County Taxes 2009-2015

By John Bury | April 26, 2015

The official slant is that the 2015 Union County budget has the ‘lowest tax hike in years” but when you look back over those years you see that since 2009 Union County has had the highest tax increase of any county both on a dollar ($70,227,153) and a percentage (26.5%) basis.

In 2009 Union County taxes were $265,056,170, the seventh highest county taxes in the state and in line with having the seventh highest population.  In 2015 Union County taxes at $335,283,323 are the fourth highest ahead of only Middlesex, Essex and Bergen counties all of whom have populations of around 800,000 while Union County is around 500,000.

Consider also that over this period Union County has been stealing from the Open Space Trust Fund and piling up obscene amounts of debt while privatizing both golf operations and the nursing home part of Runnells Hospital and understaffing the Juvenile Detention Center.

This spreadsheet has the comparisons though we are still waiting for some counties to release their 2015 budgets.  The budgets we have and the website link to find the county budgets are below:

Atlanticwebsite
Bergen – websitearticle
Burlington-website
Camdenwebsite
Cape Maywebsite
Cumberlandwebsite
Essex – website
Gloucesterwebsite
Hudson – website
Hunterdon – website
Mercerwebsite
Middlesexwebsite
Monmouthwebsite
Morriswebsite
Oceanwebsite
Passaic- website
Salem – website
Somerset – website
Sussexwebsite
Unionwebsite
Warrenwebsite

Scotch Plains Stadium?

By John Bury | April 23, 2015

1) Union County Freeholder Al Mirabella voted to sell Runnells Hospital.

2) Union County Freeholder Al Mirabella voted to include $1.5 from the Runnells sale in the 2015 county budget as grants to Union County  municipalities for infrastructure projects ready to go in 2015

3) Scotch Plains Business Administrator Al Mirabella alerts the Scotch Plains council about the availability of Union County grant money:
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4) Scotch Plains (first-time) Business Administrator Al Mirabella recommends that the recreation department report directly to him:
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Add it all up and Scotch Plains can expect to get something built by some combination of Neglia, Netta, DeCotiis, and various other freeholder campaign donors. The question is what will it be:
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UCCF 4/16/15: Tax Levy Cap Explained

By John Bury | April 23, 2015

2015-300: Resolution to exceed the County tax levy limit and to establish a CAP Bank (N.J.S. 40A:4-45.14).
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What does all that mean?

To figure out what the law is you need to go to the NJSA website and scroll through to find what you are looking for.  There is no way to see the entire budget law without cutting, pasting, and editing text – which I did – so here is all of 40A:4 and here is the Local Finance Notice on the 2015 tax cap.

But the easiest way to understand how the cap works is to compare the 2015 calculations for Morris County and Union County.  Assuming both did their calculations correctly (which is quite a leap of faith in the case of Union County’s dodgy numbers) then the Morris County tax levy came in $8,546,796.36 under the cap (3.77%) while the Union County tax levy came in $99,017.16 under the cap (0.03%).

Below are spreadsheets created from those tax levy calculations.  Morris County has no trouble staying under their cap but Union County appears to have manipulated their numbers.  See if you notice anything from the comparisons below which are also in this spreadsheet

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County employee and vendors sentencings rescheduled

By Tina Renna | April 22, 2015

UPDATED 4/23/15:
Former Union County Director Niel (Aniello) Palmieri was scheduled to be sentenced on yesterday on charges of mail fraud. Sentencing has been rescheduled for July 8, 2015.

Frank Vicendese of Viva Group sentencing has been rescheduled for July 1, 2015.

Richard Greer sentencing has been rescheduled for May 5, 2015.

All are to appear before Judge Walls.

The details on all three cases can be found on this F.B.I. press release.

Juvenile Detention Center officers sustained injuries this morning

By Tina Renna | April 21, 2015

According to sources within county government there was a major incident at the Union County Juvenile Detention Center this morning resulting in the County Police having to intervene and break up fighting. Allegedly several corrections officers were attacked by inmates and sustained injuries.

On April 5, 2015 the County Watchers reported the Juvenile Detention center was in a crisis situation due to understaffing caused by the county taking in more inmates from Hudson County which has closed its facility.

Officers have been forced to work mandated overtime beginning in November, which escalated in January, they are now exhausted and fearful for their safety as well as the inmates.

At the April 16, 2015 freeholder meeting three corrections officers made public statements regarding the conditions at the jail. The county manager responded that they are trying to hire more staff for the facility, but did not speak to why the planning for the intake of new inmates was mismanaged and allowed to escalate to this crisis situation. He also did not offer any relief or time-frame to the officers as to when their mandated overtime might be eased. Video of the officers public comments was published by the County Watchers.

Stender shore property put on the market

By Tina Renna | April 21, 2015

On 4/16/15 realtor.com listed the Stender property located in Manasquan at 12 Pershing Avenue for $399,000 along with this message:

Aren’t you dreaming of warm summer evenings? Cleared building lot in the heart of Manasquan. Build your dream home on this desirable and unique home site. Conveniently located close to shopping, transportation, the beach, inlet and downtown Manasquan.

Richard Stender purchased the home on 10/29/2008 for $465,000. At the time the land was assessed at 213,000, the house at $99,700. It was then damaged by hurricane Sandy.

As of February 2015, the state Attorney General’s Office was investigating Assemblywoman Linda Stender and her husband Richard, and whether they inappropriately used Coastal Habitat for Humanity to demolish their Sandy damaged shore bungalow which was built in 1932, and attempt to have the charity which ministers to the indigent, help the Stenders replace it with a three-story dream shore house to include five bedrooms and an elevator.

At issue is their income qualifications and whether this was a primary residence for Richard Stender who only registered to vote in Monmouth county on 8/6/13. Which could mean he was not a full-time resident of Manasquan during Hurricane Sandy.

When the scandal broke Linda Stender first maintained that she had nothing to do with her husband’s home. The story went on to make international news and later reports quoted an architect working for Habitat Humanity as confirming that Linda Stender was indeed involved with the rebuilding plans. Habitat for Humanity stated that at one point during a meeting the assemblywoman became irate and yelled and screamed “You are not allowing me to build my dream home!”; Stender also reportedly told them “I can make a phone call to Manasquan”.

Linda Stender released a statement at the time: “Like many others, our family suffered significant losses as a result of Hurricane Sandy. An application was made to Coastal Habitat for Humanity to assist in rebuilding. There are outstanding issues which are the subject of continued efforts to resolve.”

Assemblywoman Stender did not resign her assembly seat. However, after losing support from the Union County Regular Democratic Committee she announced that she would not be seeking re-election in the Fall. Her statement: “Over the last several days, it has become apparent that personal issues involving my family and a nonprofit group have become an insurmountable distraction to me, to my running mates, and most importantly, to the constituents I have been proud to represent for more than a decade,” the statement said. “As a result, I have decided not to seek reelection.”

On February 19, 2015 Assemblywoman Stender was hired to be the Assistant Director of the Union County Improvement Authority, with a salary of $90,000. The County Watchers obtained Stender’s resume which lists her experience, besides her political exploits, as being a yoga instructor and floral designer.

The County Watchers, Union County government’s local news source, attended a freeholder meeting on 2/26/15 in an attempt to have the freeholders comment on Linda Stender’s hiring, specifically what were her qualifications for the position, and how she was expected to be able to represent the Union County Improvement Authority under the light of these allegations.

Stender directly reports to former freeholder Daniel Sullivan who is the UCIA Director. Investigative reportd by the County Watchers revealed Sullivan’s’, and the Union County Prosecutor’s office, credibility issues.

UCCF 4/16/15: 2015 Budget

By John Bury | April 20, 2015

2015-301 Resolution Introducing and Approving the Annual budget of the County of Union fro the Fiscal year 2015
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Official Explanation:
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Citizen Response:
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UCCF 4/16/15: Watchung Stables Privatization

By John Bury | April 19, 2015

2015-295:  Authorizing competitive contracting to procure services for the Operation and management for the Barn and Rings at Watchung Stables in accordance with N.J.S.A. 40:11-4.3(a)
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UCCF 4/16/15: Rahway River Park Stadium Full Coverage

By John Bury | April 18, 2015

In anticipation of a lot of questions on the Rahway River Park Stadium project this handout was provided by the county at this freeholder meeting though there remained questions:
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Citizens against the stadium provided this aerial view of the project:
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UCCF 4/16/15: Who Asked for Rahway River Park Stadium?

By John Bury | April 17, 2015


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Projects need to move forward, regardless of what the vast majority may want, to keep paying the piper through the Union County Improvement Authority (UCIA) and their general counsel DeCotiis, Fitzpatrick & Cole, LLP (DeCotiis):

  • Galloping Hill Clubhouse: $421,198
  • County Courthouse: $275,286
  • County College Building: $547,115
  • Child Advocacy House: $403,856
  • Juvenile Detention Center: $479,073
  • Linden Library: $448,4536
  • Linden Firehouse: $551,4502
  • Solar Panels:$1,282,985

Those numbers are not the cost of the projects but rather the fees DeCotiis has been paid by the UCIA through March 4, 2015 in connection with those projects.  How do they manage to get so much money?

Since 2009 individual DeCotiis lawyers (all who live outside of Union County) have donated a total of $30,000 per election cycle in equal installments to the campaigns of county Democrats, all who have won. On June 3, 2014 DeCotiis extended this practice with 20 DeCotiis lawyers donating a total of $2,600 ($130 each) to the campaign of Samson D. Steinman for Mayor of Rahway and $10,000 ($500 each) to Miles Mojica Baker & Giacobbi – Rahway Democrats.  All won easily. Now it’s payback time for that money.