Where the Scotch Plains Candidates Stand: The Sewer Utility Fee

At the Oct. 25 Scotch Plains Fanwood-Times candidates forum, candidates answered questions on the issues facing Scotch Plains.

On Oct. 25, The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times held a debate at the Scotch Plains Municipal building between council candidates, Colleen Gialanella(D) and Edward Saridaki ( R ) and Mayoral Candidates, Mary DePaola ( R ) and Kevin Glover(D).

Another pressing issue that is often brought up by Patch Commenters, and was brought up to the candidates by moderator, Fred Rossi, is the Scotch Plains Sewer utility fee.

Councilman Saridaki explained that when the Rahway Valley Sewage Authority (RVSA) was asked to build new facilities, they then had to past the costs on to the 11 towns which use those facilities, Scotch Plains being one of them. 

He added, "if that was expense into our annual budget we would exceed the cap requiring Scotch Plains to go to a voter referendum on the township budget, which would probably turned down." 

Instead the township chose to create separate utility authority. 

"If the 2.6 or 2.9 million was in our budget then we would have to eliminate 2.9 million dollars worth of services," he said. "By creating the usage fee, we've created revenue from non tax paying entities in the district." 

He also called upon the recent steps being taken by the RVSA to cut the costs, such as refinancing bonds and additional use of the RVSA equipment. 

Saridaki said "so within the first four or five years when you net your taxes with the sewer fee you'll be paying less on the whole or on average than you would if it was all in your property taxes."

Gialanella wanted to clarify that it is not a sewer tax, because you cannot deduct this cost from income taxes.

She noted that it is a separate fee your are paying tot he township of Scotch Plains. 

"250 dollars isn't going to make or break the average tax payer in Scotch Plains," she said. "But the position is that it's adding insult to injury, the solution lies in
creativity and fresh way of thinking."

Additionally, Gialanella would like to see the fee returned to residents in property taxes.

Rossi asked the same question about the sewer utility to the Mayoral candidates.

In which DePaola also explained how it is a utility, not a tax. She said it is similar to having your gas or electric lines run through your home.

She also agreed with Saridaki that this system is the most equitable for taxpayers.

Adding that now there are churches and other non-profits paying into their own water treatment, about $175,000, which was previously being supplemented by residents.

Glover's rebuttal stated that in his opinion, what Mayor DePaola was really saying is it's because they wanted to be fair, which he asked, "then why didn't we do it 10 years ago?" 

"The only reason we've done this now is because we've got ourselves in such a bind and we had to get out of it," he said. "The only way to get out of it was a gimmick, not my words, Governor Christie's."

He also pointed out that originally the utility was supposed to be paid based on usage, yet Glover and his wife pay within dollars of DePaola, her husband and six children.

"We are not allocating the bill fairly, Glover stated.  "It's not done by usage."

When moderator Fred Rossi asked DePaola how the Democrats can put the sewer utility money back into the budget, she blatantly replied that there is absolutely no way.

"They are going to put 3 million dollars back into the budget?," she questioned.
"That's absolutely not going to happen, they'd exceed the 2% cap right there." 

She pointed out that if that were the case the only option would be massive layoffs and cuts to services.

Glover replied to DePaola's response by saying, "I don't know where she gets her facts from, they are certainly not real."

Glover broke it down by saying the township has a 25 million dollar budget, in which for the RVSA costs they took out 2.5 million and created sewer utility.  He said if they were to put them back together it would be back at the 25 million dollar budget. 

"There are legal ways to put utility back into budget, he said. "The fact is she(DePaola) doesn't know them and not willing to work them back into budget."

Check back with scotchplains.patch.com for full coverage of the Scotch Plains elections.

To find out your polling location, visit this link http://ucnj.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/polling-place-by-municipalities.pdf.

Note: Those who are supposed to vote at the Scotch Plains Public Library will now vote at Park Middle School. Those who are supposed to vote at Coles Elementary will vote at Terrill Middle School, due to the storm.


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