Frantantoni: Mayor Melham’s Property Tax Letter

In response to the Belleville Council's substantial budget increase, tireless public advocate Vincent Frantantoni has submitted a letter of his own for residents.

This week Belleville residents have begun receiving their property tax bills from the Township. Enclosed with the tax bill is a letter from Mayor Michael Melham, attempting to justify how the municipal budget suddenly jumped a whopping $6.07 Million, or nearly 10%, in a single year.

In addition to the usual blame directed toward both the Belleville school district and people who haven’t been in office for almost a year and a half now, Melham claims the gigantic increase in the budget is because of a “windfall” of revenue from the Council’s development hustle.

If the Township has been making so much revenue all of a sudden, why are municipal taxes still going up for Belleville residents?

Looking at the budget appropriations, the numbers (quite literally) don’t add up.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here is a copy of Mayor Melham’s letter enclosed with the property tax bills:

As he does every year, former Belleville Commissioner and tireless public advocate Vincent Frantantoni has analyzed the municipal budget, and has submitted a letter for residents in response.

To the Editor,

Belleville residents have received their 2019 Property Tax Bill. Enclosed with the tax bill was “An Important Property Tax Message from Mayor Michael Melham”. Let’s review this message.

Firstly, Mayor Melham apparently does not understand the kind of government he serves in. In Belleville, we have a “Council-Manager” form of government as provided by the Optional Municipal Charter Law, N.J.S.A. 40;69A-81. Under this form of government the Township Manager is the “Chief Executive and Administrative Official” of the municipality. The manager directs and supervises all departments and employees of the municipal government. It appears Melham thinks he is operating under a “Mayor-Council” form of government where the Mayor is in charge.

The tax “message” enclosed with your tax bill should have read, “From the Mayor & Council of Belleville Township”. Mayor Melham is constantly holding press conferences, community events, etc. and uses these events as political campaigning. If you have attended any of these events during the day, you may have noticed township employees, town equipment and supplies used to support these events. These employees and resources could be better used to perform their designated jobs, such as repairing roads, maintaining our public buildings, or performing the duties of their job titles.

Melham states that the school board referendum was approved by less than 2000 votes out of 19,000 registered voters. He says that is why he always encourages voter participation. Well, he isn’t encouraging many because he was elected by less than 1800 votes.

Melham states the budget is up $6.07 million from last year, which is almost a 10% increase from last years $65 million budget. He claims much of the increased revenue is from an increase in construction permit fees and an increase in permit fees related to several large scale developments. He states, “The good news is that we receive a windfall in permit fees.”

If that is true, then this “windfall” should be used to DECREASE our taxes, not increase them.

The con job continues. Melham says “we have been doing more with less.” He states the Township Manager earns the exact same amount as his part-time predecessor. What he did not tell you is that he gave the “part time predecessor a $38,500 contract for six months to be a “consultant” to the new Township manager, with the option of two six month extensions to the contract at $38,500 each. Wow, that is how Melham describes “more with less”. Your tax dollars at work.

When you pay your tax bill, realize what you are paying for.

Vincent J. Frantantoni
129 Mt. Prospect Ave.
Belleville, NJ 07109

Note: For anyone interested in looking at the amended municipal budget for themselves to understand what’s really going on, here is a copy:

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Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. ♫ They've got strings, but you can see, there are no strings on me. ♫