Montclair: How To Spend The Capital Budget?

With town spending in Montclair high on the taxpayer’s radar, residents might like voice their opinions on how the town council should divide the capital budget pie. Tomorrow night, Montclair Town Council has scheduled a special meeting to figure out where those monies may be allocated, what the priorities are in capital spending. The meeting is open to the public, and all topics are up for discussion, ie; streets, curbs, water and sewer infrastructure, equipment for TV34.
The meeting will take place Wednesday night, 7pm at 205 Claremont Avenue, Montclair.
Laura Torchio, chair of Bike Montclair plans to speak up for improving pedestrian and biker safety.


Torchio is asking for the community’s support and inviting you to show up at the meeting:

Bike Montclair applied for and received a grant of $100,000 in 2004 from the NJDOT to develop a Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan – a non-motorized circulation element to suppliment the Township’s Master Plan. Many of you participated in the public meetings that helped to priortize the recommended improvements. Our new council may not fully appreciate that the Action Plan has been vetted and plans to implement it have been “this close” to happening each year since then.
The first phase would be to add short-term, low-cost improvements to Montclair’s street network like Bike Route signs, Striped Bike Lanes or Shoulders and Share the Road signs. At a minimum, these efforts would alert to motorists that bicyclists are expected and to drive with care. At best, we’ll begin to see a behavior shift in terms of “TRAFFIC SAFETY”.

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88 COMMENTS

  1. Man, if that post doesn’t tell you why your property (and state taxes) are ever growing, I don’t know what will.

  2. I would like to suggest a special council meeting to pass an ordinance to set up commission to initiate a study on government waste.

  3. It’s a grant. They are doing their jobs. Do you want them to give the money back?!? If you don’t like it take it up with the state.

  4. Oh, yes. Right. a “grant” as in free money from the state. (wherever they get their money)

  5. Well ROC – they can’t give it back and they can’t just throw it into the capital budget. The issue will be whether or not we will need to supplement the grant, not whether or not we should use the grant.

  6. Throwing good money after bad is exactly how this works. Think of it as a state and local “partnership” for waste.

  7. First, the Council should address how they plan on paying off, or reducing the $180 million debt the town has, and what % of current taxes go to Servicing that debt.
    Second, the estimated impact of the New School when completed.
    Third, how they anticipate handling the (anticipated) shortfall of Revenue, based upon successful tax appeals that will & have occured. I perceive they “bonded” that difference before, because they already had a “budget” in place.
    Fourth, leave Essex County
    Firth, don’t spnd valuable time on “Proclamations”, when you couldn’t even figure out (or wanted to state) how much parking would cost at the Township Facilities, 1 week before the Welmont was to open. I watched the proceedings!
    Bottom Line, the town is fiscally “bankrupt” already, except they didn’t declare CH11. Give a look at CA and their problems.
    Please! Is this the reason we voted in an entirely new administration?
    p.s. The township most likely will have to pay for the railroad 4 way gate systems on all crossings, so that Capital Improvement is coming anyway. Other than that…we have no Capital…it got used up by the bloated School Budget…and the County (imrove the parks for our 24% tax contribution taken by the county!) Sorry if my numbers are a little off, but you get the picture. Town headcount last year, 425, town budgeted headcount this year 425…got it?

  8. So far, I count 800K for the gates, 200K for the playground, 18K for the baseball field sodding. Now we are talking 100K for Presby.
    In the last 6 months, my company of 5,000 employees has retroactively removed my defined retirement benefit, one week before raises has declared that there won’t be any, has laid off 5% of the company, has forced vacations to get them off the balance sheet and has delayed a paycheck to meet our bank convenants.
    Stop spending my damn money. I’ll be at the meeting tomorrow night and I will not hesitate to remind you all of what you platform you ran on.

  9. Thanks, 13%.
    Let’s keep the “Less Spending” clock going.
    Tax Dollars Saved stands at (Negative) -$1,118,000.

  10. Just some clarification, although I do not speak for Presby.
    Their shortfall is in the order of $30,000 to $50,000.
    The town gives them nothing.
    They are not depending on the town to “save them.”
    I would support giving them “something,” perhaps $15,000.
    Please believe me you are going to see a lot of discussion of cuts, across the board. This will be for OPERATING expenses, i.e. personnel, etc.

  11. So Cary,
    We’re cutting operating expenses and perhaps giving Presby $15,000.
    Is that what you are saying?
    Cutting operating expenses and ADDING bike lanes and signs?
    Is that what you are saying?

  12. “Turnip” or “Montclair Brick”?
    While “Brick” has it’s charms, I’ll stick with “Turnip” if only for it’s Russian overtones.
    Long Live LaserTurnip!

  13. Montclair Brick reads like something from The Onion. Is that site for real? Thick as a Brick is more like it.

  14. Dear Cary,
    As personal representative of Baristanet’s lead-ass contingent, of whom I consider myself a leading member, I hereby authorize you to propose on our behalf an across the board spending freeze.
    Given the sacrifices we are all going to have to make in the next year as the economic crisis hits home, I think this would be well received. Spending money on improvements like signs for bike lanes etc would be completely inappropriate in the context of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
    Don’t you agree?
    What the town really ought to be doing, of course, is cutting taxes. But I realize that may be asking too much.

  15. My impression is the $100k was for the proposal, and thus has been spent. Implementing the actual improvements– bike lanes, signs etc– would cost taxpayer funds. Am I wrong?

  16. Silly me. I thought the Arena was taken out of the budget so that we could remain under the state cap. Now why suddenly do we have a surplus of money to spend on bike lanes, iris gardens and playgrounds. What happened to the Arena budget of $80,000? Did that money go to other Recreation programs?

  17. The $100K is allocated by the state as a grant from those wealthy state tax payers.
    It’s most likely a matching “grant” so those wealthy local tax payers can “match” this “free money” from the state for these needed and beneficial improvements.
    After all, walleroo, you don’t want to “lose” this “free money” do you?!!??!!!???!!

  18. Here’s one. $800K isn’t small potatoes.
    Drop the stupid no whistle zone and save nearly a million bucks in a shot. The town went up and put up signs at each crossing that say “no train horn 7pm to 7am”… after how many YEARS of the current 7-7 whistle ban? And only months away from it being CHANGED to a 24 hour ban.
    WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?!?!!?

  19. Drob – you’ve got that one wrong. It will continue to be a night time ban, the federal government changed the laws regarding the number of whistles and db levels at all crossings (which in Montclair would be a health issue) so the town has to comply with those new laws in order to keep the ban in place.

  20. I would support a goal of a 10% across the board reduction in spending.
    If it were possible, and if I had a voice in such matters, I would have agreed to consider putting the new school on hold. The contractors are at work and I have no idea if our agreement would allow for a postponement.

  21. “I would support a goal of a 10% across the board reduction in spending.”
    Know how to make the “goal” a reality?
    Cut taxes 10%.
    But, really, a 10% cut in the police department and Presby gets $13,500?
    Is that the best way forward?

  22. BTW, Any word on Hartnett’s “proactive cuts” you mentioned the other day. When might we expect to see them?

  23. The meeting is tomorrow at 7PM. I will be there and will angrily voice my disappointment if this town council chooses to spend frivolously when I’m most likely weeks away from collecting unemployment. There is a reason the benefactors aren’t giving to Presby. Why am I being forced to?

  24. I’ll try not to loss my job there Mikey.
    I think speaking at a town council meeting is a lot less embarrassing than spending one’s entire existence populating blogs and wikis with utter nonsense. Hurry along though, there is a Star Trek marathon starting.

  25. “Torchio is asking for the community’s support and inviting you to show up at the meeting:
    Bike Montclair applied for and received a grant of $100,000 in 2004 from the NJDOT to develop a Bicycle and Pedestrian Action Plan – a non-motorized circulation element to suppliment the Township’s Master Plan. Many of you participated in the public meetings that helped to priortize the recommended improvements.”
    Sounds like the grant money has been spent already developing the action plan, which was presented at a previous town council meeting. That would mean the grant is not for actually implementing the plan. if it was, why would they need to attend a capital budget meeting with the town council?
    “Our new council may not fully appreciate that the Action Plan has been vetted and plans to implement it have been “this close” to happening each year since then.”
    Considering that the founder of Bike Montclair is on the town council and helped develop the plan, it seems more likely that the town council is fully aware of the status of the plan and it’s history.
    “The first phase would be to add short-term, low-cost improvements to Montclair’s street network like Bike Route signs, Striped Bike Lanes or Shoulders and Share the Road signs. At a minimum, these efforts would alert to motorists that bicyclists are expected and to drive with care. At best, we’ll begin to see a behavior shift in terms of “TRAFFIC SAFETY”.”
    At what cost? If memory serves when this was asked at the last council meeting, specific to improvements only on Grove St. and Harrison, the cost was approx. $2M. That was for phase 1. Nno idea what Phase 2, 3, etc. will cost.
    But thanks for alerting me that Bike Montclair will be there asking for funds that we can’t afford at this time. I hope with the founder of Bike Montclair sitting in that middle seat on the council this isn’t a rubber stamp for funds.

  26. “Star Trek marathon starting”
    good to know…
    13% walks up to the mic, “You know that money from the state, yeah, you should give it back. As much as the NJ’ers are taxed I would hate to see them get their money back.”

  27. Mikey? Are you drinking tonight? I’m not arguing for the return of the grant money like ROC. I am pissed about the continuous waste of funds at a time when people are really beginning to suffer economically. My wage was frozen this yours. Perhaps Montclair could learn something from the private sector and how they prepare for downturns.

  28. Good image there, Pokey, save that laserturnip wears red shirts to social occasions. (This is in case someone remarks that “You can’t get blood out of a turnip…” and up pipes, beseechingly, the laserguy, “Beat me and try….”)

  29. 425 employees on the township payroll…guys doing the grunt work, their workforce is cut in half. The pencil pushers, do-nothing department heads and their assistants take martini lunches at Egans and drive home their township SUV that sucks gas at deplorable rates. How ’bout giving Joey H. a big fat raise and another housing stipend because he’s worth it. Maybe he’ll buy another shore house and boat. Oh yeah, Frank Alvarez….he’s worth 200k a year.

  30. “I would support a goal of a 10% across the board reduction in spending.”
    That’s good to hear, Cary. ROC is wrong about everything except this: cut taxes to cut spending. Presby is a great cause, a boon to Montclair, etc etc etc, but they should go hat in hand elsewhere. Bike lanes would be nice, but they are not essential, and now is not the time to implement them. Times are tough and tough decisions must be made. Doing any less would be disrespectful to the people in this town, many of whom have either lost or soon will be losing their jobs, struggling to pay their bills.

  31. Thanks Nellie. I am keenly aware of my terrible grammar, but repeated Mikey’s error as an attempt at sarcasm. Judging from your comment, I see that I have failed miserably.

  32. I’m looking forward to the reports tomorow from all of those in attendance. But please try to shed some light, not heat.

  33. I just returned from the meeting and am quite disappointed in what I witnessed there.
    First and foremost, it is important to distinguish the difference between capital and operating items. Capital items must last at least 5 years and this bond ordinance was for approximately 2 million dollars worth of spending to be paid for over 30 years. Additionally, this is not the final vote on the issue. If I’m not mistaken, the ordinance may need passing at a regular town council meeting.
    I missed the first 45 minutes (thanks NJT) and I did not take careful notes, so everything you read should not be taken as the gospel. If you want the facts, listen to the audio (which will be played somewhere, but I’m not sure where).
    There were about 27 different capital budget items discussed. It would have been nice if the public had a copy of the same green spreadsheet that the council members, Joe H. and Alan Trembulak were working off of, but I’m fairly certain it is accessible if you asked the right person in town hall. I could not find it on the town website unfortunately.
    The capital improvements were in a diverse area. They included police cars/SUVs leases, to police vests and guns, sewer and drainage, paving parking lots, repairing the third floor at the police station, a new boiler to heat the old DMV inspection station to keep the pipes from freezing, funding for 4-way stops at intersections, gear for police vehicles, a few more light pole security cameras, live broadcast equipment for the cable channel, traffic calming/bike striping for Grove Street from Bellevue to Bloomfield, money for Presby and probably a few others that I missed.
    First they discussed each item in detail and debated the dollar amounts and other potential ways to fund them. Then they let the public (about 10 of us) speak. As usual, 1/2 of the issues brought up did not relate to capital expenditures and most had to do with issues related to stopping crime or complaining about things that were promised by the prior town council that never came to fruition. One gentleman was very much in support of the striping of Grove as he was a frequent pedestrian. I asked for clarification on the cost of the striping (about 50K) and voiced my disappointment over spending 158K for the live broadcasting capability for the cable channel. Another gentlemen suggested we ask the county for assistance since it a county road to be striped, which was immediately poo-pooed by everyone since there appears to be a history of the county not offering any assistance unless they get something of equal value in return.
    At this point, Jerry suggested that any member of the town council should say if they think there should be any more discussion about any of the individual items. Kathryn asked the most questions and definitely seemed to want to do the most cutting. Renee seemed most interested in making sure most of the money was spent in her ward. Nick had just a couple of questions and Rich seemed to just want to go home. For some unknown reason, he felt it necessary to clarify what everyone was suggesting. Cary was surprisingly silent.
    At this point, Jerry felt the meeting was taking too long and stressed that final decisions were not required to be made at this meeting so he hoped they could all leave by 9:30pm. Then Cary made a very profound statement that changed the entire direction of the meeting. He claimed that this is 2 million dollars to be spent over 30 years which amounts to about $1 per household. He said the decision to shave 100 or 200K from this ordinance would have little to no impact compared to the $300 per person that the new school would cost each and every year, or the 100s of millions our operating budget costs annually. He pretty much said that the council was wasting their time with this little stuff. So a motion was made to pass the ordinance pretty much as is. And wouldn’t you know, it passed pretty much as is!
    I’ll save my take on it for the next post.

  34. If my memory serves me right, Cary alluded to the fact that it is still not too late for the construction on the new school to be stopped. The more I learn about this project, the more I’m convinced that this boondoggle will haunt us for decades. Pardon my French, but I can give a rats @&%* that they already started pouring concrete on the foundation. It is time we nip this horrible fiscal debacle in the bud. If anyone has any suggestions, large or small, on how we can possibly put a stop to what more and more of my neighbors agree will be terrible mistake, please speak up now!

  35. In many aspects, Cary is correct about going after the big ticket items. Where I differ in opinion is that 2 million a year every year begins to add up. $2 million every year for 30 years still equals $2 million per year because your gonna continue to bond forever. $158,000 on live broadcasting capability? Did you forget that you will now have to add to your operating budget to have someone work the cameras and the switching boards at all of these live events as well as in the broadcast studio? Is it really that important for meetings to be broadcast live? Worst of all, I doubt anything will ever be broadcast live. This is a frivolous purchase. This is not how you make cuts. 50K to heat the DMV which the town plans to use for future storage? Sell the damn place and get some ratables in there! More money for Presby? There’s a reason the benefactors stopped giving. They’re tightening their personal budgets, so why am I being forced to make up for their shortfall? Perhaps you should follow their example. In the next two years, the town council will be forced to layoff a lot of workers as the tax base will no longer support them. I’m sure the unemployed will be happy that they can now watch these meetings live or ride their bikes down Grove Street.
    Cary, tonight was an excellent opportunity to make a symbolic gesture that could have acted as your preparation for the much more difficult task of cutting the operating budget in the future months. There was little support shown for these capital budget items judging by the lack of attendees at the meeting. No reps from the police department, no reps from Presby and no reps from the cable channel. You could have easily cut 1/8th from this bond. Instead you chose the same route as all of the single-termers who were elected before you. I will try my best to bite my tongue and wait for you to fail miserably to try to cut the operating budget of the BOE or stall the construction of the new school. You will be facing the wrath of a lot of angry parents and it will be difficult to say no to them, even if you present hard facts to the contrary. I wish you luck and will support you the whole way. Unfortunately, the example of spending frivolously on live broadcasting capabilities and bike lanes does not leave me with a feeling of great confidence in the ability of this council to make the decisions that will help us stop the continuation of our forever growing tax burden.
    I’m this close to losing my job and two of my closest friends have already gotten the pink slip. My large employer has frozen my wages and has discontinued my defined retirement benefit. Please take the economy into consideration before you waste another dollar of MY money. I may soon need it for a down-payment on a new apple cart. I will be watching closely and will be constantly reminding you all of your promised made at your inaugural council meeting. Good luck and good night!

  36. It was very unfortunate that the public did not have the opportunity to review this portion of the capital budget in its entirety.
    While it was “noticed” properly, people affected by the budget were unaware that amounts affecting them were to be discussed. Thus, until this morning no one from the communications committee, Channel 34, for example, knew that their budget was being discussed.
    I can assure you that if each and every affected group knew of the discussion they would have shown up.
    Taking on the Cable channel is a bad example. After years of study the Communications Committee laid out a plan that required significant investment. In return they negotiated an arrangement with the cable providers that should return close to $500,000 every year, plus a $90,000 payment by January, plus another $5,000 payment each and every year.
    Invest $150,000 one time, and get $500,000 a year in return? Sounds like good advice to me!
    But if there’s one thing I tried to say tonight is yes, pay attention to the debt and debt service (Remember, I was on the Capital Finance Committee five years ago and voted to cut back).
    But you must FOCUS on the operating budget. Take the $2MM we voted on tonight. Plug it into your calculator and see what it means to one of the, let’s say, 6,000 tax payers into town. At 30 years that’s $1.83 per month.
    The new school? Just the $35MM debt, never mind operating expense, is $33.67 per month.
    But, folks, it’s operating expenses that’s going to get us! $200MM a year.
    And the live broadcasting? It wasn’t my idea, I’m not that clever. I’ll set up a meeting. Come to it, learn about what it does, then criticize it. But take it from me, the reason no one buys wired phones, and the reason COUNTRIES without phone service START with wireless is well founded. Not having to wire a facility saves a fortune in the end.
    And does live work better than taping/editing/ and showing days later? I don’t know, does anyone enjoy watching yesterdays football game?

  37. Cary, unless you are in a position to actually stop the spending on the new school, please stop holding it up as an example of why we shouldn’t worry about the “small” expenses.
    Are you saying that the building of the new school and the expenses that go along with it can still be stopped? By the town council? The BOSE? Who?
    The capital budget may be small potatos compared to the operating budget, but I’d like to hold on to every dollar I can right now.
    The only person that showed any awareness of the current financial situation was Kathrin Weller, and there was at least to be some discussion of specific capital budget items until you made your statement and the entire budget was voted in as-is.
    what’s wrong with looking NOT to spend $50k here and there?
    Something else of interest you mentioned quickly was that Dana Sullivan’s numbers actually show the new school costing approx. $60-65M, not $35M. Can you explain further?

  38. “Invest $150,000 one time, and get $500,000 a year in return? Sounds like good advice to me!”
    We negotiate with the cable provider a “right of way” in the township. So no “investment” in live broadcast equipment would result in $650,000 for the township.
    Also, in this day and age, we don’t need “live broadcast” quality.
    Spend $5,000 on equipment and put video files on You tube. It would cost a lot less.
    And we need a “transparency” ordinance and notification ordinance.
    How about no (non-emergency) ordinances can go for a vote without a 2 week notice of the specific agenda on the township website.
    How about any materials prepared for the councilors for the meeting to be put in pdf form on the website.
    But, remember. You can debate till the cows come home about how to cut expenses. Nothing will happen until cuts are required because there is not enough money.
    How about a 2 year freeze on property tax rates – that will FORCE cuts and FORCE priorities to be set.
    I especially urge an END to thinking that this or that is $1 per taxpayer. We’re being $1’d to death out here.

  39. Cary,
    It’s one thing to watch the Giants win the Super Bowl. It’s another thing to watch the town council duke it out with Joe H. In a town of 38,000, you are lucky to get an attendance of 30 at a council meeting. These 30 residents are most likely the same 30 who might consider watching this meeting live over Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. Of course if they choose to watch the meeting at home, they won’t get an opportunity to speak. If I understand you correctly, we made a deal with Verizon that required us to purchase equipment that would allow us to broadcast live? I indeed think you are twisting the truth here Cary. I thought we allowed FIOS to compete in Montclair with Comcast in return for the 500K.
    “After years of study the Communications Committee laid out a plan that required significant investment. In return they negotiated an arrangement with the cable providers that should return close to $500,000 every year…”
    Also you argue the value of wireless over wired phones pointing to future potential savings. The time to look into large expenditures that save money down the road is when your are running surpluses, not when you are running deficits.
    The average household income in Montclair is approximately 124K per year. The average property tax collected is 9K. Household income is coming down. It’s now time for our tax burden to come down as well. Deep down inside you know we don’t need bike lanes or Presby fences or live broadcasting capabilities. These are luxuries, not needs. As our country and state go bankrupt, you will regret purchasing these luxuries.
    Another mantra that was repeated over and over at the meeting was that if we bond for the money now, we won’t have to spend it. This is disgusting!!! The moment you float the bond, you have spent my money! Please start seeing it from the taxpayer’s point of view.
    The council missed an excellent opportunity last night to lead! Instead you performed exactly to the status quo. Although the money saved would have been beans compared to the operating budget cuts that will be required, you could have set the tone for what is to come in the future. Good luck asking the BOE to cut 2 million from their budget when you just wasted 1/8 of that on unnecessary capital improvements.

  40. The new school is estimated at $35MM.
    The budgeting process for the new year will be starting in a few weeks, both for the town and the schools.
    Speaking for the town, I encourage all of you to attend the meetings, which will be held at a department level, by the town manager.
    At those meetings both operating, and capital, expenses will be discussed.
    That is the time you can grill those most knowledgeable — find out why this expenditure, why that expenditure.
    Roads, pedestrian safety, and keeping buildings from falling down were some of the things we discussed last night.
    This wasn’t the time to question the manager on whether we had a 15 or a 20 year guarantee on shingles for the roof for PAWS.
    I have confidence in our people. I assume that our people are competent, and know what they are doing. I trust that the numbers I’m presented with have been “vetted.”
    And remember that other expenses, e.g. those associated with the cable TV station, come as the end product of a lengthy planning process. In the case of cable TV by the communications Committee. These are good, knowledgeable people who have taken significant time out of their lives, over a period of years, to help the township.
    Get involved. If you think we need different policies by all means speak up! If you have specific thoughts on Communications, for example, join the Committee or at least come to speak to them while policies and budgets are being formulated.
    But last night’s meeting was the end result of a process.
    I am in agreement with all that is being said here. As you will see in the months ahead there are very big decisions that are going to have to be made. And we will make them.

  41. I’m a little dismayed here.
    If all the people involved are to be trusted and the assumption is that all the numbers have been vetted, then why the need for discussion? If the vote to approve the budget is not the time to question proposed expenditures then when is it?
    I trust the budget for council members’ rubber stamps was approved?

  42. Precisely nothing will continue to happen until the monies coming in are either cut or at the very least frozen.
    Nothing.

  43. Right,
    It’s the level of the discussion that I’m questioning.
    And, the proper time for detailed questioning is the beginning of the year, when proposals are first being made.
    Come to the department meetings, ROC. Then you can ask the questions from the people most able to answer — the individual department heads who are proposing the expenses.
    Thanks,

  44. Also consider the “wisdom” of only looking at operating expenses while continuing with capital improvements.
    Is this how you manage your personal finances? Especially in a down turn.
    Do you cut your food and heating budget while you get a loan for a new Volvo?
    It’s nonsense.

  45. Cary,
    I plan to begin attending these meetings and no doubt appreciate the time and effort put forth by these volunteers who sit on these committees. The inherent problem though is that these committees are established to determine how best to spend money, not how best not to spend money. I could only imagine the looks on the faces of the other communication committee members as I suggest that we don’t ‘need’ live broadcasting capabilities. Similarly, as I debated the value of the quiet zone, I realized that I was once again going up against a group of supporters who cared little about cost, safety and return on investment. Damnit, I bought a house near the tracks and everyone in town should pay for my ignorance.
    Can we start a committee whose purpose is to lay out the master plan for reducing our tax burden? I bet we would receive a lot of volunteers for this one.
    Come on Cary, just because we spent a $100,000 grant on exploring bike paths does not equate to ‘needing’ to spend $50,000 a year towards bringing the plan to fruition. The make-up of Montclair is changing irreversibly due to our inability to say no to every pet project anyone requests. Police hybrids? Let’s let the federal government save the environment, not Montclair. Hybrid’s do not save money. They actually cost way more than conventional vehicles over the length of the life of the vehicle! But what do I know, I’m just a financially conservative liberal getting taxed out of Montclair.

  46. 13%, who is your council person? Send your very well-put, impassioned thoughts to him or her, the 2 at-large councillors, and the mayor. I know you went to the meeting and spoke, but putting it all on a blog won’t change anything. Send the email to the council people (and a copy to the Montclair Times to cast a wider net). And by all means go to the next school board meeting and say your piece! More voices like yours might actually bring some needed changes!

  47. “Come to the department meetings, ROC.”
    With respect Cary, that’s why we hired YOU!
    It’s why we call it a representative democracy.
    So other than useless proclamations, when can we expect the new council to, you know, get a move on?
    Here’s another idea. A 5 year life time for “capital improvements” which can be bonded? It should be at least 10 years. We should not be borrowing to buy “gear for police vehicles”.
    We need a more pay as you go mentality.

  48. Let’s all remember, cuts in spending is very easily achieved.
    Ordinance: Property Taxes in the Township of Montclair will be reduced by 5% for fiscal year 2009.
    Done.
    Next?

  49. “Can we start a committee whose purpose is to lay out the master plan for reducing our tax burden? I bet we would receive a lot of volunteers for this one.”
    Cut the taxes then let anyone who want’s to form a committee to spend what’s left.
    We should not have to “make a case” for NOT spending out money. It’s the other way around.

  50. p.p.s.
    The mere fact that the township council is even considering giving money to a flower club is proof that they’re not “feeling the pinch”.
    It should be totally out of the question.

  51. Good points, all!
    13%, you’ve always had great sense and I appreciate your input!
    But, here’s a couple of things — the police cars only last two years. I’m told that at that time they have 150,000 miles on them.
    And police gear means things like vests, guns, etc.
    5 year life for capital is the IRS definition and we can’t change it to 10.
    Pay as you go makes great sense.
    Five years ago, the last time we had a Capital Finance Committee, I was part of the group warning of our need to cut borrowing. I’m still of that mind.
    But this assortment last night was things that should be done.
    I went to a half dozen meetings reviewing things on that list. And I moved things off that list.
    And, ROC, I do go to all the meetings. But if you want to “vote” differently from me, you also need to go to the meetings.
    We are not, repeat NOT, different in our outlooks to spending. If we sat down for an hour you’d see that (maybe we need a ward meeting, like Renee has done so successfully?”
    Thx,
    Cary

  52. Thanks neighbor. I will do these things.
    The funny thing is, I’m not really against any of these capital improvements. I am against spending money on them at a time that the economy might very well be headed into a depression. I chose the wireless broadcast cameras as my issue to raise at the meeting last night because it appeared in absolutely no way to be a necessity in my opinion. At first it appeared my appeal was working as both Kathryn and Jerry wanted to further discuss the issue. I thought I had done my part to lower the tax burden (albeit mostly symbolically). Then Cary made his let’s concentrate on the big fish comment and all hope was lost.
    Cary, I still have faith in ya baby!
    Please don’t let me down again.

  53. “5 year life for capital is the IRS definition and we can’t change it to 10.”
    Huh? What does the IRS have to do with the township. It does not pay federal taxes.
    The township is free to determine for itself what it will finance by debt and what it will not.
    We choose to finance 5 year items we are not compelled to.

  54. Cary,
    I don’t know if I have faith in you, but I certainly respect you if for no other reason than you are engaging with the citizenry. It would be good if more council members were to engage in this way.
    In that respect, keep up the good work.

  55. Cary, many thanks for posting here!
    One thing to remember for the council: Many of us in Montclair work hours in NYC that make it impossible to attend council meetings. Otherwise we would attend or even run for office.

  56. another thing the council should remember.
    We did not elect you to tell us we’re not involved enough.

  57. ROC,
    Have you ever attended a council meeting? I ask this because of regardless of what your opinion is on this blog, it will have no impact on the town council unless you get more than Cary’s ear.
    Personally, I’m quite disappointed that my personal plea (or experiment) at the meeting last night was ignored. Had you followed me with one of your rants, perhaps some traction could have been achieved.
    I suppose this experiment will have to wait for another time.

  58. ROC,
    Re. Capital Expenses. Given the “caps” on expenses it would be foolish, in this environment, to take capital expenditures and classify them as operating expenditures. It might not even be allowable because the “math” wouldn’t work (this years expenses can only increase a specific amount over last years, etc.) We can have a big conversation about this, off line, if you’d like.
    But, yes, a town can decide to pay for things out of operating, rather than capital, in theory.
    I’m not saying anyone has to show up at the budget or any other meetings. I am asking that you appreciate others have put in time and have come up with plans and that it would be helpful if you reviewed those.

  59. Ordinance: Property Taxes in the Township of Montclair will be reduced by 5% for fiscal year 2009.
    Done.
    I didn’t catch your response to this idea, Cary.

  60. I proposed a 10% across the board reduction in spending.
    It has to be done through a spending reduction. Taxes are calculated, through a torturous process, than involves spending. People who work in Municipalities doing things like this have all sorts of special certifications. They have to accumulate years of education and experience.
    My business experience and ways of thinking have been of limited usefulness in understanding what “the state makes us do.”

  61. Cary,
    Perhaps our ?ber Alles salary collecting township manager might have such certifications?
    And if not, perhaps we could find one that does have the necessary certs required to reduce spending.

  62. If that’s the case Cary.
    Then we’re doomed and there is nothing which can change that.
    An “across the board spending cut” is an abdication of policy making. It makes a 90% retainment in flower bed funding as “important” as 90% funding for the Police and 90%

  63. ROC,
    What do you propose to cut taxes?
    Can you prioritize services for us? How much is the second branch of the public library worth? How do you compare personnel in the MPD with a guidance councilor at the HS?
    I think a GOAL of 10% across the Board will get people thinking.
    Another approach? Use 10% as a goal but ask the groups to prioritize cuts. What are the most essential activities? What are important, but ones we could “survive” if we didn’t have. Rank programs, etc.

  64. “As you will see in the months ahead there are very big decisions that are going to have to be made. And we will make them.”
    It’s hard to believe you will actually make them if you can’t make the small decisions on the table last night.

  65. “What do you propose to cut taxes?”
    Me? I’d decide that takes will not go up for next year. Then have the experts work backwards to tell me what that means budget wise. Then I’d cut every unnecessary luxury 100%. I’d start with arts funding, flower bed funding, bike lanes, new playgrounds (of any kind) The BID, etc.
    I’d see if the school can be cancelled. I’d put a 2 year moratorium on all new construction.
    Then balance what’s left and parcel out the cuts department by department. Once you are down to essentials you can then discuss across the board cuts by percentage.

  66. Cary,
    GOALs are ineffective. For over a year, the federal government has been asking banks to modify mortgages and lend money. Look how well that has been going.
    Allow the managers and administrators to prioritize. There are certainly enough of them and they are paid well enough that they should have the experience levels to make such decisions.
    Ask every department head to cut 5% from their operating budgets. 5% less staff, 5% less school trips, 5% less administrators, classrooms 5% more crowded, etc. When you start prioritizing (like Jerry did last night) you just waste time. Now imagine if at last nights meeting you said let’s cut 5% from the operating budget. Maybe stripe Grove only up to Chestnut. Buy two police computers instead of three. Repair 95% of the sewers. Put in two security cameras not three. And so on. It’s really not that difficult. I am a workflow engineer by profession. The results of my problem solving usually result in headcount reduction. It’s not fun, but if it wasn’t done, the whole lot would suffer. My company has banned travel, frozen wages, trimmed benefits, eliminated black berries, limited cell phone budgets, layed off 10% of the workforce, outsourced to India. Our clients and our employees are not terribly happy, but most of us still have jobs. These are the kinds of decisions that must be made at the town level. The savings won’t come from green cars and salt water filtered pools. The savings will come from across the board cuts.
    But go ahead Cary, make some goals and watch them be completely ignored by the BOE, who due to the convenience of an error barely cut a thing last year.

  67. It’s heartening somehow that it seems everyone is sort of conservative when it comes to their property tax.
    I wonder why it is not being considered to “progressively” index the property tax rate. Wouldn’t that solve the problem too?
    Perhaps the wealthy should pay the vast majority of property tax as well.
    Isn’t our flat tax unfair to the less fortunate?

  68. ROC, the property tax has been made progressive through the reverse engineering of the income-based property tax “rebate”

  69. ROC: is that sarcasm?
    Don’t you know? If you tax higher earners more, they either refuse to continue working or simply emigrate. In the property tax scheme, I imagine that they would all threaten to move into section 8 housing.

  70. I like the suggestions!
    Workflow engineer? I can put you to “work” today, 13%!
    Seriously.
    Not for pay, though. As a volunteer!
    Let me know!

  71. I’ll send you an email when I get the chance. Just heard my wife’s company cut 5% of their staff. Haven’t yet heard if she was part of it.
    See? Less revenue coming in at Conde Nast…5% cut across the board. They are also closing multiple magazine titles. This is how it is done in the ‘real’ world.
    In Montclair, we’ll see a 7 to 8% tax increase (if we are lucky).

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