First in a series
By Art Gallagher
Belmar Mayor “Lawless Matt” Doherty’s first order of business after winning the Democrat primary for Monmouth County freeholder was to promote his record of not raising taxes in the borough. He’s attempting to put his fiscal credentials up against Republican Freeholder Director Tom Arnone and Deputy Freeholder Director Serena DiMaso who, along with their colleagues on the Board, cut county taxes $4.5 million this year and have kept spending flat since 2008.
In the Asbury Park Press article about the Belmar budget, Doherty said, ““There are very few, if any, towns who can say they have had no tax increases in six years.”
Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly said, “This is our sixth consecutive year of no tax increase. That doesn’t happen by accident.”
It certainly doesn’t. An examination of the record reveals that it happens with gimmicks, trickery and outright lawlessness.
Doherty has been keeping Belmar taxes down by ripping off taxpayers throughout Monmouth County, by defiantly refusing to perform a property tax revaluation in the borough and has been ripping off visitors to the beach and other tourist by overcharging the Beach Utility and Parking Utility for municipal services, in violation of the public trust doctrine and Court Orders.
Belmar’s municipal budgeted spending has increased 14% since Doherty’s first budget in 2011. The budget passed by the governing body on June 8 is $1.849 million higher than the 2011 budget. Yet he brags that there is no tax increase in those six years.
BIG tax increases are coming to Belmar residents. Doherty hopes he will have moved on to Freehold before bill the comes due on the trickery he has employed to artificially keep taxes down in Belmar since 2011.
Doherty’s most recent trick occurred moments after the governing body approved their 2016 budget on June 8. The governing body introduced an ordinance authorizing a $210,000 emergency appropriation to FINALLY, after 13 years and as a result of being forced to by the Attorney General, perform a property tax valuation of every home in the borough.
Merriam-Webster defines emergency as an unexpected and usually dangerous situation that calls for immediate action. In Lawless Matt’s vocabulary it’s a ploy to avoid including an expenditure in the budget so that you can claim that you didn’t raise taxes.
While explaining the revaluation to the Council, Borough Clerk April Claudio admitted that Belmar had been putting off the revaluation in order to avoid tax increases and was only going forward with it now because the State mandated that they do so. Claudio said the borough “had to do it” after “extensive negotiations with the State.” That’s hardly an unexpected situation.
By intentionally avoiding a revaluation, Belmar was ripping off taxpayers in all the other towns in Monmouth County. Belmar was the only Monmouth County town that avoided a revaluation for over 10 years and the only Monmouth town that was compelled by the state to perform one. Property taxes fund municipal government, schools and county government. Muncipal taxes are a function of what the town spends. By keeping Belmar’s property valuations artificially low, Dirty Doherty was suppressing the county portion of Belmar residents taxes at the expense of every other property tax payer in the county. When you see Doherty on the campaign trail and he brags that he didn’t raise Belmar taxes in six years, ask him for a refund on your taxes.
Next in the series: How Doherty rips off beach goers and tourists by raiding the beach fund and parking fund, in violation of the public trust doctrine and Court Orders.