Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said today she is opposed to the nomination of 18 people to various county Boards of Taxation.
“With the state struggling to keep its current budget in balance and come up with a new budget for the coming fiscal year, we cannot afford the cost of the pension and health benefits of all these appointments to county tax boards,” Sen. Weinberg said. “If all the new nominees enroll in the generous health and pension plans the state offers, the appointments will end up costing the state almost $600,000. That’s a luxury we just cannot afford at this time.”
Of those 11 members being reappointed, only 3 waived their health benefits, dental and prescription coverage.
County Boards of Taxation maintain information on real estate assessments, maintain property tax list books for all real estate property and are responsible for the tax appeal process. Senator Weinberg noted the number of appeals to county tax boards dropped from 93,340 in 1992 to 32,976 in 2008.
“These are part-time positions that typically pay from $10,000 to $20,000 per year, as well as pension and health benefits,” Sen. Weinberg said. “I am a co-sponsor of legislation (S-181) that would reduce the membership of these boards to the level they were at prior to the 2004 law that increased membership. Under this bill, county boards of taxation with five members would be decreased to three members and boards with seven members would be decreased to five members.”
“Everywhere we look, we see vital state programs being slashed, workers being asked to take unpaid furloughs, and proposals to freeze wages and raise new revenues,” Sen. Weinberg said. “With everyone being asked to sacrifice – and rightly so – in this unprecedented economic downturn, it makes no sense to appoint all these people to county tax boards and increase the state’s costs for wages and pensions, without asking these appointees to also take salary furloughs in the same manner we are requiring other state employees to do. One of the few line items that increased was that of the County Boards of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury. It increased by $64,000 from FY2009 to FY2010.”
Sen. Weinberg is the author of a Senate Resolution urging board and commission members who work fewer than 25 hours per week – including county tax board members – to forgo their pay or per diem for three months as part of an effort to help close a gap in the state budget. The resolution (SR-114) also calls on them to reimburse the boards, commissions, and authorities for three months’ worth of pension contributions paid by the public entity into a state-run retirement system.
“The people fortunate enough to be selected to serve on County Boards of Taxation have other sources of income,” Sen. Weinberg said. “They should take part in the unpaid furloughs along with all the other state workers who are being told to take time off from work without pay. I hope the Governor and Senate members will join me in asking these appointees to step up to the plate during these hard times and take a voluntary salary furlough.”
“These county tax board jobs are part-time positions with generous compensation,” she said. “I am sure that the appointees are all fine and upstanding citizens and my opposition has nothing to do with their character or quality of work. There is no good reason to add hundreds of thousands of dollars in new costs to the state budget with these tax board appointments, and for that reason, I will oppose them when the full Senate meets to vote on the Judiciary Committee recommendations.”