The Business of the City: Miscellaneous

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Public Purse

Of all debts, men are least willing to pay their taxes; what a satire this is on government.  
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have decided to write this brief blog post in response to the numerous questions and comments I have received about the city tax lien list--this goes for those who wrote to me the last time the tax lien list was published in the newspaper. In answer to those questions: 

1) No, my name does not appear on the tax lien list; 2) Yes, I pay my taxes on time (however, it is possible that some people on the list paid quarterly taxes a bit late--some of the sums listed--in the $2,000 range--look like a quarterly amount);  3) Yes, I pay my PMUA bill on time; 5) Yes, I agree that part of my ethical and fiduciary responsibility as an elected official is to pay my fair share--and to pay it on time, since I am held responsible for a budget that levies taxes on the residents I was elected to represent; 5) Yes, I agree that taxes are extremely high; 6) Yes, I am deeply, painfully aware that many residents are hurting--many of my friends are among this number--here and outside of Plainfield (see my note below).

I receive a small salary for the work I do as a member of the governing body--$166 per week after taxes, paid biweekly, for a total of $9,000--obviously, I use some of this to help with my taxes. By my calculation (when I add up the hours), this is a little over $7.00 an hour for the time I put into council work (agenda and public meetings; liaison and council committee meetings--I serve on a number of committees; constituent services in-person, email, and via telephone; block association meetings; research for constituents, and so forth.

I do not take the benefits offered (I pay for benefits through my job), since I view this work as part-time, which results in significant savings to the city--several hundred dollars per month. I hope this clears it up.

All best,


Note: Regarding #6, I would again note that the reform ordinances we just passed are designed to help with taxpayer relief by ensuring that the competitive bidding process is adhered to, and that we don't pay more for services through inflated, padded, pay-to-play contracts.


  1. Westfield Councilors receive one dollar per year as pay. So does it's Mayor.

    Plainfield's Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment members receive less than one dollar. So does HPC, Cultural & Heritage, etc., along with Block Association Presidents. . . all spend considerable amount of time performing their duties.

    There are many talented folks in the City who would serve as Councilors for free. Both Jim Pivinchy and Tony Rucker ran under just that premise.

    Rebecca, while we are talking about Pay for Play ordinances, why not consider eliminating salaries and benefits for all our elected officials and PMUA commissioners. This would provide tax relief.

    Jim Spear
    Volunteer Prez
    Netherwood Heights Neighbors Association

  2. There is a huge difference between serving on a volunteer board or commission (I served on the Cultural and Heritage Commission for several years, and volunteered literally hundreds of hours) and serving as an elected municipal official in a city the size of Plainfield. Part of it has to do with accountability. The very modest salary I mentioned (which a previous council reduced by 10%--but none of whom suggested it should be eliminated--and some of whom enjoyed the very generous benefits for themselves and their families while serving) provides a level of accountability to the residents--I feel that I am deeply accountable for the work I do. Yes, there are municipalities that pay more, and some that pay less. I think that the time I put in as a councilor is worth the salary I receive, period. I agree that the benefits should be eliminated. Thanks for your comment.