Senator Cardinale Calls for Investigation into Extraordinary Aid Program
September 25, 2009
Corzine Administration Doling Out Aid Arbitrarily
Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-Bergen) called on Governor Corzine to appoint a nonpartisan special investigator to review the State’s Extraordinary Aid Program. The stated purpose of the Extraordinary Aid Program, run by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), is to allow municipalities experiencing extraordinary financial problems not of their own making to compete for approximately $25 million in discretionary grants to mitigate property tax increases.
“Property taxes in New Jersey are the highest in the nation and one of the few property tax relief programs we have is being badly mismanaged,” said Senator Cardinale. “While I would like to believe the mismanagement is unintentional, a pattern is clearly developing that suggests the program is being deliberately manipulated.”
The following are problems and concerns with the program.
DCA has no regulations establishing standards for which applications will be approved and how much funding will be awarded.
DCA refuses to make available any ranking sheets or scoring sheets explaining the weighting of competing applications.
Nine applicants received grants in the most recent round of awards even though property taxes on the average home in those towns was less than $4, 000.
Eleven applicants received no grants even though property taxes on the average
home in those towns were more than $8, 000.
Last year, applicants in Bergen County with high taxes (some whose average taxes exceeded $10, 000) that had received help from the program were eliminated after Republicans and Democrats not in favor with the Ferriero machine won local elections.
Several towns received grants even though their applications did not document any revenue losses or expenses beyond their control other than the same types of revenue losses and expenses being faced by every town in the State. One example is Lambertville of Hunterdon County where the average property tax bill is more than $1, 000 less than the statewide average and more than several thousand dollars less than the average property tax bill in Bergen County. Lambertville is not a poor town and is not experiencing fiscal distress, but its mayor happens to be an active and partisan Democrat who is up for reelection.
Towns responsibly making full pension payments and engaging in difficult layoffs and furloughs are not receiving aid while towns that irresponsibly skip pension payments and refuse to accept layoffs or furloughs of even nonunionized workers are receiving grants.
“Pork of budgets past seems to be manifesting itself through manipulated property tax programs,” said Cardinale. “Only a truly nonpartisan investigation into this program is going to help shine light on its abuses.”