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From User-Friendly Budgets to More Police Patrols, Both RPM and For Montclair Issue Promises for the Future

Saturday brought more press releases from the candidates running for office in the May 8 local election

 

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.

It said:

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." 
Montclair Public May 06, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Andrew, you say that Jackson believes we can develop our way out of debt. a typical simplification; it's like saying Obama advocates taxing our way our debt on the national level and ignoring how he has infuriated the left by offering compromises with Boehner & the obstructionist Tea Party. Nonsense and I suspect you are too smart not to know it.
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM
"you say that Jackson believes we can develop our way out of debt. a typical simplification" It is a simplification; I've limited space here. But I also believe it a fair one. The other two slates are at least willing to consider cost reductions that Mr. Jackson's slate has ruled out before even getting a detailed look at the books. However, please feel free to disagree. Describe how this slate would address the cost side of the equation. That's the type of substantive conversation we in Montclair should be having here. ...Andrew
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 10:14 PM
"RPM and For Montclair are downplaying development to appease you and your neighbors. " That's a fair argument, even if I consider it unlikely: that only Mr. Jackson is telling the truth, and that all the other candidates would do exactly the same only they're hiding it. I've two points in response. First: I'm not entirely sure that your statement constitutes an endorsement of the policy. Second: I won't deny that you might be right, and that everyone is lying but Mr. Jackson and his slate. That type of possibility always exists. However, if Mr. Jackson executes that policy he can claim, with reason, that this is what he was elected to do. If any of the other candidates do so, they are violating the public trust and will be met with significant resistance. Given only those two possible scenarios, I prefer the latter. ...Andrew
notroc May 07, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Oh, I think the RPM slate has exposed themselves as not quite being ready for prime time, nor especially trustworthy. They LIKE breaking rules and lambasting anyone who has the nerve to point out their misstatements and malfeasance. Speaking of the less fortunate, Montclair, did you know that most of us here in the Estate Section (and also up the hill north of Bloomfield Avenue) actually have our property taxes subsidized by the rest of you town folk? That's right - if your home sits on a lot larger than about 1/3 of an acre, the extra land is assessed for only $25,000 per acre in 2012 and beyond (the 1st .344 of an acre assessed @ a more accurate $500,000 per acre). Shines a slightly different light upon RPM's arguments for being financial experts and promoting tax cutting and school vouchers. Why haven't those RPM financial wizards mentioned this aspect of the new appraisal in their 'fiscal emergency/disaster' campaign? Too Rovian for me...
CMFAS55 May 07, 2012 at 02:51 PM
notroc that's such a poor argument. Larger lot sizes with one home use less town resources. If i have a lot that is a 1/3 acre larger than yours, i am not putting more kids on it to send to school. If there is a home with a 4 of four on the 1/3 acre lot they are sending two kids to school at a cost of what $20k per student or something like that in Montclair. We should be applauding the fact that we have homes with larger lots where a family of say 4-5 is willing to pay $60,000 or more in property taxes. We should doubly applaud if that family sends their kids to MKA or another private school since they are then paying for other kids (mine included) to go to Montclair schools which they don't use. This whole anti-RPM campaign is based on fear of change. Everybody has been complaining about how poorly the town is run (debt, bad roads, high taxes, terrible storm cleanup, snow plowing, etc...) and yet, many are willing to vote in the same people who over the last two decades have been involved in getting us to where we are and are terrified of someone new coming in who has been saying over and over, if we are going to make Montclair sustainable we need to look at how we do everything and then decide if there are better ways to do it.

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