about frequently. Since the fort was closed by the U.S. Army in 2005, I have been a member of both public-private agencies, led by the state, that first planned, and is now executing plans to transform the fort into a hub of recreation, commerce, technology, innovation, education, residential and retail use. Tangible results emerged last year and continue to increase this year. More are on the near horizon, bringing jobs, ratables and opportunities for the public to enjoy new open spaces and recreational options within the borders of Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls.
As the county’s representative, first on the Fort Monmouth Economic Redevelopment Planning Authority (FMERPA) and currently on the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), I identified certain facilities and spaces for county use early on. Last year, the Monmouth County Department of Public Works and Engineering took over, refurbished and is now utilizing the fort’s former motor pool, bringing critical services including snow and storm damage removal closer to that region. The county Park System now runs the former teen center and pool, a beautiful facility. Programs initiated there last year have been well-attended and growing. This year, we opened the pool for classes. The reception and attendance have been outstanding. We hope to increase programs at the pool next summer. That’s just the beginning…
Asbury Park – An overflow crowd of Asbury Park residents attended the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting in the city last evening to rally the county’s governing body to save the north end beachfront property known as Bradley Cove.
iStar Financial, the city’s master developer, owns the development rights to the site and has a proposal to build 15 town homes on the property. The Asbury Park Council passed a resolution earlier this month to apply for Green Acres funding to preserve the property.
The freeholders were sympathetic to the public outcry to prevent the development, but made it clear that the ball is in Asbury Park’s court. Prior Asbury Park administrations sold the development rights to the property and approved a tax abatement to support the development. Community members are now trying to undue that deal, and seem be hoping that Freeholder Board has the power to make that happen.
When I ran for Freeholder in 2011, I ran on the promise that I would spend every day in office working for the taxpayers of Monmouth County. Three years later, Monmouth County’s Board of Chosen Freeholders has just delivered its fourth straight budget with no change to the property tax levy. Four straight years.
This wasn’t simply chance and luck had nothing to do with it. I fought hard and committed to making tough cuts in order to meet our commitment to Monmouth County taxpayers—to provide the high level of services our residents are accustomed to while employing the utmost fiscal prudence.
In 2010, the Monmouth County budget peaked at $493,400,000. Since then, this Freeholder Board has reduced the budget to the tune of $12.5 million in total savings over the last four years. And this is to say nothing of the $60+ million in spending that was cut over the same time period as a result of the budget work that happens all year long behind the scenes.
It’s not without its challenges. The budget process requires a delicate balance. After all, a low budget and no tax increase mean nothing if taxpayers then suffer due to declining and diminished services. The County still has to provide the services that our residents need – that’s its mandate. But it’s the mandate of the Board of Chosen Freeholders to make sure we’re providing that top-notch service in the most efficient and effective way possible.
For the fourth straight year, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a county budget with no tax increase.
At their meeting April 10 meeting the Freeholder Board, comprised of 5 Republicans, adopted $480.9 million budget, a $100,000 spending reduction from last year’s budget. The amount raised through property taxes is $302,475,000, the same amount raised every year since 2010.
“It is a challenge every year to try to cut spending without impacting the level of services our taxpayers have come to expect,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry. “This process is not something that is done in haste. This budget reflects the months of work that has gotten us to a flat tax rate for the fourth year in a row.”
“This year, an internal budget subcommittee met with each department to look for duplicative services and identify areas for consolidation and savings,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Gary J. Rich, Sr., liaison to the Finance Department. “This process has yielded savings in the areas of information technology, finance, human resources, building maintenance and legal services.”
Monmouth County relies less on taxes than most other New Jersey counties. As a percentage of the overall budget, Monmouth County’s taxes comprise 62 percent of the total budget, historically behind Union, Hudson and Essex counties.
“The department heads deserve a lot of credit for their hard work in paring down the budget,” said Rich. “This is the fifth year in which we asked for concessions from the departments and, as a result, this is the fourth year in which the tax levy has remained the same.”
The Monmouth County “Made in Monmouth” Expo is rapidly approaching. It is an annual event showcasing products exclusively produced in Monmouth County. “Made in Monmouth” is a free event for both vendors and visitors; its purpose is to encourage people to shop local. To date 142 vendors are confirmed registered. The products sold at this event, made right here in the county are creative and nothing less than amazing. I am also happy to report that we are partnering with the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties this year to conduct a food drive at the event. We are asking our vendors as well as people that are attending to bring a donation of canned or dried food for the Food Bank. The third annual “Made in Monmouth” is Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the MAC Building at Monmouth University in West Long Branch. For more information, please call 732-431-7470.
On March 27, 2014, Verizon recognized the student team from Biotechnology High School, Freehold, one of Monmouth County’s premier high schools, for their achievement of Best in State, Best in Region and National Best Educational Application Concept status in the 2013 Verizon Application Challenge. It was an honor for me to be present at the recent ceremony as the student team received this recognition. The Board of Chosen Freeholders is extremely proud of the students at Biotechnology H.S. on this accomplishment and commends their efforts in achieving such high accolades.
On behalf of The Board of Chosen Freeholders and as liaison to the Department of Shared Services, I recently hosted and participated in a meeting at the Monmouth County Connection in Neptune to assist Middletown in their exploration of creating an animal shelter to service Monmouth County municipalities. Many municipalities are facing serious capacity and public health issues in this area as well as heavy annual increases in service costs which are greatly reducing their ability to meet other service needs in the community. Middletown contacted the county to assist in bringing together as many towns as possible to discuss this issue, engage the towns for their ideas and input and strategize on how to address these common issues together. The meeting went extremely well and the towns that attended were very appreciative of both Middletown’s and the County’s efforts. There was very high interest in moving forward and approximately 30 towns expressed interest in our initial outreach.
The ongoing feud between Freeholder Director Lillian Burry and Freeholder John Curley , both Republicans, became public again Thursday afternoon at the beginning of the board’s work session meeting at the Hall of Records in Freeholder.
Click here to listen to Curley’s remarks and the ensuing exchange between him and Burry. Curley’s remarks start at the 1:27 mark of the audio. The exchange concludes at the 5:24 mark.
Curley announced that he had proposed a resolution that would have called on the State Legislature to prohibit elected or appointed officials, on any level, from participating in New Jersey’s Farm Land Preservation Program. He likened such participation to Wall Street insider trading. Curley said that Freeholder Tom Arnone, a Republican, was his second for the resolution and that Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, a Republican, was going to sponsor such legislation. Curley said he was disappointed that “the freeholders” pulled his resolution from the work session agenda.
Burry said that Curley’s remarks were inappropriate in that that he did not go through “the chair” or follow proper procedures. She said the resolution was going to be discussed in Executive Session and had been put off because it needed to be tweaked and properly vetted.
Howell Councilman Bob Walsh, second from left, and Freeholder Gary Rich, right, are set to compete for a 2014 GOP nomination. Andrew Lucas, left, then a Manalapan Committeeman and Wall Township Committeeman George Newberry, between Walsh and Rich. Photo from 2011 Freeholder nomination race.
Howell Councilman Bob Walsh, a candidate for one of two available nominations for freeholder at the Monmouth Republican Convention on March 22, said that the Monmouth Republican Party’s brand has been tarnished by the Burke Farm deal with Andrew Lucas and by the Brookdale Community College scandal that resulted in former Brookdale President’s Peter Burnham’s conviction for official misconduct and theft.
Incumbent freeholders, Director Lillian Burry and Deputy Director Gary Rich are seeking to be nominated for reelection at the convention.
Speaking on the record,Walsh said that many “neutral people, people who know nothing” that he encounters think that the Lucas farm deal and the Brookdale scandal are examples of Republican corruption. Walsh said that he talks to these people and tries to correct their perception, “but it is out there and a lot of people think that way, it’s a common thread.”
Walsh was very careful not to speak negatively about Burry and Rich specifically while discussing his own candidacy. “I don’t consider that I am challenging them,” he said, “I am seeking an office according to the rules. No one is elected forever. People complain and complain about government, yet keep electing the same people. That’s what’s wrong with this country.”
“People say that government should be run as a business. I have a very good record in business, as a licensed banker, and a very good record as mayor of Howell that I am proud of. I think I am an asset and will be an asset to the freeholder board. I have energy, passion and the flexibility to do the job.”
While not specifically accusing anyone of complacency, Walsh said that his candidacy and his service, if elected, would be a battle against complacency in county government.
“Complacency has no place if public service,” he said, “I am very pleased with some of the things I see happening since I started running.” He declined to elaborate.
Walsh said he expected that this November’s election will be more contentious that usual.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders continues to support and promote the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program. The program makes grant funds available to help improve the look of privately held commercial buildings throughout Monmouth County. The façade improvement program which is the newest initiative under our Grow Monmouth program uses HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Community Development Block Grant funds that were de-obligated by grantees to help privately held commercial buildings, located in HUD eligible areas, improve their business façades. Representatives from the county’s department of economic/development recently assisted me during a presentation for the façade improvement program that was given to the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce. In the next few days there will be a check presentation to Jim Smith, owner of Smittex Sportswear in Keansburg who will be utilizing the funds towards the purchase of a new awning. Mr. Smith will be receiving $1,845.00 for the purchase of the awning. For more information about the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program please contact the Monmouth County Department of Economic Development at 732-431-7470 or visit the Grow Monmouth section of the County website at www.visitmonmouth.com.