The all-Republican Morris County Freeholder board is trying to spin a proposed 2018 tax increase, saying that the average – always be suspicious when politicians play mathematician – homeowner will pay just $1.67 more under their 1.79% tax rate increase. Also, beware when the tax rate term is used – sometimes that’s meant to obfuscate the realities of the budget.
The freeholder budget chair is Christine Myers, a friend and neighbor of former Gov. Chris Christie and now an official at the Small Business Administration. Myers – not a candidate for re-election – says that the budget prepares for a new self-insured county employee drug plan, helps fight the opioid epidemic, and will help promote tourism. Spin.
Two other freeholders are up this year, and as usual, there is some infighting. Deborah Smith and John Cesaro are expected to wind up on different tickets in the June primary. Smith served on Myers’ budget panel; Cesaro got beaten up last year when he challenged Jay Webber and Betty Lou DeCroce in the GOP Assembly primary — DeCroce went after him on voting for county tax increases.
The problem for Republicans in Morris County is that they can’t blame Democrats for any part of a tax increase. Democrats haven’t had a freeholder since Douglas Romaine served from 1974 to 1976, so the GOP owns the budget.
If Morris County Democrats really are able to combine changing demographics, better voter registration numbers and a possible wave election, they might have a chance to win a freeholder or two – or three – in 2018. That’s especially true if they can do a better job spinning Morris County’s third consecutive tax-hike budget.