Montclair’s Revised Tax Figures

There’s been much buzz about the accuracy of numbers presented by Montclair Town Manager Marc Dashield since the municipal budget was introduced at last week’s council meeting.

The Concerned Citizens of Montclair said that Dashield’s numbers “didn’t add up” in a Baristanet post last Friday. In response, Mayor Fried told Baristanet that CCM “doesn’t understand the numbers.” Councilor Cary Africk had lots to say in the thread of CCM’s post, offering more numbers and additional information. The various opinions have left some residents more confused than ever. Heads are spinning with projections, and CCM says they’re still waiting for a transparent budget.

Yesterday afternoon, the town released this additional information:

Montclair Township’s projected total tax increase was originally calculated without including a projected increase in the County tax levy. Although the County tax levy has not been finalized, the Township should have included a projected increase in its calculations. This unintended oversight understated the projected tax increase by 0.42 %.

The updated calculation for the overall tax rate is indicated below:

Municipal Tax Levy 51,030,656.54

School Debt Service 4,712,469.00

School Tax Levy 97,509,698.00

County Tax Levy 30,799,429.41
(Projected 2.5% increase – Estimated levy includes added assessments -30,048,223.81 X .025 = 30,799,429.41)

Total Levy 184,052,252.95

Net Assessed Value 7,181,141,428.00

Projected Tax Rate
(Total Levy/Net Value X 100) 2.563

2010 Tax Rate 2.519

Percent Increase 1.76%

There has been some confusion over how to determine the municipal tax levy increase. Below are the numbers and the formula used to calculate the 2011 increase over 2010.

2010 Levy 48,924,389.87
2011 Levy 51,030,656.54

Percent increase: (2011 levy / 2010 levy) 4.3%

It is important to note that the tax levy numbers for all of the above entities have not been finalized and may change. The numbers shown reflect the best estimates available to the Township at this time.

We asked for comments from Jerry Fried, CCM’s spokespeople (Heather McCutcheon and Hollie Reddington) and Cary Africk.
Here’s what they had to say, in the order of their email responses:

“I appreciate Marc’s correction of his preliminary estimate from 1.3% to 1.76%. We still don’t know what the County number will be… I’d be surprised if they are as high as 2.5%, given County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s embrace of Christie’s 2% cap.

I’m fairly certain that we will be making additional cuts or revenue enhancements to lower the rate further. My guess is that the total 2011 increase in property taxes will probably be closer to 1%.”
Mayor Jerry Fried

The omission of the county increase indicates a lack of attention to details on the part of the town. Still, the town should be showing the WHOLE picture in terms of what the rate increases are for 2011. While the town levy will increase 4.3% in dollars (from $48.9mm to $51.0mm), the town has conveniently neglected to show the increase in the municipal tax rate which is 6.4% (all CCM submitted figures are in chart below).

Again, in the name of transparency, it would have been nice to see the chart below on an overhead projector or at least on a piece of paper for the public to analyze at the town hall meeting last Tuesday night.
Concerned Citizens of Montclair

A resident’s taxes are calculated by multiplying the tax rate times the assessed value of their property.

The tax rate is calculated by dividing the total levy by the Net Assessed Value. The Total Levy, is the money that the township has to raise from the taxpayers, to run the town, and school, and to pay the school debt service. The total levy also includes the amount we pay to the County.

The Net Assessed Value is, basically, how much everything in the town is worth — commercial, residential. There are certain exclusions.

The increase is calculated by taking the 2011 Tax Rate and calculating the difference between 2011 and 2010.

When the number was initially presented to the public it was assumed that the County Tax Levy would be the same in 2011 and 2010. The County Tax Levy is not yet a firm number, but the increase clearly wasn’t going to be the zero in the initial calculation. Now, our best estimate from the County is that their increase will be 2.5%.

Using that, the total tax increase, 2011 from 2010, is 1.7%, not 1.3%.

It’s interesting that both OBAC, and myself, were “accused” of not understanding the numbers when “everyone else did.” We wanted to examine the numbers, which we did. And found the error.

Understanding ALL the numbers is important. Not “relying on the experts” is important. There is no harm in giving residents the information they (and I) need to run the calculations.

With the numbers changing, it’s easy to see how some errors can slip in. That’s why its important to be careful with the process.

My focus is on finance. I think its basic. Councilor Cary Africk

Ok, folks… Everybody got that?

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  1. Ok, I did some math as I was curious as to how it cost Montclair close to $8 million a year for our fire services. Maplewood fire services cost $186/per capita. Montclair fire services cost $214/ per capita. That represents a 15% higher cost for Montclair to provide fire services relative to a comparable size town. Even better, Glen Ridge pays Montclair $126/ per capita for us to provide them fire protection services. It cost Glen Ridge 40% less to use OUR fire services. Net of costs we pay to provide these services, the Township brings in an extra $200k, so you can round down my $214/per captita number to $209/ per capita. Cary, Mayor, Fire Chief, please explain this? This is ABSURD!!!!!

  2. Last fall wasn’t there some revenue found when the town realized it was forgetting to bill a big payer? The town is undercharging for fire services to glen ridge and forgetting to bill for revenue. I guess all those times last year when the town manager and town council were saying we have a revenue problem, they were right. This is when we had a cfo.

    Now they are making mistakes for the one number all citizens care about. Oy!

    How much more can citizens take of this subpar oversight of our town?

    Thank you concernedcitizens for getting to the bottom of this! I hope we can count on you for continued scrutiny!

  3. Last November we found out that the Town had not accepted the PILOT payments from the Bay Street project. I believe it was about $300,000. It got down to the redeveloper calling around in frustration for someone “to just take the money.”

    This past month it was determined that the Sienna had not made something in the order of $300,000 in PILOT payments. It is now being addressed.

    Our new Attorney has been a BIG help in all this! He’s been going through contracts, and getting answers (and money).

    Not to beat a dead horse but, we need more people in our finance department. We’ve agreed to it for two years. We have a $200MM company without an acceptably sized staff. Mistakes happen.

  4. The Mayor “appreciates” Marc Dashields correction of his preliminary estimate. It goes from bad to worse.

  5. Why is it that everytime people are angry with the budget they go after police and fire. You want to compare MTC with maplewood. It’s apples and oranges. Maplewood’s FD is severely understaffed and that puts everyone in that town in danger. Do you believe the MFD only puts out fires, think again. The FD responds to everything In town from water, electrical, home and car lockouts, accidents (to many to keep listing). The only reason MTC doesn’t have the big fires as often as the surrounding towns is because MTC has a well trained FD. If you feel saving $30 a year for sub standard emergency response is what you want just keep on moaning. Don’t cry about the pensions of the police and fire, the town hasn’t paid into that in over a decade. If they were eligible for social security that town wouldn’t had a choice. So put that into your calculations and smoke it.

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