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April  27

Montclair Taxpayers May Need Deeper Pockets

At Tuesday night's council meeting, Montclair town manager Joe Hartnett proposed an operating budget for FY 2006 that would cost the average homeowner an extra $192.52 in  property taxes, based on a home assessed at $252,000 the Star Ledger reports. The increase would pay to run municipal government and is coming on top of the $531 increase approved to run the schools. The budget proposal evoked dead silence and "grim faces" from the town council; Mayor Ed Remsen called it "sobering."  The Montclair Times reports the town has until June to scrutinize Hartnett's numbers :

“I want to emphasize that we are going to do better,” Hartnett said. “We are going to keep working hard and working with our council to get these numbers down further, as far as we can, by the time the budget is finally adopted, which we expect to be toward the end of June.”

Let's talk about it, it's your daily chat.

April 27, 2006 in The Daily Chat | Permalink

Comments

Well, then, Mayor Ed is retarded if that's all he said.
We need real leadership. Not someone who accepts the status quo, but someone who, when presented with such a budget will ask "Why?" and immediately ask for a copy of it and look for what can be cut.

People try to squeeze all kinds of things into their budgets, many of which are unnecessary and be removed after careful review. Thats what our town council should be doing. Apparently they are not.

Posted by: Stan | Apr 27, 2006 12:03:47 PM

It's unfortunate that this is happening... We already started looking for homes in Little Falls/Wayne just to escape the Montclair/Essex County taxes.

Posted by: Rich | Apr 27, 2006 12:13:11 PM

I am sure the Town is trying but when you read about silly money-wasters and "nice to have" projects like the Town shelling out an nearly $500,000 for cobblestone above and below ground gutters on 2 blocks of Myrtle Ave (including an extra $100,000 to $150,000 to fix the botched job)or two dozen employees getting Town-owned cars round the clock, or $ Millions? for Woodman field house, you have to figure the "belt tightening" mentality isn't too serious yet.

Posted by: Backsore | Apr 27, 2006 12:25:07 PM

Some cost increases are unavoidable: healthcare premiums will cost nearly $1.4M more than last year, fuel (gas/electric) will cost more than $200K than last year (if not actually more with the rollercoaster price market).

And if you read the Montclair Times article, the creation of a sewer utility will bring the town in-line with neighboring town's water billing system. That sounds like efficiency improvement to me.

BTW, the Mayor's full quote was “This is sobering,” Mayor Ed Remsen said after hearing Hartnett’s budget presentation. “Still, it looks like our [tax increase] is less than other municipalities. We are taking this process very seriously.”

Posted by: Jim | Apr 27, 2006 12:25:40 PM

This will in turn increse Montclair rental prices too. Higher property taxes = hiher monthly nuts = the need for higher income rental. OH, and to "Rich", good luck finding low taxes in Wayne.

Posted by: D | Apr 27, 2006 12:29:07 PM

Be careful what you ask for ... when more police presence is expected in certain areas to enforce safety, when police cars are requested to enforce speed limits ... these actions have consequences to costs (labor, fuel, equipment, etc).

Posted by: Jim | Apr 27, 2006 12:33:52 PM

Not to mention added sidewalks...

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 27, 2006 12:43:11 PM

The main causes are insurance rates. And fuel costs.

Some thieves steal with guns, others with briefcases or stethoscopes. Or oil wells.

Blame it on the Insurance companies, not the Mayor or the Town Manager.

Posted by: quaker-oats | Apr 27, 2006 1:25:12 PM

you people overpay $100K per house and you complain about your taxes.

Posted by: Ern | Apr 27, 2006 2:22:45 PM

Us People? Ern, Have you noticed the real estate market in the last decade? Do you live somewhere that hasn't gone through the roof? And yes, we do complain about taxes. Since we are in Essex county we carry Newark on our back. I would rather pay for new sidewalks than anything in Newark, except maybe a big bridge to bypass it to get to EWR.

Posted by: D | Apr 27, 2006 2:51:56 PM

Hey Ern,

There are many in Montclair that have lived here for 15 plus years....many who are living in their first homes....many who live on one income and are trying to make ends meet.....many who are concerned whether they will be forced to move out of their home because of taxes. Not everyone here is wealthy in Montclair! Many of us people are just middle income people.

So, YES, we can complain about taxes!!

Posted by: kay | Apr 27, 2006 3:34:42 PM

We all have a right to complain about our taxes. No matter when you invested in the town, the rate at which our taxes are increasing is alarming.

Kay is right, not all of us are rich newbies, some of us have been in town for generations. A friend of mine considers me a relative newbie because I'm only a third generation Montclairian.

Posted by: shelly | Apr 27, 2006 4:11:57 PM

Dear Stan:

Nice touch using the word retarded.

Why would you assume I had not seen the detailed budget submitted by the manager? I have reviewed it and been part of the Council budget committee. If and when YOU read it you will see that the projected increases come from things we have almost no control over given contracts like a $1.3M increase in insurances, a $905,000 hit on the pensions, a huge spike in gas and oil costs, and one-fifth of the cost of the reval we were ordered to do, etc. We are working very hard to reduce the impacts and the budget and the Manager has already brought the budget down from double-digit territory with more to come. There will be a variety of things we do like a hiring freeze, eliminating some positions, more intra-town shared services, etc. It ain't over till it's over and we started the process a bit earlier so we'd have more time to work on this and get citizen improvement.

Last year our hard work resulted in a 0% increase in the municipal rate and while we won't get there this year, our increase will likley be far less tha other towns. We took several $100,000+ salaries out, froze management salaries two years ago, combined functions, etc, etc.

If you want to rant, direct it at the overblown County to which we give almost $30M and the State which does not give us a fair share of what we send them.

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Apr 27, 2006 6:03:59 PM

Would love to see the detailed budget. Is it available on the Township web site?

County, state, *almost* no control over some costs. What about the School district? I'd like to hear what we can do to halt the cylce of higher taxes for fewer services. Less about what we can't do.

Mike M

Posted by: MikeM | Apr 27, 2006 6:57:58 PM

Perhaps all of this would be easier to stomach if word of the increase was not coming from a town manager who gets a HEFTY housing supplement so he can live in the town. That comes on the backs of taxpayers -- many of whom have lived here for years and are looking at the very real probability of having to leave the town we love due to tax increases that are the result of bloat, excess, and a town government that has been asleep at the switch (while continually blaming others for their own mistakes) for years. To be clear, this is not entirely the doing the present town administration -- but dealing with the problem has to be the number one priority of the current leadership.

Posted by: da-mule | Apr 27, 2006 8:44:35 PM

Does any of our tax money go to educate the children of actual residents of Montclair?

I thought it was just for kids from all over Essex County who have relatives in Montclair and use their addresses to get access to the schools here.

Posted by: ja | Apr 27, 2006 10:03:28 PM

Retarded? $200,000 worth of art in a parking garage and $25,000 for a bus stop gazebo. Sobering.

Posted by: Stu | Apr 27, 2006 10:19:54 PM

I hope this means we'll take a closer look at that downtown "Wayfinding" sign project that was estimated at $750,000, or has the money already been spent?

Posted by: pennypincher | Apr 27, 2006 11:07:29 PM

The Manager no longer gets a housing allowance - we took it out of his contract

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Apr 28, 2006 12:09:50 AM

I also noted in the SL article that debt service was one of the 5 line items causing 71% of the increase. I hope we're not doing anything to increase our debt which would only add to next year's increase. Cut those credit cards.

Posted by: BeanCounter | Apr 28, 2006 7:05:28 AM

Ed,

Is this the contract that's in effect now? When was the contract up?

Are you still considering buying SUVs? Have any been purchased or proposed in 2006?

Posted by: leo | Apr 28, 2006 7:39:12 AM

The contract is winding down and we are negotiating a new three year deal. We have a close vote on the purchase of a new hybrid SUV; three of us voted against buying one last week but lost 4-3. I think we have enough vehicles.

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Apr 28, 2006 7:45:41 AM

Mr Mayor,

I really think we have to put the school budget back in the hands of town residents and let them vote on it. At least we'll have a vote in what gets spent or hopefully NOT SPENT rather than the powerless situation we have now.

We need to have a reality check: Needs vs. Wants - and eliminate the Wants and see where the budget is first.

As much as we want all the extra's we can afford them. With the current State and County fiscal situation we are being delt we have to get back to BASICS only and swallow the ego.

Start with making people pay for buses.

Ed

Posted by: ED J | Apr 28, 2006 8:56:16 AM

Ed J,
You obviously do not have children in the Montclair School System and do not understand the magnet school system which Montclair offers. If Montclair were to force their students' families to pay for the buses, than they would need to eliminate the magnet school system which has been in place since the 60's. The magnet was originally designed to promote integration within our town. The magnet school is an "attraction" for incoming families thus increasing resident’s property value. The town could not force people to pay for busing for a program that Montclair and the State of NJ has dictated. Notice, there is no busing to MHS. Montclair only offers one choice for high school. Montclair could eliminate the magnet school and thus, eliminate busing. However, I believe that also eliminates some state assistance.
I believe that we could reduce student population and thus, reduce taxes by investigating the true residence of Montclair. I have worked closely with 4 schools in Montclair and on several occasions, I have become aware of children who do not live in Montclair and are attending our schools. Recently, I was told by one of my children that a girl in her school announced that her 4 cousins will be moving in with her next year in order to attend Montclair High School. This must be stopped!! I believe that it is the Board of Ed’s responsibility to investigate all families and require solid proof of residency. It is our responsibility to continue reporting these imposters.

Posted by: kay | Apr 28, 2006 9:30:58 AM

The Magnet has been turned into an anchor by the Democratic Socialists this town seems to attract...

Montclair Schools recieve a total of $8mil from the State,which I'm sure doesn't cover the cost of the buses.

We have to get back to basics, maybe they should start teaching kids how to walk to school and cross the street like we all had to when we were kids. God forbid the obese kids of today get any exercise...

And yes I have kids, which are headed into the system and I'd like them to have an Art class over a free ride to school...

Side note: 1/3rd of the school budget goes to Special Ed.(100 or so students) and 2/3rds goes to 6,700 - I guess this is the new Math I always here about.

We need to get back to basics and stop pretending we have an endless supply of money. We don't have the printing presses like the federal govt does.

Ed


Posted by: ED J | Apr 28, 2006 9:50:22 AM

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