To the Editor:
Like many other residents I attended the Joint Taxpayers Debate to listen to the candidates running for Long Beach Township Commissioner. I was particularly interested in learning the positions of those challenging the incumbent commissioners. I left with several observations.
First, during a discussion about taxes, Mr. Myers stated he would like to see the township reassessed to reflect market value of homes. Market value?! To understand what this would mean I did a little math. If your home is assessed for $500,000 but you could reasonably expect to sell it for $650,000 (i.e., market value) at our current tax rate that would result in an annual increase in your property tax. This does not take into account any increase levied by the local or regional school districts on which we learned Mr. Beaty and Mr. Myers each respectively serve. Of those running for election neither Mr. Beaty nor Ms. Hagler own homes in the township and therefore would be unaffected personally. I’d be interested to hear from Realtors how a market value assessment would affect the real estate market for those trying to sell their property.
Mayor Mancini informed us that the township was entirely reassessed in 2005 and when you improve your property, such as rebuild or add on, you are then reassessed. Commissioner Lattanzi also stated that the fraction of a penny increase we saw in our taxes this year was due to rising healthcare costs resulting from President Obama’s healthcare legislation and a large pension and benefit package they must pay to the retired beach patrol supervisor.
Secondly, Mr. Myers, Ms. Hagler and Mr. Beaty repeatedly stated they did not understand the municipal budget that is posted on the township website. While I am sure municipal budgets are complicated, their solution was to get elected and try to figure it out once in office. This was not reassuring.
Our current commissioners informed us they have been prudent stewards of our taxpayer dollars, resulting in the second lowest tax rate on Long Beach Island, not to mention one of the lowest in the state. They have maintained the low rate while also improving and adding to our recreational facilities, completing beach replenishment to protect our Island and investing significantly in the rehabilitation of the Holgate section of town after it suffered extensive devastation from Sandy.
Finally, in his closing remarks Mr. Myers stated he would like to change the form of government from the current commissioner format to a council with “a weak or strong mayor.” He pointed out that the federal government established the Walsh Act creating the commissioner government to allow coastal communities to swiftly respond to natural disasters. Aren’t we a coastal community that four short years ago suffered a major natural disaster?
The council form of government does exist on this Island and one municipality that has it was forced to turn operations over to the county, which hampered the speed of its recovery and its financial reimbursement. As one example, if Long Beach Township was governed this way at that time the commissioners would not have been able to rent additional bulldozers that were necessary to build temporary dunes needed to protect the Holgate section from the nor’easter that hit us the following week.
Voting for change just for the sake of change isn’t always the wisest decision. You have only one vote. If your vision for our future includes higher property taxes, on-the-job training and an impotent governing body, by all means vote Myers, Hagler and Beaty. However, if you believe clear leadership, proven performance and a team that has shown they can get the job done within the budget they have, your choice can only be Mancini, Lattanzi and Bayard.