Disagreeable Politics

May 09, 2018

To the Editor:

I write this letter in response to the article “‘Fiscally Sound’ 2018 Budget Up, Tax Rate Down” (5/2). I write to clarify the events of the April 24 Stafford Township Council meeting and to correct the record about some of what was said at the meeting.

It was my honor and privilege to serve the residents of Stafford Township as councilman from 2013 through 2015. I should also say, in the interest of transparency, I am a candidate for town council in the June 5 primary.

At the April 24 council meeting, the mayor and council voted on the 2018 budget. During public comment, I spoke out in opposition to the budget as proposed. I took issue with the mayor and administrator’s public comments on the budget in that they seemed to imply that because the tax rate would drop for this budget, this was a good deal for Stafford Taxpayers. In fact, this budget would increase by over half a million dollars. The decrease in the rate was in fact the result of a recent reassessment of property values in Stafford, and the amount of taxes paid by many in Stafford would go up, not down.

In further comments, I stated that in a $48 million budget I found it hard to believe that $550,000 in reductions could not be found. As examples of some changes that could be made, I cited that the purchase of new asphalt machine could be deleted, Mayor Spodofora and Councilman Fessler could forego taking premium health benefits for part-time work at the taxpayers’ expense and indicated that I felt that the surplus in the budget could be reduced. I also suggested that further adjustments could be made in other areas as well.

Initially, Administrator Moran attempted to lecture me regarding the necessity of the asphalt machine and implied that if the surplus were reduced, some sort of fiscal crisis might ensue. Equipment purchases are deferred and budget adjustments are made in municipal budgets all the time, and Administrator Moran knows that.

Moran then in an argumentative tone went on to make the confusing and random accusation that I had voted for or supported a previous budget in 2009. Mr. Moran seems to be making things up here since I was not on the council in 2009. In fact, I believe that I opposed the 2009 budget, as did then Councilman Spodofora.

Additionally, Mr. Moran seemed to imply that there was something wrong with actions I took as councilman post-Sandy. All actions taken post-Sandy were taken given the demands of the situation and based on the information available. Presumably we were furnished with accurate information.

Mayor Spodofora then joined in, chastising me from the dais. Spodofora said the 2013 budget, passed while I was on the council, included a temporary reduction in the open space tax – a small portion of the budget that was, in his words, a “disaster.” In fact, the 2013 budget was arrived at after a great deal of consultation and deliberation. The reduction was reversed in the 2015 budget that the mayor heralded in the press as “very healthy.” It was clear that we needed to do what was necessary to provide for cleanup and recovery post-Sandy while easing as much as possible the tax burden on all residents. I will point out that Mayor Spodofora enthusiastically supported all the budgets while I was in office, including 2013.

After the mayor and administrator’s rants, Councilman Smith and Councilman Taylor jumped into the fray with remarks that were factually challenged as well. Taylor tried to denigrate my service as councilman by attacking me and criticizing my work ethic while on council. Interestingly, Councilwoman Sharon McKenna can be heard on the meeting video telling Taylor, “You can’t say that.” In my opinion, Councilwoman McKenna knows full well that while we may have disagreed on some things when we were both on council that I worked diligently for the residents of Stafford.

Unfortunately, I am long and well acquainted with the Mayor Spodofora’s fleeting familiarity with the truth and generally disrespectful behavior when questioned. It is clear that nothing has changed in that respect.

It is possible to have a public disagreement without being disagreeable. Residents and taxpayers should have the right to differ with the township governing body without being ambushed. Given the remarks and actions of the mayor, administrator and some council members on April 24, I am left to think that what they said and did may have been motivated by political motives and personal animosity. The residents and taxpayers of Stafford Township deserve better than that.

Paul Krier

Stafford Township




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