Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth) today sharply criticized Aberdeen Township’s taxpayer-funded distribution of flagrantly misleading information regarding the municipal record on taxes.
Sen. Declan O’Scanlon sharply criticized Aberdeen Township’s taxpayer-funded distribution of flagrantly misleading information regarding the municipal record on taxes. (SenateNJ.com)
In July, Aberdeen’s governing body sent out a mailing to residents blatantly, and falsely, claiming that there was no increase in municipal taxes. The mailing blamed tax increases on schools, Monmouth County, and assessment methodologies.
“I’ve worked well and in good faith with Aberdeen during all my years in the legislature. Our good relationship makes my having to make this statement all the more difficult. But the Aberdeen administration failed its constituents on so many levels revolving around this demonstrably misleading, blatantly political, taxpayer-funded communication that I simply cannot let it stand,” said O’Scanlon
“The letter sent by the Aberdeen Administrator, presumably at the direction of the governing body, is deeply troubling on many levels. First, it consistently and purposefully misrepresents the budget and tax actions of the municipality. Second, it attempts to place blame solely on Monmouth County and school administrators for tax increases that the municipal governing body is itself responsible for. Third, when County Tax Board officials called out the governing body for its misrepresentations, Councilman Cannon openly threatened Tax Board members and administrators,” O’Scanlon continued.
Monmouth County’s award-winning Assessment Demonstration Program is in line with the rest of the country as the gold standard for fair and accurate property assessments.
“There can only be two underlying causes of the blatant factual errors contained in the letter. Either the Aberdeen Administrator and governing body do not understand how property taxes and assessment methodologies work, or they purposefully chose to lie to the public. There is no third option. It would be unfathomable for anyone to believe that the Aberdeen officials in question were unaware of their own budgets and tax levy increases, therefore it is a fair assumption that the misrepresentations were intentional.”
Documentation obtained through an Open Public Records Act request shows the full scope of this misinformation campaign as well as bringing to light threats made by a local official–Councilman Cannon–against the Monmouth County Tax Board when the County Tax Board discussed providing residents with factually accurate information.
“These documents show that Aberdeen’s suggestion that Monmouth County is responsible for local tax increases is outrageous. Monmouth County government has one of the best, most conservative tax records in the state of New Jersey. From 2018 to 2019, the local levy increase imposed by the Aberdeen Mayor and Council went up at a rate 2.5 times faster than the County rate (3.69% vs 1.35%). Over the last 6 years, the Aberdeen rate went up by an average of 4.1% versus under 1% for the County. Aberdeen’s local tax levy increased at a rate of over 30% faster than the average municipality in the 13th Legislative District. There are many components to taxes that impact an increase or decrease in an individual tax bill—local, school, county, or assessment changes can all have an impact. But to imply that Aberdeen’s municipal levy has not had any influence on local tax increases is simply false.”
“Equally as disturbing as the blatant misstatements in this document, is the behavior of at least one elected official. During discussions with County Tax Board members and administrators, Councilman Cannon threatened the County Tax Board members with retribution for doing their jobs. It is deeply concerning that we have a public official on record making statements of intent to use his political position in an attempt to cause harm to the careers of members of our County Tax Board and administrators who are trying to fulfill their official, administrative duty to the residents of Aberdeen and Monmouth County.“
“Additionally Councilman Cannon openly admitted that the taxpayer-funded mailing was political, and only issued because political control of Aberdeen was up this year,” O’Scanlon stated. “A public servant using public money, for a solely political purpose, is totally unacceptable. The mailing adds insult to injury by pushing demonstrably false information to the people that paid for it–Aberdeen’s taxpayers.”
As a direct result of this misleading mailing, the Monmouth County Tax Board is creating a FAQ page to help residents understand their property taxes and guard against this type of false and irresponsible misrepresentation.
“At the very least, the elected officials who authorized this series of misrepresentations and this misuse of funds must public apologize to their constituents for misleading them and using their tax dollars to do it. Councilman Cannon must apologize to the County Tax Board members and staff he threatened and an appropriate investigation should be conducted to ensure accountability if laws were broken. Additionally, the mayor and council should personally repay the municipality for the cost of the mailing. Lastly, it would appear that some remedial education for all the officials involved in this mess is in order. Starting with a crash course on how various taxes, tax levies, and tax rates work and interact,” O’Scanlon concluded.