Both the Real Progress Montclair and For Montclair slates released yet more statements Saturday outlining plans and positions for the future of Montclair.
For its part, Real Progress Montclair outlined a 90-day and six-month plan to "improve transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility."
The statement said:
Since 2000, Montclair's debt has tripled, taxes for municipal services have doubled, and services have diminished. This is crippling the Township's ability to fund valued programs and basic services.
RPM's research shows that since 2000, Montclair's annual debt service cost has grown from $3M to $16M. To be clear, the $16M includes debt service costs for township operations, including utilities and the schools. In order to continue in a sustainable manner, Montclair needs to live within its means and stop issuing debt so liberally, address costs in the very short-term, and plan for shared service agreements and revenue growth moving forward.
Based on a financial analysis of municipal operations from 2007-2012, the top three areas driving the increases in our municipal tax levy are Debt Service Cost, Pension and Social Security, and Employee Group Health Insurance. Following these areas are the Police and Fire Departments salary and wages. The dollar and percentage increases from 2007-2012 are as follows:
Debt Service Costs $3.8M or 35%
Pension and Social Security $3.0M or 74%
Employee Group Health Insurance $2.2M or 51%
Police Department Salary & Wages $1.2M or 10%
Fire Department Salary & Wages $ .9M or 10%
Operating under the status quo will result in these increases continuing at an unsustainable rate.
To honor its commitment to more and better transparency, RPM will institute a policy requiring that user-friendly budget information, a schedule of all township related debt outstanding, and an organizational chart be posted to the Township website within 90 days of being elected.
Within 90 days, RPM would also pass a resolution requiring that an analysis be performed of all costs required for delivering Township sanitation and recycling services. Within six months, this will be compared with bids and service levels from outside vendors. Impact on employees, cross training and any related costs will also be considered in this analysis.
Better town-wide fiscal planning, responsibility and accountability are urgently needed to start down the road of putting Montclair on a more sustainable track. If elected, RPM pledges to also do the following within six months of taking office:
- Implement monthly accountability reporting comparing monthly budgeted allocations to actual spending
- Set up a task force to develop a framework to make Montclair more business-friendly
- Set up task force to establish an Economic Development program
- Re-engage Township appointed committees including the CFC, OBAC and the Shared Services Group
- Establish a task group to review the current kindergarten achievement gap and pre-k options for children of all economic means
- RPM will immediately establish a task group to review Montclair's systems and reporting capabilities, the potential of using CitiStat for Montclair's operations, and setting goals and accountability measures for township operations
With the help and support of Montclair's talented citizen pool, RPM will work collaboratively to help put Montclair on a more sustainable path.
Meanwhile, For Montclair also released another statement on its plans and positions.
Montclair's voters get it. They know, and we know, taxes can't keep increasing while services are decreasing. The candidates of For Montclair don't just have a plan to fix the budget and deliver better services -- they are the only slate with the experience to make that change happen.Debt: Montclair's debt is too high. We commit to paying down debt each year of our term. Montclair has too many infrastructure repair needs to stop all capital spending, but we will say no to any new project that isn't necessary for public safety or that won't quickly pay for itself. We will put Montclair on a sound financial path.Budget: We will save at least $1 million by introducing competition into municipal services. We have the experience to succeed at this where others have failed or refused to try.Public safety: We will increase police patrol staffing. We will call for a review of the ratio of supervisors to patrol personnel utilizing recognized expert. We will fix any imbalance and make sure our police officers have the tools and the training they need to protect and serve Montclair.Shared services: We will partner with Montclair's neighbors to save money in the delivery of services. We have to do better than bad deals like the new Glen Ridge fire contract, which left Glen Ridge residents paying 75% less for fire protection than residents of Montclair.Education: Our slate has a decades-long commitment to Montclair's public schools. We are committed to sustaining and improving them. Harvey Susswein is the only Mayoral candidate who has pledged not only to seek public input into Board of Education appointees but to submit his choices to the full council for approval. This is accountability and transparency where sorely needed. .Economic Development: To attract more business investment, we will establish an Economic Development Office calling upon our resident's expertise and internal staffing as appropriate. We will give businesses a single point of contact in Town Hall and review regulations that could stifle new investments. We will make it clear that we are "open for business."