Mayor Fried on the Budget: Who to Blame

Last week, Montclair mayor Jerry Fried sent out the first part of a three-part public letter on the municipal budget. It quickly garnered 57 comments. Today is the second part. Sharing in the blame, according to Fried: the former town manager (not named, but obviously Joe Hartnett), the current council and state cuts to education. Glen Ridge residents may raise an eyebrow, however, at this statement: “Our largest shared service is providing fire protection for Glen Ridge, which nets us almost $1 million per year and costs us very little.”

Who to Blame for the Tax Increase and What Can be Done.
The obvious target is the local governing body, who were all newly elected in 2008. It should however be noted that with our first Township budget in 2009 we cut the municipal tax increase to 3.9%, a little over half what it was the previous year. This improvement was the result of some small adjustments, and not a sign of real innovation. Although the Council did what we could, we did not respond early to the economic downturn, something which I ascribe to an “uncooperative” Township Manager (a mild phrase from someone who was accused of “selling snake oil to the public” for my insistence on an austerity budget). We were given no reasonable options, only threats of closing streets because of potholes, being unable to meet legal requirements, etc.

In 2010 we are changing Municipal services significantly, combining departments and laying off over a dozen employees. As difficult and unpleasant as this is, I believe that we will be able to bear the burden of some reduced services while maintaining a reasonable quality of life. There have already been many complaints about the cuts. At the end of the year we will be able to judge if we did not cut enough, or cut too much.
The tax increase of about 10% for the Municipal portion and a total of 6% on your bill (including school and county taxes), is a result of a variety of lost revenues because of the economic downturn, a problem statewide. Increasing mandated costs for pensions and health insurance are also a big part of the statewide problem.
In our form of government, the Mayor and individual Council members share equally in the responsibility for the municipal portion of the budget, which is about 26% of your tax bill. The Board of School Estimate, consisting of the Mayor, two Council Members and two members of the Board of Education, are responsible for the school budget, about 58% of your bill. (Since the Mayor appoints the 7 Board of Education members, after two years it’s fair to hold the Mayor responsible for the quality of the School Board.) The share of your taxes that goes to Essex County is about 16% and we do what we can to get our share but the Council has little control beyond advocating for County projects.
Of course, educational funding in New Jersey is different than everywhere else in the country. Statistically, we spend far more than most other states and have better results. Because of court decisions, we fund our poorest urban school districts almost entirely from State taxes, mostly the income tax. Places like Montclair get a tiny share of State funding. With this year’s State cuts, we lost $5.4 million in direct aid, about half of the only 9% we got the previous year. If the State were to refund our aid now, your local property taxes would go down about $200. This is extremely unlikely even though the cuts are being challenged in court.
New Jersey itself gets less federal aid for education than almost any other state, about 3.3%. Some states get almost 8%. This is largely because of our few military bases, but the problem is exacerbated by our high cost of living, something not factored into our portion of federal aid.
So, what are the best ways to limit the growth of taxes?
On the revenue side, our best bet is through “smart growth”, adding more to the tax rolls while limiting the need for more services. The “best” development to help with homeowner’s property tax bill is either commercial development that pays taxes while using minimal services, or residential development that doesn’t add too many kids in our schools. More than one child in public schools (at a price tag of around $16,000/year) can easily use up all the tax revenue in the average house. Development near train stations and along Bloomfield Avenue is better from this point of view, since this type of development has been proven to add few children to the schools.
Montclair is almost totally “built out”… there are few parcels of land left for new construction. The ones that are left become even more significant and any development that wastes this resource is quite a loss. It is quite common for developers to need variances or other assistance to get projects going. Our land use laws are being reconsidered as part of a grant-funded $200,000 revision of our Master Plan that is just starting.
Even so, the total valuation of Montclair is about $7.4 billion. Increasing ratables (a.k.a. increasing the “size of the pie”) is therefore going to be a long-term undertaking involving changes to zoning and land use decisions made over the course of decades. Adding a $100 million development would be quite a big individual project, but would only increase the tax base by about 1.4% of the total, so even in the best case scenario where few services would be consumed, the best a resident could expect would be in the area of 1% reduction, around $150 for the average taxpayer. The township is now in the process of hiring a new Township Planner and we hope to hire someone with a strong background in economic development as well as the more common experience of responding to plans and complying with State regulations.
On the expense side, our best bets are cutting expenses through shared services with other towns and, to a lesser degree, within our own institutions (municipality, schools, library). Montclair is actually fairly large compared to most neighboring towns and therefore is a good candidate for providing services and getting paid for them. Our largest shared service is providing fire protection for Glen Ridge, which nets us almost $1 million per year and costs us very little. Future shared service arrangements have been made for small functions of our police department.
I am on two groups that wrestle with tax reform. One is a task force out of the New Jersey League of Municipalities that is exploring ways to shift some of the burden of education to the State. The second is participating in a small “think tank” of former NJ budget directors, treasurers, and others with decades of years of experience with the NJ property tax. These two groups are coming together to put together some recommendations for different alternatives to Proposition 2 1/2.
The best way to communicate with me about any issues is through email: jfried@montclairnjusa.org or by leaving me a message on my town voicemail: 973-509-4928. Please leave your name, address and contact information.
I also have open-door office hours every Wednesday from 1-4 on the first floor of the Municipal Building, 205 Claremont Avenue.
Coming in Part 3: Next Year and Beyond

Click here to sign up for Baristanet's free daily emails and news alerts.

128 COMMENTS

  1. “One is a task force out of the New Jersey League of Municipalities that is exploring ways to shift some of the burden of education to the State.”
    Yes instead of property tax used he and others want to use income taxes.
    “”Have’s vs. Have not’s””
    More of the same from Mayor Fried. Crushing the people who produce for the state with burdensome taxes his is ultimate goal. Its called class warfare and he learned it well from Saul Alinsky, who he quotes from.
    Also barely does he talk about drastically cutting spending. It is great to have plans to drive revenues, but that would be years from now to have any of the development he speaks of.

  2. Stop blaming Hartnett….Isn’t the town manager supposed to work for the Mayor and Council, not the other way around? If the tail was allowed to wag the dog, that’s not Hartnett’s fault.

  3. “So, what are the best ways to limit the growth of taxes?”
    Fire the Mayor and Council.

  4. The GR agreement is more like an insurance policy.
    It’s expensive till you need it.
    IF there are no fire calls, 1 million dollars is VERY expensive.
    IF there are many calls or one (God forbid) catastrophic fire, it’s money well spent.
    So, to call this line out as something nefarious is questionable.
    As for the letter, I love that he thinks NJ doesn’t get much because we don’t have military bases (we can argue the $$ NJ gets for its bases vs. others, but it’s not that big a hunk of cash).
    No. We don’t get much compared with how much we pay is (partially) because we are the RICHEST State in the Union.
    And like our income take structure, the rich pay for everything.
    To be clear: when NJ asks the fed for more money, it’s no different than Bill Gates asking for a tax cut. Poorer States will always claim to have a greater need.

  5. I await Part 3 (which is not yet available?) of this ragged apologia. But what I’ve read so far, well, it does sound very similar in tone to all those self-serving memoirs by WWII German generals, which were also so ably satirized in Herman Wouk’s “War And Remembrance.”
    There’s a kind of “it was never my fault” evasiveness to Fried’s prose, a slippery unwillingness to accept genuine responsibility. (Yet Joe Hartnett is of course in no way to be compared to the “real” villain in those generals’ memoirs, Hitler, even though Fried does seem to cast Hartnett as a genuinely oppressive force with whom he and the rest of his valiantly progressive councilmates were forced to deal against their collective will.) But it is quite unsettling to read this document (at least its first two parts) and to sift through its alternate whingeing and utterly unjustified half-optimism. That the mayor truly imagines himself as “wrestling with tax reform” is really an especially unwarranted bit of self- (and over-) confidence on his part, too.
    Again, this is an amazing document. But also a thoroughly depressing one, akin to something a disgruntled Savonarola or Calvin would write as his political fortunes and his health both waned. Something that seemingly could only issue from such a reliable bastion of politicized smugness and imagined “progressivism” as Montclair often seems to be.
    Anyway, I hope that such an astounding document as Mayor Friend has written here is but yet another example of Montclair’s weird singularity. At least I do for the sake of every other municipality in New Jersey struggling with its own fiscal problems.

  6. “No. We don’t get much compared with how much we pay is (partially) because we are the RICHEST State in the Union.”
    No. We don’t get much from a Democratic administration because the state is so “blue”. It’s called being taken for granted.
    And we don’t get much from a Republican administration because the state is so “blue” as to be a lost cause.
    We’re a wallflower.
    But federal money is a red herring anyway. We should be able to educate our own children and police our own streets, pick up our own garbage and put out our own fires.

  7. p.s.
    How long can we listen to the same old BS? I’ve been hearing about “shared services” and “smart growth” and getting more share of some other funding “pie” for at least 15 years.
    Then someone will just come a long and justify spending $750,000 on a pedestrian mall because, you know, “we have to repave the street anyway.”

  8. Kit,
    Well Kit, it seems that Montclair would do just fine if we did not have to pay for Abbott Districts, or we did not have to pay for the unfunded mandates the State imposes.
    Kit, we also could find millions of dollars over time in Montclair by not having Janitors on the payroll(pensions/salaries, biggest driver of cost). That can easily be outsourced to the private sector. Also we could have private companies do the landscaping at the school facilities.
    Funding is not the problem, we have lots of it through property tax revenues already. We have a spending problem, one that is high because of public sector salaries/pensions/benefits. This is where we need to look not at how much an individual resident of the State produces. ie THE MILLIONAIRES TAX

  9. I also await the bit in Part 3 where, based on his recent junket, the Chinese are presumed to be rushing in with investment monies which will tidy up Montclair’s financial problems within but a few months while simultaneously contributing to its cultural diversity.

  10. So Kyle, you’re saying that public education should be solely funded through property taxes, and that each district should be entirely self-funded?

  11. Agreed Roc.
    (It’s the same argument I make to Black folks and Unions about being beholden to one political party.)
    I’m also with Kyle on this one.

  12. what a bizarre and strange notion, huh? That the local community is primarily responsible for the education of it’s own children?
    Next you’ll tell us we’re supposed to feed and clothe them unassisted too.

  13. yes kit that is correct.
    municipalities need to consolidate, which a huge problem driving cost.
    Why do we need 566 Boards of Education, 1000’s of Principals, 1000’s of Vice Principals, etc…
    So much needs to be done, though there is no will because voter support from local unions will continue to drive this mess.

  14. Ten paragraphs of explanations and this is only part 2? Sorry I haven’t bothered to read it.
    What I’ve seen is Mayor Fried dead-set on spending $3MM to buy the Senior Center with no usage or financial plan, only a month before the s### hit the budgetary fan this year. Trip to China when the school budget was in crisis. Passing bike storage ordinances when we could have been planning ahead.
    Ho hum.

  15. This installment of the mayor’s trilogy–I hope to Jesus it’s the weakest one–reminds me of that old Washington Post headline (which I believe ran by accident):
    More Mush From the Wimp

  16. “Do not blame anybody for your mistakes and failures.” Bernard Baruch
    Mayor: Perhaps you’ll read both of your missives at tomorrow night’s council meeting? Fit it in before you vote on the Skateboard Park? Another fine use of our funds.

  17. How to add expense and reduce revenue 101:
    Purchase and maintain potentially tax paying properties for personal police parking, a senior center, a skate park……..

  18. Mayor Fried:”The “best” development to help with homeowner’s property tax bill is either commercial development that pays taxes while using minimal services, or residential development that doesn’t add too many kids in our schools.”
    Thanks Grits: “Purchase and maintain potentially tax paying properties(commercial development) for personal police parking, a senior center, a skate park……..”
    Saying one thing and doing another! Politicians….

  19. “Our largest shared service is providing fire protection for Glen Ridge, which nets us almost $1 million per year and costs us very little.”
    So covering an entire town (Glen Ridge) costs “very little” (presumably far less than one million) but even the slightest cut in the fire department will destroy our protection?
    So which is it? One of those statements is a lie.

  20. I’m not sure what Glen Ridge residents would have to raise their eyebrows about the fire contract.
    Glen Ridge gets a fully professional, paid fire response for a very good price. Montclair gets some revenue. Both towns make use of a resource that would probably be overkill if it were providing for just one.
    That contract makes sense for both towns. We need more like it.

  21. Perhaps the eyebrows of Montclair citizens are the ones who should have their eyes raised.
    We get 1 million to cover Glen Ridge. The mayor says this costs us “not much”. While I think it would be fair to interpret “not much” as 30% or so, let’s be conservative and assume it means 50%.
    So it’s costs $500,000 to cover the 7000 residents of Glen Ridge. That’s $71.42 per resident per year to cover Glen Ridge.
    Yet, the MFD budget is eight million to cover our 39,000 residents. Or with a budget of 7.5 million (8 million less the cost to cover GR) $192 per resident per year.
    So what gives? Either our FD is bloated or the amount (37% of what we pay per person) GR pays for coverage is taking advantage of our infrastructure, and we’re not charging enough.
    It could also be that the Mayor is simply wrong that it costs “not much”. Let’s now assume we make NO profit on the service and it costs us “nearly all” instead of “not much” to provide this service.
    If all the million goes to provide the service then the GR fire protection costs $142 per resident. And Monctlair pays $179 per resident.
    Either way, something is amiss here GR is getting a good deal and we’re subsidizing their fire coverage.

  22. No Kyle we don’t need as many BofE but it’s not just the unions that are to blame. As noted by ROC the suggestion that local “communities be responsible for the education of it’s own children” is part of the historical reason for so many school districts in NJ.
    Voters are concerned about consolidation, property values, losing that “small town” feeling among other concerns. It is a huge problem and one that must be tackled by superior leadership.

  23. p.s.
    Using the per resident cost basis in order to break even we should be charging $1.4 million and to make a profit, perhaps $2 million.
    As it is I don’t see how we are not losing money.
    Doesn’t anyone in city hall have a calculator?

  24. As I have pointed out before, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that smaller school districts or smaller municipalities (or smaller counties for that matter) cost more to operate or are “less efficient”.
    In fact, almost without exception, the available numbers show that just the opposite is true – especially in New Jersey.

  25. How this mayor, who actually hosted an open house at the Senior Care building less than five months ago, could blame anyone else for our 10% municipal budget increase is preposterous. What’s on tap tomorrow night Fried? You’ll push the council to build a skatepark, and then will blame next year’s increase on solar flares?
    Please somebody start the recall process at once!
    28 of 566 communities in NJ have managed to maintain their public safety and reasonable quality of life. Why is it that Montclair can not? This was not answered in Jerry Fried’s blame analyis, yet this same mayor like’s to compare Montclair to every one else when it comes justifying potential purchases such as community centers and street scapes.
    Rather than trying to blame everyone else, Mayor Fried needs to look in the mirror to figure out why Montclair is so different? Is it that we have a bloated inefficient municipal government or is it simply years and years of out of control capital spending and the support services required to maintain them? The question that Fried can but will choose to never answer is why nearly every of other municipality in NJ can succeed where Montclair can not. That is in controlling taxes and meeting the state mandated caps.
    Answer us that Mayor Fried?

  26. Carl, as someone who knows something about local government, having run one, I would like to hear your opinion on ROC’s analysis of the fire situation.

  27. “28 of 566 communities in NJ have managed to maintain their public safety and reasonable quality of life.”
    “All but 28 of 566….” ? Perhaps?

  28. The mayor never should have written a “who to blame” missive. It can’t sound like anything but whining and hypocrisy.
    For instance, the mayor implies that he can’t be held accountable for the school board, since he hasn’t appoint all of its members. But he campaigned against the referendum to eliminate the current appointment process and for the status quo.

  29. Why should a relatively rich municipality like Montclair expect aid from the state (which comes out of our pockets one way or another)? If Montclair wants to hire lots of drug counselors for its schools, have a community relations department in its municipal government, pay 40 of its police officers in excess of 100k and pay its kiddy rec director a salary equal to the governors, then we the citizens of Montclair should pay their salaries, pay their health care and pay their retirement. We are the spendthrifts. Why should the state or anyone else pay for any of our ridiculous expenditures. Until we, the wonderful do good citizens of Montclair, realize the cost of our actions, we will not change our ways. We in Montclair have always been so generous with other peoples money. Well, now it’s all ours.

  30. ROC,
    I’m sure our fire protection is bloated, but I’m also sure that you will never here any politician admit it. What would be nice is to see the same analysis run in Cedar Grove or Verona and then compared to your Montclair results. They won’t do that, nor will they be able to meet the caps. Surprised?
    Our police budget is slated to increase by half a million this year. Our cut in state municipal aid (not school) was not much more than that. It’s just so much easier to blame the state.

  31. I’d love to run the numbers and compare. But it’s hard to get the information. Local governments seem to like the cloak drawn.
    Even in enlightened Montclair it’s hard to get this public information.
    It’s really too bad someone on the council doesn’t introduce some kind of transparency resolution.

  32. Right of Center:
    I believe the GR agreement can be viewed simply as a fee for our town to provide protection, and cannot be broken down they you have have, and compared to MFD budget. The MFD budget includes maintaing 9 Fire apparatus, three fire houses, and a host of other things.
    It is really a win/win for both towns. For GR to have its own FD and maintain and pay salaries, it would cost well over $1MM. This agreement is one of the first in NJ, and serves as a model for many towns. The Governor, both Christie and Corzine are pushing for MORE shared services. Montclair and GR were progressive in this, that the agreement was reached in 1990, 20 years ago.
    So to scrutinize and breakdown numbers, when you really need a better understanding of how the FD works, and what goes into everything, may be shedding a negative light on something that has no negatives. Everyone makes out, especially the tax payers of both towns!

  33. I don’t know Quim,
    Your analysis makes me question whether Montclair is charging Glen Ridge enough, or if anyone on Claremont Avenue is paying attention to the math. I’m not so sure it’s a win/win. It appears to me that it’s a win/lose where Glen Ridge gets the better deal and Mayor Fried isn’t really paying attention. He’s probably too busy focusing on increasing trade with China or bike-related initiatives to pay attention.

  34. “The MFD budget includes maintaing 9 Fire apparatus, three fire houses, and a host of other things.”
    Sure it does, but those things are needed to provide fire protection! It’s like saying kids will “make money” at the lemonade stand at $.25 per cup.
    Sure they do, if you negate the cost of the lemons, water, sugar, cups, depreciation on the pitcher, booth, spoon, lemon juicer and don’t pay them any salary.
    THEN its a great deal!
    How better to determine the “cost” of fire protection than to take what we pay and divide by the number of people protected. (you could do number of structures, if you like).
    Whatever that cost is, THAT’s the cost. If someone wants the same protection but isn’t paying the same relative cost, they you are subsidizing it for them.
    (like the lemonade stand)

  35. I know who it is a win/win for. The local firemen who post here without posting full disclosure.

  36. Humphrey,
    Over the years, one of the examples I have given when talking about how costs are often lower in smaller munis is that GR taxpayers spend much less for fire protection than Montclair taxpayers – it is absolutely true, and although it’s been a few year since I was intimately familiar with the numbers, ROC’s numbers look about right – but that can be somewhat misleading.
    The Fire Contract is a good deal for both towns, and I certainly don’t think GR pays too little for Fire Protection, in fact I think we probably pay more than we should, but probably not enough to make it worth doing something about since, as I said, it’s a good deal for both towns.

  37. (translation, the lemonade selling kids love the arrangement)
    Personally I suspect the real “value” in the deal is so politicians can point to a shared services “success”.

  38. p.s.
    Either the $192 rate each Montclairon pays is too much (the department is bloated) or the $71 rate each Glen Ridger pays is too little (not a fair share).
    It’s one or the other.
    Because it’s the same service provided by the same people with the same equipment.

  39. p.p.s.
    Put another way the “cost” for the service is the budget (8 million) divided by the total people covered (46,000, the sum of the two towns’ populations)
    That cost basis is $174/person.
    Glen Ridge pays: $71/person
    Montclair pays: $192/person
    “…it’s a good deal for both towns.”
    really?

  40. Sorry, used the wrong figure for what Montclair pays. After the million from GR the Montclair pays 179 per person. It’s correctly stated in the first analysis.
    so:
    That cost basis is $174/person.
    Glen Ridge pays: $71/person
    Montclair pays: $179/person
    “…it’s a good deal for both towns.”
    really?

  41. ROC,
    First of all, GR and Montclair are separate, completely autonomous municipalities, so what is or is not a “fair share” is completely irrelevant. Glen Ridge is purchasing a service from Montclair. The cost of a service is determined by what the vendor is willing to charge, and what the consumer is willing to pay.
    As I said, it’s a good deal for both towns:
    Montclair is able to cover GR for very little more than what it costs them to cover Montclair, so virtually all of the $ that GR sends Montclair for the Fire Contract is “gravy” – that’s what Mayor Fried probably meant when he said “…nets us almost $1 million per year and costs us very little.”
    Glen Ridge gets more fire coverage than it had in the past at less than what it would cost if they provided that level of service on their own (albeit at 4x the previous cost and arguable more fire coverage than it needs – Montclair must maintain adequate fire equipment and manpower for its large commercial district and many restaurants, apartment buildings and office buildings, etc.).

  42. “Glen Ridge is purchasing a service from Montclair. The cost of a service is determined by what the vendor is willing to charge, and what the consumer is willing to pay.”
    Precisely Carl.
    We’re “selling” for $71 what costs $174 and we’re told it’s a good deal (for us).
    “Montclair is able to cover GR for very little more than what it costs them to cover Montclair” Negating all the lemonade fixins. yes. But why should the be eliminated?

  43. Carl
    ‚ÄúAs I have pointed out before, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that smaller school districts or smaller municipalities (or smaller counties for that matter) cost more to operate or are “less efficient”.
    That doesn’t make any sense. Take several small school districts each with a superintendent, central office staff, curriculum specialists, supplies, transportation, special education costs etc. and combine them. It’s quite likely an elimination of duplicated expenditures in just the above mentioned areas would in fact be more cost efficient.

  44. Yes. We are more dependent on property taxes for education and spend more on education (not a coincidence) than pretty much everyone else.
    And it is Education Costs that are the primary driver of our Property Taxes.

  45. So what Carl is really saying is that our fire department can cover 46,000 with out much additional cost. So then my question is then why do we have such a large fire department?
    It only needs to cover 39,000. It only needs to cover Montclair.
    Interestingly 7000 (GR population) is 18% the size of Montclair’s’ population. So if our Fire Department is 18% overbuilt, then we should be able to cut 18% of 8 million. Which is 1.4 million.
    So we’re paying 1.4 million unnecessarily for to have a department big enough to cover GR which pays us 1 million for the service.

  46. Carl,
    Thanks for the explanation. It provides some much needed color to the arrangement. Though it still appears that Montclair is either undercharging Glen Ridge or running a bloated FD. Of course, we would have to look into how much more the commercial ratables and apartment buildings are paying for fire protection vs. our residents. I really hope someone pays attention to this stuff. Considering the bloated size of Montclair’s capital debt, I highly doubt anyone even cares. Even after our rating downgrade. After all, it was Trenton that made us build the new 40 million dollar school right?

  47. Good grief, ROC. It’s not cost per person….Montclair has a fire department. They have equipment, etc. which they would have even if Glen Ridge did not purchase the service from Montclair. It’s most likely a small incremental cost, if any at all, to cover Glen Ridge.
    Sort of like, I have a car and drive to work and I’m willing to take you along too if you share some of the commuting cost like gas and tolls. I have to go there anyway, you pay less than you would if you had to buy a commuting vehicle and you cover some of my costs. I don’t expect you to pay for the cost of the car, insurance and it’s maintenance, at least not unless we decide we are going to buy one together.

  48. ROC,
    I think what I said was pretty clear – and pretty clearly not what you are saying I’m saying.
    I’m not sure what, if any, differential cost there is in fire protection between covering 39,000 people and 46,000 residential customers – residentiial customers are not the cost driver.
    I do know that the Montclair Fire Department’s expenditures did not increase dramatically between 1990 (when MFD did not cover GR) and 1991, when it did.

  49. jerseygurl,
    I’m actually with ROC on this one. It’s not as simple as you make it. It is obviously a lot cheaper for Glen Ridge to contract out fire protection than to provide it for themselves. Any dollar amount between what it would cost for Glen Ridge to provide the service themselves and what Montclair is charging Glen Ridge for fire protection is potential lost revenue for Montclair. Sadly, I doubt anyone is paying attention to this. Say Montclair chooses to no longer provide fire protection to Glen Ridge. What will it cost Glen Ridge to purchase trucks, train staff, build out the physical fire protection plant. This is a lot like the registration and insurance costs that you are not charging your friend for the carpooling services. Why would you choose to give that away? Probably because you are not paying close attention, just like the township of Montclair is probably doing. It’s one thing to get some revenue that you normally wouldn’t be getting. It’s another to charge your residents more than they probably should be charged to subsidize your neighbor. Kudos to Glen Ridge for getting such an excellent deal. Shame on Montclair for giving the farm away. Then again, everyone knows that Glen Ridge, high taxes and all, is much better run than Montclair. Last I heard, they don’t even have any long-term debt. Every resident in Montclair now owes almost $6,000. Servicing this debt will be going up as well now that our credit has been downgraded. Let’s build a skate park to celebrate.

  50. “I do know that the Montclair Fire Department’s expenditures did not increase dramatically between 1990 (when MFD did not cover GR) and 1991, when it did.”
    Simply more evidence of an overbuilt department. So we should cut 1.4 million out of the budget and drop GR. It gets us half a library back.

  51. Gurl.
    I think your analogy is flawed because a fire department is more than a single item commodity. It’s a system with many many parts which has a capacity.
    But let’s go with your analogy anyway.
    If all you need to do is get to work you can buy a motorcycle which has room enough for one. It would cost much less to buy, operate, insure, etc. You don’t need a car which seats 4 – to get the job done. You’ve paid more for excess, unneeded capacity. That you recoup a small fraction of that unneeded excess cost is beside the point, it still is excess capacity you didn’t need in the first place.
    If montclair’s fire department can cover an entire additional town with very little extra cost, then our FD is simply overbuilt.

  52. Regarding the fire protection shared services, I suspect that the numbers analysis is a bit different than what ROC has shown. Costs related to fire protection are probably a step function. That is, after establishing a baseline of fixed costs (stations, etc.) there is a marginal cost per x number of residents or y number of square miles covered. From what ROC has shown, I suspect that Montclair has been able to cover Glen Ridge with little increase in fixed costs but with an increase in variable costs (employees, etc.).
    What isn’t clear is whether the billing relationship with Glen Ridge is designed to cover both the incremental variable costs and some share of the fixed costs/overhead, with a profit margin on top. After all, some portion of those fixed costs are used rowards protecting Glen Ridge.
    Finally, I think the question is: if we didn’t cover Glen Ridge, how much of our costs, both fixed and variable, could be reduced (without any regard for any inefficiencies in the current system as that is a different nut to be cracked)?

  53. The bottom line is that the fire protection for both towns is 8 million. If this were one town that cost would be spread evenly over all the citizens and ratables. Averaging $174 / resident.
    Currently:
    Glen Ridge pays: $71/person
    Montclair pays: $179/person

  54. ROC:
    According to state and federal guidelines, MFD is UNDERSTAFFED. In fact, the Montclair Council paid for a study to be done 6 years ago by a professional firm, when they were considering providing Orange with fire protection. That study called for more staffing, and said the current levels were inadequate. Montclair has never added the manpower recommended to provide Mtc/GR. So, I understand you are throwing around percentages and such, but a true grasp of how staffing and manpower works is needed to support your argument.
    So to go around saying MFD is overstaffed by 18% is just inaccurate. We all want fair deals, and want market value for things.
    Your comments are well intended, and I respect your arguments, I am simply trying to add some more facts for you and everyone else.

  55. ROC,
    The need for fire services is not determined by the number of residents. It’s determined by the risk in any given geographical area. The hazards in that area determine the overall risk.
    A 7 story building with 100 residents poses much more of a risk to life than a small street with 25 homes and 100 residents. A storefront with a basement and flammable storage also presents a hazard with high risk.
    Montclair clearly has many more of these types of hazards than Glen Ridge, thus creating more serious risks to life and wide spread property damage. Thus,your per/resident analysis is quite illogical.

  56. if it’s understaffed then how can we offer service to another town.
    My overarching point is that all these thing cannot be true.
    My personal opinion is that GR should be paying more and is making out nicely in this deal. The staffing level is another thing entirely.

  57. At the risk of suffering ROC’s wrath, isn’t it natural that Glen Ridge would pay less per resident for a fire dept. than Montclair? We have far more homes, increasing the chances that the fire dept. has to go put out a fire, and we have tons more businesses, too.

  58. propose another then watchdog.
    What is the mathematical basis for the nicely, tidy, 1 million? Are you saying covering GR has no associated costs?

  59. DagT Writes:
    That doesn’t make any sense. Take several small school districts each with a superintendent, central office staff, curriculum specialists, supplies, transportation, special education costs etc. and combine them. It’s quite likely an elimination of duplicated expenditures in just the above mentioned areas would in fact be more cost efficient.
    Well, it may be counter-intuitive, but if you examine how those expenditures are actually made (there is a lot of information on line if you do some hunting), you will discover that the larger districts tend to spend more per-pupil on those things than the smaller districts do. What’s more, larger entities require more overhead and tend to become more bureaucratic.
    The same tends to be true with munis. A while back on Baristanet, we had an in-depth discussion on this issue in which I discussed this in significant detail – here is the link:
    https://www.baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2010/04/glen_ridge_voice_gr_should_con.php

  60. When the new firehouse on Bay Street was built, was it a capital expenditure? Did Montclair float any bonds to pay for it? When a new fire vehicle is purchased, where is the money coming from? Anybody know?

  61. ” Bay Street was built, was it a capital expenditure?”
    yes.
    “Did Montclair float any bonds to pay for it?”
    yes.
    “When a new fire vehicle is purchased, where is the money coming from? Anybody know?”
    Short term borrowing or long term borrowing depending on the expected life of the item. I think fire trucks last a few decades (at least) so could be long term debt, but I’m not sure on that.

  62. “At the risk of suffering ROC’s wrath, isn’t it natural that Glen Ridge would pay less per resident for a fire dept. than Montclair?”
    If both towns were all homes, no. Their overall cost would be lower because they have far fewer homes and residents, but the price per resident (if it were all homes) should be comparable.
    The difference in ratables is a valid argument. Not sure how to tackle that one. Does it cost more to have the 3 units necessary to cover a fire in a 100 unit apartment building with sprinklers vs 50 sprinkler-less homes on fire at once (same hundred people) ? I don’t know.

  63. Quim,
    Every government department at every level of government thinks that it is understaffed and the “independent” experts doing these studies know what side of their bread is buttered and by whom. These so-called experts are retired fire department personnel (they all retire in their 40s so they’re around for a while milking the system). I’m for cutting the fire department in half, or fire everybody and start over. If my house burns down, I have insurance. When you government types take it for taxes: I’m SOL.

  64. Since the Bay Street Firehouse is one of the primary locations for servicing Glen Ridge including such sensitive places as their only business section, tavern, police station, library, town hall, high school and middle school, does Glen Ridge pay any of the cost for the debt?

  65. It’s all GR’s fault. Right.
    Bloomfield, here’s your chance at some money.
    Bid for our Fire service the next chance you get.
    While your doing some per person calculations could you figure out the per person amount GR brings into Montclair via shopping and eating?

  66. That’s a good point, Howard. Because capital expenditures and the debt paid therefore are not included in the 8 million annual budget.

  67. The tidy $1million dollars was a negotiated figure. It’s obviously less than GR would have to pay to maintain their own fire department. It’s also obviously more than it costs Montclair to provide the service…otherwise what’s the reason for either side to enter the agreement?
    As far as where that money goes, maybe Mr. Fried can answer that in the next installment of his trilogy.
    If you ask me, part of any ‘profit’ from such an agreement should have been war-chested to offset the future costs of honoring that agreement. The cost of such things as firehouses, fire trucks, and equipment that are capital purchases and require bonds could be offset with an account maintained with the money ‘netted’.
    Maybe that’s asking too much?
    As for the high risks that cost more to protect, that’s just a cost of living in a town like Montclair where you have all types of stores, restaurants, bars. You could chose to live in a bedroom community where those hazards don’t exist.

  68. “While your doing some per person calculations could you figure out the per person amount GR brings into Montclair via shopping and eating?”
    Do you mean the value of business done in Montclair by Glen Ridger’s as an expression of thanks for our largess?
    yes. I figured that.
    It’s $8.94 representing one purchase you made at Whole Foods for a pint of vegan, organic, fair trade, “lay it on thick” brand mayonnaise.

  69. “You could chose to live in a bedroom community where those hazards don’t exist.”
    Or a town which could convince a larger town to provide the service at less than a third the actual cost.
    I am quite sure there is no “basis” of the figure. I imagine our leaders have the same perception as the gurl in that they believe “hey we have a fire department anyway, so any money is gravy”.

  70. I’m not a financial whiz kid, but I do know that when I was a home renter, I paid less for the same space than I do now that I’m a home owner. However, as a home owner, my home is now an ‘asset’ (assuming it continues to be worth more than I paid for it).
    Doesn’t the same principle hold true for Montclair’s ownership of the FD real estate, building, equipment, etc. etc., vs Glen Ridge’s ‘rental’ of MFD’s services? Montclair taxpayers are purchasing tangible, enduring assets in their FD, whereas Glen Ridge taxpayers are leasing a service that confers no enduring assets.

  71. In reply to Stu, ROC & Howard:
    You are missing the most important point here, so I will repeat it:
    First of all, GR and Montclair are separate, completely autonomous municipalities, so what is or is not a “fair share” is completely irrelevant. Glen Ridge is purchasing a service from Montclair. The cost of a service is determined by what the vendor is willing to charge, and what the consumer is willing to pay.
    Stu,
    There would probably be very little savings if any for Montclair to drop GR (as I said, it cost Montclair very little extra to add GR in 1991), certainly nothing close to the $1 million less in revenue.
    As far as how it would impact GR, I suspect we’d be just fine.
    ROC writes:
    What is the mathematical basis for the nicely, tidy, 1 million? Are you saying covering GR has no associated costs?
    As I said above, it’s the negotiated price that the supplier was willing to do it for and that the customer was willing to pay. When the contract began in 1991, it was $450,000. The contract has been negotiated and renewed a couple of times, and the amount of each annual increase is covered by a formula in the contract. I suspect that when it is next negotiated, Mayor Fried’s quote will figure prominently in the discussions 😉
    Howard writes:
    Since the Bay Street Firehouse is one of the primary locations for servicing Glen Ridge including such sensitive places as their only business section, tavern, police station, library, town hall, high school and middle school, does Glen Ridge pay any of the cost for the debt?
    Just as I don’t have to make mortgage payments on my dry-cleaners store, GR is not responsible for its vendor’s capital expenses. However, as I recall, the annual income from the fire contract was cited by Montclair officials when the decision to build a new firehouse was approved (although the discussions about building a new firehouse in Montclair began long before the fire contract.

  72. GR…Boycott Montclair! Hello Bloomfield! We pay a million bucks for fire protection and we don’t even get our town name on the firetrucks?
    When was the last time anyone in GR saw a Montclair firetruck drive thru town? Montclair is getting the best end of this deal,sorry RoC and your let GR burn attitude.

  73. Nope.
    I’m a Brookdale shoprite guy. I buy meat and everything. However for some reason the burgers at Kings are the best… The best Jerry!

  74. Since it already has the garage, perhaps GR should move to a volunteer fire department, keep the one million and apply it to the schools to replace the money the state did not provide, and let ROc enjoy his share of the savings as a Montclair taxpayer. I’ll bet it would shave at least $42 off his property tax bill.

  75. When you were renting, do you think the landlord was charging you for the cost of maintaining your share of the property plus some profit? Or did he think ” I have to pay my mortgage and bills anyway, so whatever I charge Katiebirdrex is gravy?
    Not all assets go up. Vehicles surely, and many buildings depreciate in value over the years.
    And you’re making a pretty bold assumption that your house will be worth more when you want or need to sell it.

  76. Carl
    I’ve read the link and I’m not convinced. It certainly appears that you are sure, however, that consolidation of school districts will not reduce costs.
    I completely agree with your take on the funding of Abbott districts. But not with your concept of larger vs. smaller school districts becoming more bureaucratic. Depending on the town (large or small) and the administration (which includes all town services) the bureaucracy at times appears to have a life of it’s own. I’d guess that the larger the district is the easier it is to pad the budget. But I’m betting that smaller districts are over staffed as well as larger ones. (Staff being the most expensive item in a school budget)
    It will be interesting to see the effects that school districts statewide will reap as a result of budget cuts. I’m betting that fewer administrators and teachers will likely have little on the over all education of NJ’s students.
    In that previous discussion you noted that:
    “As I said above, Montclair pays something like $2,000 more, per pupil, to educate their children than GR does”
    Doesn’t it make sense to do a cost analysis of all of the 500+ districts in NJ and find out why there are significant discrepancies in the costs of educating students, which ones are the most efficient and why.
    It will take superior leadership skills to make changes/cuts in this very bloated state and in fact federal government.

  77. And Stu,
    Yes, GR is a well-run town, but we do have a small amount of long-term debt.
    It’s been a while since I had to remember the exact amounts, but I think the town and its utilities owe about $9 million, and the BofE owes about $13 million.

  78. Carl, et. al.
    I have nothing against GR. Or your taking this deal. It’s good for GR. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.
    I’m saying that the idera that we “make money” on this is a fiction. At best. If ALL the money paid to us by GR goes into the ktty and there is not any profit then GR pays $142 and it’s still less than the actual cost.

  79. Thanks Carl. I appreciate your explanation. Sadly, I still wonder if anyone pays attention to the math. It just seems incredible that a department with a budget the size of the MFD can add an entire other towns worth of coverage (even if wholly residential) with little to no expense. Especially one that is (allegedly) understaffed for Montclair. Something smells fishy here. Perhaps we can cover Verona and Cedar Grove as well.
    By the way, I do agree with you about what happens with regionalization, especially in the schools. Simply take a look at Glen Ridges high school administration salaries and simple numbers. They have one assistant principal making less than all five of Montclair’s assistant principals. Combine Glen Ridge High School with Montclair and you end up with 7 assistant principals all demanding more money since the district is larger. Sometimes, it’s just easier to pay attention when things are smaller. I wonder how many substance abuse staffers there are in Glen Ridge or Office’s of Community Relations?

  80. Dag,
    I’m sure that there are many circumstances where combining entities would save money or bring about greater efficiency, the points I’m making are:
    1. Combining entities doesn’t necessarily save money or bring about efficiency, in fact many time the opposite is true – so each proposal needs to be evaluated on its own merits.
    2. Equity in funding would force the elected officials in question to be efficient, or the folks that elected those officials will be the ones that have to pay the difference.

  81. Council Agenda for June 22nd
    What’s ON the Agenda:
    Skate Park
    What’s NOT ON the Agenda:
    Budget
    Debt
    Cary Africk
    2nd Ward Councilor

  82. Put public stocks in your town square and sell rotten vegetables for people to toss at the miscreants.
    All the best ideas are the old skool ideas.

  83. Why attend to matters of substance when you can gun the bread-and-circus machine? Also, you need a certain amount of decadent public entertainments to mask the creeping wealth redistribution that underlies everything.
    We are in the endtimes.

  84. question is.
    Which, if any, councilors will be all over the watercooler, and baristanet and the montclair times vociferously pointing out how utterly stupid and irresponsible that agenda is.

  85. ROC:
    The $1MM brought in via the GR contract, offsets Montclair residents taxes by $1MM. If we didn’t have that $1MM, it would be $1MM MORE we would be paying for the same services.
    Right now, picture our municipal budget with $1MM added to it… Not a good picture.

  86. Yup budget season is over and more ‘important’ things are now on the docket.
    Business as usual right ?

  87. While smaller entities can have efficiencies approaching larger ones, they can not, on an equal basis, be competitive in the long run on commodity services unless they operate under a different model. Counter-intuitive only applies when when there is a lack of knowledge and education.
    Next, if shared services is the biggest initiative for local governments, then why doesn’t Montclair have a Director of Shared Services? I know examples from the business sector are dismissed by the government sector, but I rather Montclair have a Director of Shared Services than a Director of Parks & Recreation.
    As far as the schools, Montclair contracts out for many things that are not proprietary. We probably clean classrooms like everyone else, we probably have the same IT headaches GR does, and we probably have the same building repair needs. Why don’t we just split out from our educators the buildings and operations aspects of our schools and combine under one organization for surrounding towns. Let the educators focus on what they do best – curriculum and managing students.
    Now the fire dept. The price should be based solely on what the market will bear and Montclair should offer the service on quality, response time and price that would make it the preferred choice over other adjacent towns. The fact is, GR will never go down the route of bringing back there own fire service before they first shop it around to other towns. Montclair needs to determine their shared service pricing model overall based on variable cost & competition, not fixed costs.
    Lastly, shared services should include negotiating service contracts as one entity. If GR & Montclair have 10 miles of road to pave, I have to assume there are still bulk contracts out there. What about financial services like auditing, banking, etc? Why can’t we share a CFO?
    Court space? The list is endless.

  88. As long as you don’t ask Glen Ridge to share their schools with Montclair or Bloomfield, I am sure they would be all ears about sharing services. As a resident of Glen Ridge, hearing the BS coming from the all mighty and vocal residents of Montclair, I hope that the fire contract expires and we go sign with Bloomfield for less. Then you can all go cry to Africk and the rest about what a horrible job they are doing. As far as I am concerned, build a skate park, senior center, pedestrian mall, do it all You build it and go further into debt and the residents of GR will be happy to spend our money in your town and remain a quiet and tranquil little village free of debt.

  89. Seriously Cary?
    And are we going to try and put this skate park that we can’t afford right by the Walnut Street tracks again? This will make a great addition to the new 24 hour quiet zone for that area. Kids on skateboards hanging around tracks where trains don’t blow their horns.
    Montclair really is stranger than fiction.

  90. ROC,
    I tried to put a discussion of Montclair’s debt on the Agenda. Four members of the Capital Finance Committee, the same ones that presented previously, had completed a report on the short term borrowing of NJ Towns and compared Montclair with 70 other towns.
    I couldn’t get it on the Agenda because “the entire committee didn’t vote on the report.”
    At the next meeting, I will again submit it but call the people “members of the Capital Finance Committee, but not necessarily speaking on behalf of the Committee.”
    Cary Africk
    2nd Ward Councilor

  91. I stand corrected!
    In the first hour tomorrow night, upstairs in the second floor conference room and not on channel 34 (although the room is capable of “live TV”) “Budget” is in the Discussion category.
    Along with a presentation by the Library Director, an introduction of the new MHS Coach John Fiore, an Executive Session covering “Litigation, Personnel and Contracts” and a Public Comment Section. All in an hour.
    So, we will discuss budgets after all.
    Hmmm …. the skate park gets televised in its own “Scheduled Presentation,” the budget doesn’t.

  92. “Why don’t we just split out from our educators the buildings and operations aspects of our schools and combine under one organization for surrounding towns. Let the educators focus on what they do best – curriculum and managing students.”
    I have wondered this aloud for years and emailed the previous council about it repeatedly (before getting frustrated and giving up)
    Why on God’s green earth does the BOE need its own back hoe? (Its parked at Woodman if you want to see it) Why does it need its own fleet of snowplows? And Vans? And its own maintenance staff? There is close to 20 BOE owned vehicles parked at Woodman every night.
    Its not just paying for this equipment and then storing it, its also the maintenance on that equipment.
    Why does the BOE need a completely separate trash dumpster and pickup that they drive right by the town transfer station to use? Why cant the town take care of this?
    Ugh!

  93. Jimmy,
    Then you must really cringe when you see the Parks & Recreation junior-size garbage truck!

  94. Perhaps a better analogy would be someone who owns a 2- or 3-family home. I’m sure in many cases the price per sq ft that the owner pays (esp in an area like Montclair that has outrageous taxes) is higher than what the owner charges her tenants.
    However, in 10 years the owner can sell the home and (hopefully) recoup some of her investment, whereas the renters walk away with nothing. I still think this should be taken into consideration when comparing the price per resident for Montclair vs GR FD service.
    (And, as with rent for housing, leased FD service is worth what the market will bear, and not more. If Bloomfield were willing to provide the same level of service that Montclair does for $750,000/yr, then that’s what those services are worth–regardless of how much Montclair’s spendthrift politicians choose to shell out for their FD.)

  95. ROC,
    I think many people in this town, including Council members, would prefer not to think about finance. They defer to the Manager, and assume that if there were a problem he’d tell them about it.
    And I think Managers would like things to work like this. “Leave it to me” seems to be the attitude.
    And strictly obeying the letter of the law — the Faulkner Act — it’s not up to the Council to muck about it finance.
    But I can’t act without numbers. I can’t “do policy,” as I’m told is the Council’s prerogative, without knowing where we stand.
    Remember the Senior Center? Well some great kids from the High School got up to speak at a Council meeting and told why they believed in the services that would be provided. As to the money to run it? They answered directly “YOU have the money and YOU can afford it!”
    Remember what happened in the movie House of Sand and Fog? Don’t read the mail? Don’t pay attention? BAD THINGS happen to you.
    So that’s why I’m writing a request now, to the Manager, to analyze 5 and 10 years worth of salary, benefit, and overtime data for the Town. Including the police and fire. How much did it grow? How many more people are unionized today than then? How many more are on pension and health lifetime benefits?
    And one of my suggestions for cutting this year’s budget? Look back on the last TWO years and roll back all salary increases, promotions, and hires.
    And I don’t think we need a Consultant to do this.
    Cary Africk
    2nd Ward Councilor

  96. 5th Ward writes:
    While smaller entities can have efficiencies approaching larger ones, they can not, on an equal basis, be competitive in the long run on commodity services unless they operate under a different model
    Isn’t a town that is much smaller a different model by definition? Since we’re on the topic of Montclair, let me point out the fact that GR spends less per capita than Montclair does on every single government service mentioned in your post, even though Montclair is five times larger.
    You keep claiming that larger political entities would be more efficient, but you have yet to offer any shred of evidence to support that contention. As I said to you on April 4, as far as the munis are concerned, I have always been willing to look at all options – based on the facts – the facts do not support the argument that small towns are less efficient than large towns – look at the numbers comparing the Boards of Education Hierarchy and The Police Department Hierarchy that I posted then for another example:
    https://www.baristanetnew.wpengine.com/2010/04/glen_ridge_voice_gr_should_con.php#comment-462758
    and there are literally hundreds of other examples.
    What’s more, the smaller government bodies are generally more responsive to the needs and wants of the governed – in fact, that’s another reason they tend to be more efficient.

  97. KatebirdRex,
    Perhaps a better analogy may be a factory that is running at less than optimal capacity. Since the plant and equipment are essentially sunk costs, then the factory owner may pursue opportunities to manufacture similar goods for others (think private label goods). If the owner believes that (s)he can make a profit from this incremental business without any degradation to the existing business then it is a worthwhile venture. Regardless of the decision, the fixed assets will be sitting there. The incremental costs of changeovers, staffing another shift and doing all of the adminiistrative functions would factor into the decision whether to pursue the deal or let the plant sit idle.

  98. Carl,
    It’s all in what you measure. Glen Ridge is more efficient because they outsource a major cost center – fire. It could not provide fire protection for $1MM. It also is basically a one sector town – housing. It has no commercial sector or large non-profit sector to speak of. If that is your definition of smaller being more efficient, than great for you. The athletic field situation is a great example of small town efficiencies. It was nice having GR soccer at Anderson Park. Isn’t it great each town gets their own learning curve.
    And how do you measure responsiveness? Can you point me to the supporting documentation for that?
    The only thing I can think of is that GR has a substantially higher voter turnout than Montclair. If so, I am envious.

  99. Residing in 5th –Anderson Park is a county park, not a town park. As such, GR has as much right to use it as any other Essex county town.
    As to whether fire protection could be done for 1M, who knows? Perhaps with a volunteer setup it could be. I’m no expert on that but then, I’m betting you’re not either.
    Part of being a “one sector town” means that there are no ratables to speak of, so you would seem to suggest that its harder for Montclair to get it right because there are so many ratables. That line of logic is one I don’t follow.

  100. I don’t think you’ll ever see a fire dept again in GR, even volunteer, the money is just not there. If it was we would have bought back the old Central school our short-sighted town fathers sold off in the 1980’s. The bank that owns it is not giving it away and then add the cost of retro fitting it to today’s safety standards…..$$$. Let’s just keep stuffing kids into smaller classrooms. Hey, we’ll still be rated high in the NJ Monthly poll but for how much longer? Christie pulled the plug and we’ll be circlin’ the drain, right behind Montclair.

  101. 5th writes:
    It’s all in what you measure. Glen Ridge is more efficient because they outsource a major cost center – fire.
    Yes, at significant cost savings compared to what a larger town (which couldn’t – and wouldn’t) do that – that’s one reason small towns often cost less – they have to be (and are) more flexible.
    Now, if that was the only thing, I might be said to be cherry-picking (although it still – by itself – disproves your theory). But as I said, in virtually every function you mentioned, GR spends less – per capita. And it’s not just GR – the pattern holds with smaller towns throughout the state, with few exceptions.
    It could not provide fire protection for $1MM.
    no, it does provide fire protection for $1 million. But even before the fire contract, GR provided fire protection for much less per capita than Montclair did.
    It also is basically a one sector town – housing. It has no commercial sector or large non-profit sector to speak of. If that is your definition of smaller being more efficient, than great for you.
    While I do believe that commercial ratables are an over-rated revenue stream, not having them is hardly a financial advantage. Again, your example does nothing but disprove your contention. You can’t make a blanket statement and then, when example after example is provided disproving it (and I could probably give you thousands of them) just discount them all.
    The athletic field situation is a great example of small town efficiencies. It was nice having GR soccer at Anderson Park. Isn’t it great each town gets their own learning curve.
    All towns make mistakes, but smaller towns tend to catch them faster and pay less for them. While I am not familiar enough with the details of the Hurrell Field problems to comment in detail, and while I’m not happy about what happened, or trying to minimize the inconvenience to the citizens, in the end, the financial impact on the borough will probably be less than $10,000 – or about 1/75th of what a larger town might pay to move a ballfield over a few feet, so let’s keep it in perspective…
    And how do you measure responsiveness? Can you point me to the supporting documentation for that?
    I never said anything about responsiveness, and I’m not sure what you mean in this context, but I’m pretty confident that GR “responsiveness” would acquit itself when compared to most any larger town by most any standard of measurement.
    To get back to the point – you said:
    While smaller entities can have efficiencies approaching larger ones, they can not, on an equal basis, be competitive in the long run on commodity services unless they operate under a different model.
    but have still offered nothing to support your contention, which brings me back to the first post I made in this thread:
    …there is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that smaller school districts or smaller municipalities (or smaller counties for that matter) cost more to operate or are “less efficient”.
    In fact, almost without exception, the available numbers show that just the opposite is true – especially in New Jersey.

  102. darn html!
    Last two paras should read:
    …there is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that smaller school districts or smaller municipalities (or smaller counties for that matter) cost more to operate or are “less efficient”.
    In fact, almost without exception, the available numbers show that just the opposite is true – especially in New Jersey

  103. “So that’s why I’m writing a request now, to the Manager, to analyze 5 and 10 years worth of salary, benefit, and overtime data for the Town. Including the police and fire. How much did it grow? How many more people are unionized today than then? How many more are on pension and health lifetime benefits?”
    Another study!
    does the council have any power or authority? If so, could someone wield it on behalf of the tax paying citizens?

  104. Responsiveness…your quote from above:
    “What’s more, the smaller government bodies are generally more responsive to the needs and wants of the governed – in fact, that’s another reason they tend to be more efficient.”
    Facts…I went to the link you provided and there are no independent sources quoted, just you.
    More facts…I went to the Borough of GR and they said they are saving $2.5MM on fires services. Assuming the $1MM fire service contract number is accurate, their own fire service would cost $3.5MM. I’m not going to bother doing the per capita calculation. I guess Mayor Freid is off the hook for his comment about providing fire service for “very little” as we should be charging GR more.
    GR Muni budget is 10% less due to non-school $1.1MM in county, state & federal grants.
    I could find more facts, but 10 mins was my limit to look.
    Bottom line is GR is better managed for a variety of reasons, but not because it is smaller.

  105. The Montclair numbers I quoted were straight off the Montclair Websites, the GR numbers were from memory, but verified with current Board of Ed & GRPD officials.
    You can also find a lot of numerical data at:
    https://www.nj.com/news/bythenumbers/
    The $3.5 million number is a hypothetical, it does not reflect what actually would ever be paid – kind of like those Ginsu Knives are a “$99 value”. I’ve been assured that we would have no trouble switching to another vendor – probably for less money – if the current arrangement was terminated for some reason (since, as I said, it’s a good deal for both towns, I don’t anticipate that happening). The $240K number that I used is the actual budget number from the 1990 budget.
    Montclair gets far more in grants (per-capita) than GR does, so including the GR grants without also including Montclair’s grants makes no sense. In any case – it is also irrelevent, as your “theory” is about cost.
    Bottom line is GR is better managed for a variety of reasons, but not because it is smaller.
    Still another statement unsupported by any facts. We couldn’t have a fire agreement like we have if we were bigger. We’d have to pay for a lot more busing if we were bigger. We couldn’t operate with so few administrators (At the Board of Ed, the Municipal Government or the GRPD) at significantly lower relative salaries if we were bigger. Bigger towns don’t buy used jitney buses – they buy new. Etc., etc., etc…

  106. I see now – I didn’t go back far enough for my data. 1990?
    I guessed Mtc had a grant or two. The point you missed was the monies were coming from taxes collected by other jurisdictions. Your residents will have to make up the shortfall and you’ll have to find another Abbott-like whipping post.
    GR model can not be replicated or scaled. You will continue to increase your outsourcing and even then your costs will go up, it is just a matter of time before GR is absorbed into another town or you tax your residents out. Too bad your facts don’t look into the future.

  107. With regard to responsiveness, while I believe it to be true that smaller towns tend to be more responsive, and while I believe that this opinion is probably shared by most folks, I offer it only as my observation.
    That said, I find myself wondering how fast you would have gotten an answer to similar questions about fire services and budget numbers at a larger municipality.
    I suspect you would have had to raise your limit from 10 minutes.

  108. Everyone upset about the above, please attend the council meeting tonight. Hope to see you there.
    If we limit our outrage to internet posts, Montclair municipal leaders will continue to avoid difficult cuts and keep pushing projects that add expense and reduce revenue….like the skate park being discussed tonight.

  109. I see now – I didn’t go back far enough for my data. 1990?
    You said it was something that we couldn’t do for ourselves at a reasonable cost – I cited the $240K number because not only could we do it, we did do it. 1990 was the last year that numbers are available, because the fire contract began 1/1/1991. I’m sure the number would be higher, accounting for inflation, but probably nowhere near $1 million.
    In any case, it’s still more irrelevance. $1 million is what our taxpayers pay now, and we will continue to pay a similar amount for the foreseeable future – those are the numbers that count.
    I guessed Mtc had a grant or two. The point you missed was the monies were coming from taxes collected by other jurisdictions. Your residents will have to make up the shortfall and you’ll have to find another Abbott-like whipping post.
    GR model can not be replicated or scaled. You will continue to increase your outsourcing and even then your costs will go up, it is just a matter of time before GR is absorbed into another town or you tax your residents out. Too bad your facts don’t look into the future.
    That’s such nonsense it’s laughable – In fact, just the opposite of what you said is true – it is the big towns that are most dependent on (and most vulnerable to cuts in state aid). The fact is that GR is far less dependent on outside funding than almost any other town in the state – we are currently ranked 6th from the bottom on the list of “Share of town’s cost covered by state aid” for towns with populations of 5000 or more (source:https://www.nj.com/news/bythenumbers/)
    – while that’s not something I’m happy about, the one silver lining is that we are much less vulnerable to funding cuts than most other towns in NJ, and virtually all of the larger towns. In fact, the state can’t cut our school aid any more – we don’t get any.

  110. 5th,
    Given that we now receive no funding from the state, we are living in our future. We are on our own for pretty much everything, which would be ok save for the fact that we still pay into the state coffers by way of our income tax. A fact generally omitted from most of the above postings. And yes, Abbott is an issue. The 30 Abbott districts now get 60% of state aid to education.

  111. Grits,
    I’m highly confident that Township Management and the Councilors are reading Bnet. I have posted in recent months that Mtc ordinance prohibits alcohol consumption at BYO sidewalk dining tables. Last night the Council was to introduce an ordinance revision to now allow. Could be a coincidence or just some restaurateurs who have the ear of the Council.
    As I’m from the 5th Ward, I obviously believe the current Council does not represent me, nor is inclined to amend its agenda for those outside its core constituency. I like Africk and share several of his views. I don’t have a problem when he alters his position on some recent issues because he is learning & listening. He is here posting, but it is like preaching to the choir. I also appreciate that he was elected to represent his ward’s wishes and, on that, I think he has been very consistent.
    Basically, I think speaking at a sparsely attended/watched Council meeting is not the most effective use of my time versus other avenues of communicating, both directly and indirectly. Also, my public speaking skills are lacking and probably would not do justice to the issues.

Comments are closed.