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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." 
OMG Montclair May 06, 2012 at 04:34 AM
So the Real Progress solutions is to form committees to explore answers, that is not real progress, that is the Board of Ed Working groups and we know that NOT a single idea was executed from the 10 groups and 80 volunteers
Meg Beattie Patrick May 06, 2012 at 04:50 AM
What's up with the RPM pic, Shelley? I thought you said you were going generic...as in the other picture?
Meg Beattie Patrick May 06, 2012 at 04:55 AM
If you use an RPM mailer pic, then you have to post mailer pics from the other slate (s) in this article or just go generic.
Meg Beattie Patrick May 06, 2012 at 04:57 AM
You're slanted...it's been obvious, Shelley, but it is getting worse now ;)
OMG Montclair May 06, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Shelley, I want my apology back from a couple of weeks ago, you are basis.
Shelley Emling (Editor) May 06, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I did not post the RPM mailer pic.. someone from that campaign added it to the article. .will change it back to the generic shot now..
Meg Beattie Patrick May 06, 2012 at 01:20 PM
It's so typical of the sneakiness of RPM Turner nonsense. They waited until editor Shelley went to sleep and uploaded their own pictures, hoping to get away with it until somebody pointed it out our until Shelley woke up and said, "Oh, shoot, I can't have this nonsense on my publication during a political campaign after publicly stating to remain neutral with the pics!" Well, it's a good thing worse pics aren't posted while you're sleeping, Shelley! :-)
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 01:35 PM
"that is the Board of Ed Working groups and we know that NOT a single idea was executed from the 10 groups and 80 volunteers" This statement is not only false, but it is ridiculously false. Happily, not *all* the ideas were executed (some were very seriously "worst case"). But some were. Some may not be too visible at the moment (such as reporting requirements from CO to the BOE, though I hope that these reports do ultimately become part of public agendas), while others were all too visible. Why I'm finding this funny - and perhaps informative - is that at least one of the ideas executed by the BOE has created a lot of flack (and justifiably so). Yet "OMG Montclair" is unaware of this? From where is he or she from?!? "Montclair" would certainly not be my first guess. I think, sir or madam, you need better briefing papers from the slate that hired you. ...Andrew
Montclair Public May 06, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Andrew, please explain why -- if the election of Jackson poses such a grave threat to the middle class and below -- most of the Turner slate signs tend to be on the properties of the more expensive properties? what do the wealthier folks in town know about the Turner slate that the less fortunate do not?
Montclair Public May 06, 2012 at 03:13 PM
or are they doing what richer folks in this country have been doing for years -- voting for their selfish interests and blaming government services for their own financial indulgences?
Montclair Public May 06, 2012 at 03:17 PM
when Turner starts appointing BOE members whose mission will be to cut public school services while throwing a few vouchers in the direction of the poor, the PTA moms will realize they've been played into voting against their own interests. of course, most of those moms will be able to provide whatever gets cut out of their own pockets for their children. those less fortunate, not so much.
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 03:40 PM
"what do the wealthier folks in town know about the Turner slate that the less fortunate do not?" I'm not ready to accept your claim that these signs appear only in the wealthier homes. I see plenty around my own home, and I wouldn't call this area wealthy (at least financially; there are other metrics of wealth that I would definitely assign to this block). But your question can be turned a bit: what do RPM supports know than non-RPM supporters do not? That in turn could be asked of any campaign. It's a reasonable question, but one much larger than this election. I'll address it not for you - I don't believe you've an interest in the answer - but as a message to those readers here that really are my neighbors, and that have an interest in seeing Montclair thrive. An interesting campaign can include real and substantial policy differences. People can have honest disagreements about these. One that someone mentioned here recently is whether pre-k is more or less worthy of funding than MPL. That's a valid and interesting topic with arguments to be made on either side. What saddens me is that this is not the discussion we're having here, for the most part. Rather than neighbors having an honest discussion of policies, plans, priorities etc., we're inundated by "browse-by attacks" from anonymous identities created exclusively for this purpose. Do some slates really have so little faith either in their positions or Montclair voters? ...Andrew
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 03:48 PM
"if the election of Jackson poses such a grave threat to the middle class and below" I'll consider this a question of what it is about Mr. Jackson's policies that I think will fail Montclair. His basic premise appears to be "we can develop our way out of our financial bind". I don't see how that's possible absent some major tear-downs of existing properties. We only get a few percent of property values in taxes. For many developments favored by the town, we get even less in the form of PILOT payments. How much property remains undeveloped in town? Unless he's proposing something like demolition of a set of blocks of housing to put up a mall or an office park or some such thing, there simply isn't *space* for development to be our only answer. I also worry that he's apparently primarily a *residential* developer. As I've posted here and elsewhere, I think we need less of that and more commercial development. Specifically, I think we can be best served with something like office development. As others have written, I do believe that development will play a role in Montclair's improvement. For various reasons, it must. But I don't believe that it can, by itself, eliminate the need for better management of our costs. And I do believe that it must be *smart* development. We need more than just another residence here, there, everywhere. ...Andrew
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 04:19 PM
"Some may not be too visible at the moment (such as reporting requirements from CO to the BOE, though I hope that these reports do ultimately become part of public agendas)" Someone wrote me an email to remind me that some of those reports did make it into the latest budget book, such as the 5 year projection and better reporting on surplus. That is quite true. I was referring, though, to reports that are supposed to be given to the BOE by the CO on a periodic basis; not just as a part of the new budget. Still, I do stand corrected. ...Andrew
ride164 May 06, 2012 at 05:02 PM
There that old university of southern Maine education at work.....this would be laughable if it was not so sad......
A. Gideon May 06, 2012 at 06:29 PM
"Why do you keep questioning whether someone reside in Montclair or not?" Because I and my neighbors are vested in this campaign and its result. We live here. I want us to be able to discuss it w/o having the distraction and noise of a bunch of hired shills. "You're still a transplant" In the sense that I wasn't born in Montclair, that's true. But I do live here, and have done so since 1994 (when we bought our home) and even earlier (we rented here starting in the mid-1980s). "R Jackson is not the only candidate that is mentioning 'Development'." True, but he and his slate are arguing that we can develop our way out of this mess. As I've explained: I don't agree that this is a possible solution, though I do believe that some type of development will have to be a component of our success. Details matter. We cannot ignore the spending side, much as we do need to work to enhance the revenue side w/o taxing families out of town. Looking beyond this, I've also explained why the idea Mr. Russo has promoted of Montclair as a provider of services to other towns is flawed. Generally, Mr. Jackson's slate has shown itself to be behind strategies that sound initially attractive - getting out of this w/o having to address spending - but that don't seem to survive detailed examination. I'm certainly willing to hear reasons otherwise, but those hired shills mentioned above are making such conversations of substance difficult. ...Andrew
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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