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Reader asks What will it take for the Council to take the plugs out of their ears and blinders off their eyes?

money

What will it take for the Council to take the plugs out of their ears and blinders off their eyes? Residents have been begging, pleading, showing how items can only bankrupt the town and make taxes even higher with no sign that the council has heard or read a word. If the library wants to grow (unnecessarily)it can self fund. Most of the tutors, self employed business people, and book readers are not even from Ridgewood. Self funding would include monies from these people and let the Ridgewood taxpayers alone from providing luxury items that everyone (including the library board–they just “want it” not “need it”) knows is not essential. If the board still feels it is necessary, start your fund drive and wait to see if you get one red cent to splurge on the library and take from libraries and towns who NEED the money just to survive. The council is all spend, spend, spend and who cares if Ridgewood has enough money to pay their new debts. And we thought the prior council was bad. The present one is composed of nice people with not one bit of economic knowledge in all their heads put together.

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Reader asks Why do we the taxpayers of Ridgewood have to pay for an even better library when more than 50% of the patrons are from other towns?

Ridgewood_Public_library_theridgewoodblog

I am at the library weekly, I love reading real hold in my hands books. The library is a great place to learn, to meet, to expose oneself to new ideas. However, I would like to see a study done about who is actually using the Ridgewood library. I rarely see my neighbors or friends there. Instead I see tutors, I see NY license plates, I see cars with parking stickers from towns in southern bergen county. You see, we have the nicest library in bergen county, we have the only library in bergen county that is open on Sundays in the summer! Why oh Why do we the taxpayers of Ridgewood have to pay for an even better library when more than 50% of the patrons are from other towns? Other than bragging rights or simply because “it’s ridgewood”, there is no reason for the taxpayers of Ridgewood to foot the bill so that the rest of BCCLS can benefit.

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Readers say Support our students, support Ridgewood taxpayers, and support the BOE

Ridgewood EA teachers protest

I agree with the above. System has to be changed. No more using the last few years of highest earnings to determine pension payout – should be average of working years. No more pensions for part timers. If taxes are raised any more, anyone who is able to move will even if they wanted to stay. No more platinum health care unless the workers pay more for it if they choose. Don’t get me started on teachers … most believe they are a special class of worker and have the hardest jobs in the world. No, not an easy job but I am not seeing the dedication in the profession that I remember seeing in teachers I had as a child. I stand with our BOE and draw the line for providing benefits better than the private sector offers.

Just got an update from my financial advisor saying my wife and I need to save $366,000 for health care insurance in retirement because Medicare will only cover 51% of total costs after 65. Long-term care costs can run up to $1,680 A WEEK. And 45% of retirees are expected to pay more than 20% of their income on health care by 2040. Yet teachers, cops and firefighters just expect taxpayers to subsidize their “platinum” health benefits year after year, including those who take “special” early retirements as early as their 40s. It’s sickening, and we can’t afford to be paying for better health plan benefits for public sector workers than we get ourselves. Christie and the Ridgewoid BOE are fighting for taxpayers – we must support them against the lies and misinformation being spread by the REA and the full-time Union lawyers and lobbyists behind them from the NJEA. Support our students, support Ridgewood taxpayers, and support the BOE

 

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Reader asks Who Pays the Obamacare “Cadillac Tax” in 2020 for Ridgewood Municipal and School Employees?

Ridgewood Police

file photo by Boyd Loving

Reader asks ,please don’t forget the ACA excise taxes from 2020~…. that’s another 40% on platinum level health benefits like those our teachers, police and fire currently enjoy. They either all need to be downgraded to bronze level health benefits or taxpayers will bear the brunt of the 40% tax on $25,000 family plans, i.e. an additional $10,000 a year per Village and BOE employee with a platinum family plan. Who pays for that?

 

Ridgewood NJ, On December 18, 2015, Congress passed and the President signed a two-year delay of the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans, also known as the “Cadillac Tax.” This delay was part of a year-end government funding package and changes the effective date from 2018 to 2020. While the tax was originally non-tax deductible, the December 2015 changes make it tax deductible for employers who pay it.

No regulations have been issued to date. In February and July 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued notices covering a number of issues concerning the Cadillac Tax, and requested comments on the possible approaches that could ultimately be incorporated into proposed regulations.

What it is/fee duration Permanent, annual tax beginning in 2020 on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage.
Purposes
  • Reduce tax preferred treatment of employer provided health care
  • Reduce excess health care spending by employees and employers
  • Help finance the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Amount
  • The tax is 40% of the cost of health coverage that exceeds predetermined threshold amounts.
  • Cost of coverage includes the total contributions paid by both the employer and employees, but not cost-sharing amounts such as deductibles, coinsurance and copays when care is received.
  • For planning purposes, the thresholds for high-cost plans are currently $10,200 for individual coverage, and $27,500 for family coverage.
  • These thresholds will be updated before the tax takes effect in 2020 and indexed for inflation in future years.
  • The thresholds will also be increased:
    • If the majority of covered employees are engaged in specified high-risk professions such as law enforcement and construction, and
    • For group demographics including age and gender.
  • For pre-65 retirees and individuals in high-risk professions, the threshold amounts are currently $11,850 for individual coverage and $30,950 for family coverage. These amounts will also be indexed before the tax takes effect.
Who calculates and pays
  • Insured: Employers calculate and insurers pay
  • Self-funded: Employers calculate and “the person who administers the plan benefits” pays
  • HSAs and Archer MSAs: Employers calculate and employers pay
How a group health plan’s cost is determined
  • The tax is based on the total cost of each employee’s coverage above the threshold amount.
  • The cost includes contributions toward the cost of coverage made by employers and employees.
  • The statute states that costs of coverage will be calculated under rules similar to the rules for calculating COBRA premium.
How the tax will be paid Forms and instructions for paying the tax are not yet available.
Tax implications Based on the December 2015 changes, Cadillac Tax payments will be deductible for federal tax purposes.
Applicable types of coverage
  • Insured and self-insured group health plans (including behavioral, and prescription drug coverage)
  • Wellness programs that are group health plans (most wellness programs)
  • Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), employer and employee pre-tax contributions*
  • Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs)*
  • Archer Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs), all pre-tax contributions*
  • On-site medical clinics providing more than de minimis care*
  • Executive Physical Programs*
  • Pre-tax coverage for a specified disease or illness
  • Hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance
  • Federal/State/Local government-sponsored plans for its employees
  • Retiree coverage
  • Multi-employer (Taft-Hartley) plans

http://www.cigna.com/health-care-reform/cadillac-tax

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Reader says Taxpayers Cannot be Subsidizing Better Benefits for Ridgewoood Teachers than they have themselves

Ridgewood EA teachers protest

$81,000 average salary for Ridgewood teacher. Glen Rock, Fairlawn, Wyckoff are around $72,000 average. A $102,000,000 budget for around 5,500 students is approx $18,000 per student. Ridgewood also ranks high for greater number of teachers making over $100,000. Easy commute, easy district, unlimited fundraising from parents to fund better technology, environment and resources, not to mention intelligent students served by private tutoring, parent involvement and less negative secondary factors. I love and respect our teachers and feel fortunate to have such a wonderful school district for my kids. But, I need either more information or stronger argument from teachers to be convinced they are getting a bad deal in these negotiations. Anyone?

These teachers need to understand the private sector reality – taxpayers cannot be subsidizing better benefits for teachers than they have themselves, it doesn’t work.

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Ridgewood Needs a House Cleaning

Ridgewood_-Village_Hall_theridgewoodblog
April 24,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood NJ, to some this will seem like old news that Paul was going to make a statement at the mic at the close of the League of Womens Voter Candidate Night and was shut down by the moderator . However many may be unaware Mayor Aronsohn was going to make a totally inappropriate statement regarding how wonderful Roberta Sonenfeld was as the Village Manager and then he was going to ask all six candidates if they would support keeping her on.
The league knew he was planning to say something and we were confident that the moderator would allow questions only and might have intervened anyway but the moderator was adhering to the format and when Mayor Aronsohn came to the mic, she closed public comment to move on to closing statements.
After the May 10th election the Village needs a massive house cleaning ,to clear the Village of all personnel who are paid by the taxpayers of Ridgewood who harbor under some confused notion that they work for some one else . If you work for the Village of Ridgewood   you work for the Residents of Ridgewood period, you do not work for Valley Hospital, you do not work for the Hudson County Democratic Political machine , you do not work for the mayor, developers  or any other special interest group . It is time for many to focus on their resume and move on .
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Ridgewood Taxpayers Still fighting for basic Information on Hudson Street Garage Design

Hudson_Street garage ridgewood
photo courtesy of Saurabh Dani
March 14,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Ridgewood Nj  Many Ridgewood residents went to the council meetings and asked exactly “How Much” does the garage encroach into the street. We had tried to look at some smaller images of the plan in the traffic report’s appendices and tried to figure it out, as the information was not available anywhere on the village web site and we were not getting an answer in the council meetings.

The village manager recently responded to a post on Facebook saying the previous design was 18 feet more than plan D. So plan A was encroaching 23 FEET, not 12 feet which we had assumed. 23 feet encroachment in plan A?? Was that a sincere starting point where we claim a ‘compromise’.

23 feet is 23 feet , however you measure it . The point is the only way anyone found out this dimension was when another option became more attractive then a previous one. Why do the taxpayers, who are going to guarantee this bond, have to go through hoops to find out this basic information?

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Residents Shocked over Gwen Hauck Serious Conflict of Interest with Valley Hospital

gwenn hauck

file photo by Boyd Loving

January 7,2014
the staff of the Ridgewood

Ridgewood Nj, Residents continue to voice concerns about Gwen Hauck’s serious conflict of interest with Valley Hospital . Many were entirely shocked with last nights discovery the Gwen was representing Ridgewood tax payers in negotiations over the Valley law suit. Its seems common sense would dictate be it legal or not that a life long donor to Valley Hospital as well as her significant involvement with Valley hospital operations since she was a candy striper would make her participation null and void .

At last nights meeting Anne Loving raised concerns about Gwenn Hauck serving on the mediation team in the Valley suit against the village , ” Under any scenario, she should have recused herself.  She has stated often that she is in complete support of the entire expansion project.  How can she be objective and serve the village properly?”

Gwen was challenged as to whether she was on the current donor list for Valley of not  ,readers questioned , What I’d like to know though is why Ms. Hauck would have failed to contact The Valley to advise them of the error if she’s known about it for some time.Hold the phone.who’s lying Valley or Gwenn. How can Valley falsify donor lists?

Councilwomen Hauck vehemently denied that she and her husband had made any donations to Valley since she has been on the council , while Valley had her on the donor list .” The only reason I can think of that The Valley would want to falsify a donor list – to make it seem that everyone important was giving and that we should too.” , speculated a reader.

 Playing word games if fine but it does seem like Councilwomen Hauck clearly has a conflict of interest when it comes to Valley Hospital .

A conflict of interest (COI) is a situation in which a person or organization is involved in multiple interests, financial interest, or otherwise, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation of the individual or organization.The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A widely used definition is: “A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.”[1] Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession or activity, such as the protection of clients, the health of patients, the integrity of research, and the duties of public office. Secondary interest includes not only financial gain but also such motives as the desire for professional advancement and the wish to do favours for family and friends, but conflict of interest rules usually focus on financial relationships because they are relatively more objective, fungible, and quantifiable. The secondary interests are not treated as wrong in themselves, but become objectionable when they are believed to have greater weight than the primary interests. The conflict in a conflict of interest exists whether or not a particular individual is actually influenced by the secondary interest. It exists if the circumstances are reasonably believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to create a risk that decisions may be unduly influenced by secondary interests.  ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_of_interest )

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Ridgewood’s Mayor Plans A Major End-Run Around the Local Bond Law !

Paul_Aronsohn_theridgewood blog
file photo of Mayor Paul Aronsohn 
December 5,2015

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Readers say Record Article Paints and Inaccurate Picture of Hudson Parking Garage Meeting

Ridgewood NJ, the question was asked “Could you say more about what is inaccurate in the article? I wasn’t able to attend the meeting and only saw about 15 minutes of the video stream. I believe of the three public comments I saw, two were in favor of Option C/No Garage, and one was in favor Option A.”Inaccurate –

1. one sentence about public comment at the very end of the article, when the public spoke for hours.
2. indicates that most favor plan A, when many public members spoke about related issues and not about which plan they favor. No discussion of related concerns.
3. completely omitted that Mayor Aronsohn intends to disregard the STATE law and do an end-run around the requirement that FOUR council members must vote for a bond. In the event that two decide not to vote for the bond, Aronsohn will go directly to the county to get them to issue the bond. He has already met with them and already has this in place with them just waiting for his call. This is despicable. Gwenn and Albert are going right along with this. Even though it is LEGAL to do this, it is completely disrespectful to our local government and flies in the face of the spirit of good governance.

Local Bond Law N.J.S.A. 40A:2-1 et seq. November, 2009 Page 1 Local Bond Law N.J.S.A. 40A:2
A bond ordinance shall be finally adopted by the recorded affirmative votes of at least 2/3 of the full membership of the governing body. In a local unit in which the approval of any officer is required to make an ordinance or resolution effective, such bond ordinance shall be so approved, or passed over veto before it shall be published after final adoption.

This law, above, is a state law and requires 2/3 majority to issue a bond. Three out of five is only a 60% majority. Here goes out elected officials all set up to break the law.

The public comments were certainly not “binary”, and the council’s opinion wasn’t really the focus of the time.
Would Ridgewood be “legally on the hook” for any bond the county issued? I agree that seems like a major end-run around the law!

The actual council session is available here online: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/village-of-ridgewood-public-access

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East Side, West Side all Around the town Ridgewood Taxpayers Continue to get the shaft from Mayor Aronsohn, Deputy Mayor Pucciarelli, and Councilwoman Hauck

3 amigos in action Ridgewood NJ

file photo by Boyd Loving

November 8,2015

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

 

Ridgewood NJ, On Wednesday November 4, the agenda for the Village Council’s Public Workshop Agenda included a single line item:  Public Hearing – Change in Use of 1057 Hillcrest Road (The Gate House) at Irene Habernickel Family Park.  No one in the neighborhood of the park had been informed via any official channels.  A small, almost unreadable sign posted at the park informed of the meeting, but few saw it and many who might have would not have read such an insignificant posting.  Many found out about the meeting through a grapevine of neighbors.  One was told, off the record, by a police officer.  Another heard about it from a contractor working at her home.  Some learned as they were arriving home from work that night.

The basic gist of what is going on is as follows.  For many years, the Gate House had been rented to a family, who opted not to renew their lease.  An ad placed for a new renter yielded no interested parties.  A business, however, had indicated an interest in acquiring the property.  Late in the summer, on September 16, an ordinance was introduced to change the use of 1057 Hillcrest Road to “recreational/educational purposes.”  Health Barn USA won the bid, and soon thereafter the business website indicated the new address in Ridgewood.  The website, should you care to read further, is http://www.healthbarnusa.com/

Some reached out to one of our elected officials, Councilwoman Susan Knudsen in advance of Wednesday’s meeting.  Responding appropriately and promptly, Councilwoman Knudsen explained to those who inquired how to speak their concerns at a Council Meeting, and who to speak with at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regarding the regulations involved using a property that was purchased with Green Acres Funding for business purposes.

Many residents of the neighborhood arrived at the November 4 meeting, not sure what to expect, but certain that they wanted to speak their opposition to this plan.  For most, this was the first Village Council meeting they had attended.  They waited patiently while other business items were discussed and presented.

When the Public Hearing began, the owner of Health Barn USA, Ms. Stacey Antine, explained the mission and purpose of her business.  She also denied some allegations that had been swirling prior to this meeting, stating that she was not involved in any litigation with her former landlord (Abmas Farm in Wyckoff) and that no children from inner cities would be bused in for the programs.  Following her presentation, several clients of Health Barn USA gave testimonials, and employees of the Village of Ridgewood spoke about safety and other concerns surrounding the changed use of the property.

When the residents finally got their chance to speak, they were amazing.  Twenty one individuals spoke, ranging in age from 18 to “retired.”  One after the next they voiced valid objections to the change in use, to the way the matter has been handled  by The Village Council, and to the legality of defying the NJ-DEP Green Acres guidelines.  They were all clear, determined, insistent, polite, even while frustrated.  Many expressed a sense of wonder that their elected officials had actually changed the use and drafted (although not finalized) a lease on a business BEFORE the Public Hearing.   You can hear their excellent comments on the Village of Ridgewood website U-Stream.

Here are a few highlights, in no particular order:

1. One resident was reprimanded sarcastically and loudly by Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck.  Yes, you read that correctly, a member of the public, a taxpayer, was publicly humiliated by one of our elected officials.

2. Results of a traffic study conducted by the Ridgewood Police Department seemed to greatly differ from the neighbors’ observations of traffic at the site.

3. While the original presentation by the Health Barn USA owner indicated that busses would not be coming in and out of the park, later in the evening it was revealed that mini-busses and full-size school busses could be expected on a regular basis.

4. The business has been granted permission by the Village to use a large plot on the park property  for gardening;  this is separate from the home and its immediate surrounds.

5. Assistant to the Village Manager, Ms. Janet Fricke, expressed frustration that one of our elected officials assisted residents in navigating the process without including her in the discussion.  Likewise, Village Manager Ms. Roberta Sonenfeld indicated that no such communications between a councilmember and the public should take place without everyone being cc’ed.  SINCE WHEN DO EMPLOYEES TELL ELECTED OFFICIALS WHAT THEY CAN OR CANNOT DO?  Does anyone actually believe that an elected official should not assist residents who ask for assistance?

6. No resident, not one, criticized the business in any way or maligned Ms. Antine for having sought this location.  Their argument was not with Health Barn USA; it is with the proposed presence of any business in their quiet residential neighborhood.

7. In summary, Mayor Aronsohn, Deputy Mayor Pucciarelli, and Councilwoman Hauck all indicated that with some minor adjustments to satisfy the NJ-DEP, they will be looking forward to welcoming this wonderful new business, thereby completely ignoring the impassioned pleas of these residents.

So, are the Habernickel Park neighbors getting the shaft just like the Schedler Park residents?  Sure looks like it.  Once again, the Council Majority is running a steam roller right over the taxpayers.