Several recent comments made by Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan are proof positive she is manipulating the facts to win re-election and/or she does not know what is contained within the budget she herself proposed, said Michael Pagan – campaign manager for Jim Tedesco for County Executive.
“Kathe Donovan is either pulling numbers out of the sky or didn’t bother to look at the budget she proposed,” said Pagan. “If you compare and contrast her comments on the budget to the actual budget itself, there is no continuity whatsoever. She’s either lying about the numbers or doesn’t even know what it is in her own budget – and that is something that taxpayers should be concerned about.”
Donovan released budget "facts and figures" last week that were completely wrong and manipulated to mask her budget's impact on Bergen County residents who rely on county government services.
After decades as a career politician, Donovan presented a budget this year that provided jobs for lawyer friends and contributors and no tax relief for the residents of Bergen County. The Star Ledger found that the State’s average property tax bill was $7,988 in 2013 but that the average such bill in Bergen County was $10,642.
Donovan’s budget proposal, sent to the Freeholders in February contained a nearly $7.4 million tax increase; the Freeholders trimmed the tax roll in her proposed budget bringing it down below the county tax bill for last year without sacrificing any government services. Donovan then claimed that the Freeholder's budget would leave Bergen County with a $3 million deficit to begin the 2015 year. Donovan’s charge is wrong.
The County Executive charged that the Freeholders took millions of dollars in trust funds that stand no chance of being replenished to balance the budget. Donovan’s wrong about that, too.
All trust funds utilized by the Freeholder budget were based on recurring revenues, meaning that the funds are replenished by county residents use. For example, each time a deed is recorded, the county clerk gets $2 allocated to his department. John Hogan, the County Clerk, contributed $250,000 from that fund to modernize his office, instead of making taxpayers foot the bill.
Donovan also claims that the use of the County Clerk’s trust fund for the hiring of summer help is improper. Donovan is wrong. State law (N.J.S.A. 22A:4-17.1) states that this money can be “used to upgrade and modernize the services provided by their offices.” The Freeholder Board's backing of efforts by County Clerk John Hogan to eliminate the backlog of paperwork constitutes an upgrade in the services provided by the County Clerk's office. This position has been confirmed in an opinion given by the Clerk's general counsel.
Donovan went on to claim that the proposed use of $2 million from the Tax Board's Trust Fund to create office space at the new Justice Center, and reduce the costs of that project, is improper. Donovan is wrong. This isn't even in the budget. It is a capital expense that the Freeholders suggested to the Tax Board as an off budget item – a direct savings for taxpayers.
This action would result in a recurring annual savings equal to $1.7 million over 25 years but this was not scored in the 2014 budget and won’t be counted until after the Tax Board gets approval from Trenton to undertake the action.
Donovan claims she proposed spending $4.8 million from a fund for motor vehicle fines, about the same amount the county has spent in previous years. She also stated that the Freeholders have called for spending $6.8 million of that revenue, leaving about $450,000 in the fund. Donovan is wrong. The current individual balances in the road accounts are:
Motor Vehicle Fines: $561,612
Road Opening Revenue: $189,791.25
Road Permit Deposit Act: $436,537.50
MV Fine Road Open Rev: $787,420.51
Total Road Trust Funds: $1,975,361.41
The figures quoted by Donovan are inaccurate as the last balance update given to the Freeholders before budget submission had all road related trust funds totaling $2.18 million. The total for all Freeholder usage of trust funds to save taxpayers is $1.72 million to Donovan’s proposal.