North Bergen refunding bond application deferred over raises, ‘perks’

TRENTON – An application from North Bergen Township for a tax appeal refunding bond ordinance was deferred today after the Local Finance Board raised questions about several issues, including what it deemed were non-essential raises in the town.

Chairman Tom Neff raised the issue of nonessential raises and cars as well as what he felt were “excessive’’ perks for officials in the municipality.

But township officials and the bond counsel defended the application, saying the finance board was not seeing the bigger picture.

Neff raised questions about 2 percent raises for non-union personnel in North Bergen, pointing out there are personnel in the Department of Community Affairs who have not seen raises in six years.

He said some towns have developed a sense of entitlement, using the Local Finance Board as a first resort, rather than a last resort.

Bond Counsel Ed McManimon defended North Bergen, saying “this town is not the town that has acted as if it is entitled.” He said North Bergen is not the poster child for such towns.

Also, town officials said cars have been passed down for years with many for personnel who are on call 24 hours.

And a Christmas party, funded in the past by the town, is being considered as something that won’t be funded this year, the board was told.

Before voting, Neff and board member Francis Blee said they would like assurances in writing from the town the concerns are being acknowledged and if possible, being dealt with through an action plan.

A special meeting, possibly by phone, could then be held so the town could go ahead and send tax bills out on time.

The emergency temporary appropriation the town is seeking has to be included in next year’s budget, McManimon told the board.

In routine business:

The board OK’d these applications regarding the Environmental Infrastructure Trust Loan Program:

Watchung Borough,  $1.27 million; and Merchantville – Pennsauken Water Commission, $2.8 million.

The board approved these storm-related applications:

Ocean Gate Borough, $150,000; Jersey City, $520,000; Spring Lake Borough, $4 million; and Toms River Township, $1.9 million.

These all involved waivers of down payments related to borrowings for improvements.

In addition, these storm-related requests were approved: Lake Como Borough, $336,000; and Belmar Borough, $1.86 million.

In Lake Como’s case, for example, a quarter of the town was flooded and its sewage pumping station stopped working, the board was informed. 

The municipality, one of 14 such in New Jersey on a fiscal-year calendar, sought to spread costs out over time and appeared before the board for approval.

Regarding Belmar, the board OK’d an adjusted application for a three-year note rather than 12 years. Chairman Tom Neff said if a problem occurs regarding Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement, then the town can come back to the board, but he said he was not comfortable with such a long period as 12 years.

North Bergen refunding bond application deferred over raises, ‘perks’