Howell council tables proposed agreement with Farmingdale for tax collector

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HOWELL – Three members of the Howell Township Council have voted to table a proposed shared services agreement with Farmingdale. The agreement concerns the services of a tax collector who would be shared by the two neighboring municipalities.

Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Evelyn O’Donnell and Councilman Thomas Russo voted to table the matter on July 16.

The three elected officials said they wanted to wait until the full council was present to consider the agreement.

Councilman John Bonevich and Councilwoman Pamela Richmond were absent from the meeting.

Township Manager Brian Geoghegan said he and Farmingdale Mayor James Daly had been meeting to discuss shared services.

“Coincidentally, our tax collector had announced her impending retirement. I had discussed this with Mayor Daly and Farmingdale had a need for a tax collector as well. That is where this idea came from,” Geoghegan said.

Daly and Farmingdale Borough Council President Michael Romano were in attendance at the Howell meeting to support the council’s consideration of the shared services agreement.

“Based on our calculations, the first year of this agreement will result in a savings to Farmingdale of about $1,500 and a savings to Howell of almost $30,000,” Geoghegan said.

The initial agreement would be for four years.

“There is a termination cause for either governing body to opt out with proper (180 days) notice,” Geoghegan said.

During public comment, resident Barbara Dixel asked if the tax office in Howell would be closed and if any employees would be moved.

Geoghegan said the agreement was for one position – tax collector – and that the office would not be closed.

“This employee would spend a majority of their time in Howell. Obviously we have a much larger load of the work to be done and we are estimating anywhere between one and four hours per week in Farmingdale for their needs, but that is only for the one person,” Geoghegan said.

The tax collector would be employed by Farmingdale and Howell would contract for the individual’s services.

Geoghegan said the person who is expected to fill the position is Al Jardine.

Resident Tina Smilek asked why Howell is not hiring Jardine since the township would pay more for his services.

“We cannot hire a tax collector right now because we have one named statutorily. Farmingdale had a vacancy so it just made sense for them to be the lead agency with this. In the end the money is the same,” Geoghegan said.

Smilek asked why the representatives of the two towns were looking at a four-year deal instead of a one-year agreement.

“There are certain requirements as part of the statute for this act, this kind of program. We need to keep this in effect for a minimum of two years,” Geoghegan said.

He said Farmingdale’s representatives requested the four-year agreement.

Smilek asked whether Howell’s payment would increase if Farmingdale increases the tax collector’s salary. Geoghegan said Howell’s payment would increase proportionately.

“So we are giving Farmingdale the opportunity to control what this person makes? We have no say in it? Why would we, a town this size, give up our ability to make our own decisions?” Smilek asked, before adding she believes the council members are “washing their hands” on the matter.

“I did not vote anybody into office for you to sit here and pawn off your duties on somebody else and that is what this looks like to me. We are the second biggest town in Monmouth County. Why are we giving up our rights to hire who we want, how we want?” Smilek said.

Geoghegan said he worked with Farmingdale’s representatives on the requirements of the position and said he sat in on the interviews with the individuals who applied for the job. He said the tax collector is a statutory position with requirements dictated by the state.

Berger said the council members wanted to table the matter that evening. O’Donnell made a motion to table the item until Aug. 13 and the three council members who were present voted “yes” on the motion.