To the editor…from Anne H. Phillips, Brigantine Taxpayers Association.
First, we thank the municipal employees and volunteers who worked to prepare for, alleviate, and clean up the devastation from Sandy.
The effects of such a large storm are not only destructive at the time, but long-lasting in terms of the ways which we as individuals, and our several levels of government, respond to them. How will our island home and population change?
Sandy reminded us of our vulnerability as a barrier island, and the financial and other costs of owning property so close to the ocean and bay when such a storm strikes. As we all cope with the disruption, uncertainty and expenses left behind in Sandy’s wake, we must also seek ways to better protect properties and people from harm in future storms.
Are there lessons to be learned? And what about this storm’s effect on our property assessments, taxes and our 2013 municipal budget, now being prepared? We should not assume that our taxes must increase because of this storm. That would be a second blow to overburdened taxpayers.
As an independent civic organization whose primary purpose is to discuss and act upon issues concerning our local government, in particular those affecting property taxes and other public revenues, public expenditures, public welfare and the environment, the Brigantine Taxpayers Association here presents the following comments on two important issues for public and official consideration and action.
The following points are recommended measures to mitigate and address storm flooding:
- Elevate all dune walks to the height of the adjacent dune.
- Rebuild and replant washed-away sections of our dunes, and extend them where suitable, with plantings of dune grass- the advantages of a growing dune system which absorbs the force of surging waves and tides, softening the blow, are now obvious to all. Brigantine should establish a clear policy that states there shall be no cutting of trees on the dunes as was done unwisely in 2012 with official permission.
- City Council should continue to urge the building of hard structures, jetties, along our beachfront as a proven means of holding most of the sand in place.
- The bayside should be completely bulkheaded; gaps in any place weaken the system causing damage to adjacent areas.
- The BTA supports Council’s resolution against the state proposal to ban beach fees.
- Council should consider the purchase of a surplus military truck (deuce and a half) for use in flooded areas.
- Establish better communication and coordination prior to any disaster between municipal government and those residents who need help to evacuate – this includes knowledge of adequate availability of appropriate mainland shelters for all needing help, since, as the Public Works director stated, leaving the island is the best course of action.
- To rebuild or not – which makes sense on a barrier island with areas prone to flooding? Should this question be part of our recovery discussion?
Secondly, the following points concern the 2013 municipal budget:
- Residents are already under financial pressure due to Sandy, the coming increase in the cost of flood insurance, and the current economic climate – should they be hit again with increased property taxes (the municipal purpose tax rate increased 9.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, and is up 52 percent since 2006 after the revaluation)?
- Brigantine’s attainable goal should be to shrink the size and cost of municipal government. Our current census population is down to 9,500 residents, a 25 percent drop since 2000.
- Four of our public-sector employee contracts are being renegotiated now. The new contracts must reflect these realities: the private sector is paying too much of the costs for public employee benefits and public employees are paying far too little, and taxpayers are paying too much for wages which exceed those in the private sector.
- There should be a wage freeze.
- The public must see and comment on these contracts before City Council votes on them. No longer will taxpayers pay the bill without seeing and discussing the contract; Council will be held accountable for its votes.
Anne H. Phillips
Brigantine Taxpayers Association