As candidates from the three political slates slug it out over taxes, spending, and education (among other things), independent candidates may struggle to get themselves heard. But Kathryn Weller-Demming, who is running for a councilor-at-large seat on a solo ticket, issued this statement yesterday defending the current council’s record. After Demming’s statement, read the official response from Concerned Citizens of Montclair.
Many of the candidates running for office this year insist that Montclair’s finances are a mess, our crippling debt is bankrupting us, and that municipal spending is out of control.
While that makes a rallying campaign cry, it simply is not true. In the last four years we have:
- Trimmed the municipal staff by 10%, without laying-off any police or firefighters.
- Increased trash collection to twice a week, year round, and saved money doing it.
- Secured over $1.5 million in state grants with NJ’s first “Complete Streets” program.
- Leveraged state grants and incentives like 0% interest loans to maintain and improve our infrastructure.
- Increased shared services and reorganized township government, eliminating six-figure salaried positions.
- Accelerated the debt schedule to take advantage of low interest rates for long-term savings on service of previously issued debt.
- Cut new capital debt authorizations to 1/3 of previous levels.
- Paid down millions more debt than authorized.
- Standard & Poor’s assigned its AA- rating for Montclair in 2011, citing among other factors “Low-to-moderate overall net debt.” They further stated, “Overall debt is, in our view, a moderate $4,806 per capita, or a low 2.5% of market value.”
- Achieved first round certification in Sustainable Jersey.
- Achieved designation as an EPA Climate Showcase community.
The estimated tax increase this year is approximately 1%.
We have already delivered on the campaign promises certain slates are making.
And we have restored funding to the library, continued township support for the Montclair Community Pre-K and expanded the services we provide for residents while achieving long-term financial benefits in the most challenging economic circumstances.
Last year the Concerned Citizens of Montclair demanded a 0% tax increase with no regard for the long-term financial health of Montclair, and no concrete ideas for achieving their goal. They wanted us to foreclose on the Pre-K, to demand higher payments for shared services which would have forced our partner communities to other providers, to stop leveraging grant funding for our capital needs and to restrict investment in public trees.
The days of rapidly increasing unaffordability for housing in Montclair are behind us, and I am proud to have been a central figure in the successes of the last four years. The council unanimously voted to designate me as the Deputy Mayor, even those with whom I disagree on key policy issues, because they knew they could rely on me to crunch the numbers, read everything and attend countless meetings.
I ask for one of your four votes on May 8th, so that I may build on the financially sustainable future I have helped craft for Montclair, and we can all remain here as neighbors without fear of being priced out, and Montclair can remain the vibrant community of values we love.”
This came in this morning from CCM:
Ms Weller Demming published the following paragraph:
CCM thinks it is important to set the record straight and separate fact from fiction. So we will address each of these assertions independently.
Ms. Weller-Demming asserts: Last year the Concerned Citizens of Montclair demanded a 0% tax increase with no regard for the long-term financial health of Montclair and no concrete ideas for achieving their goal.
FACT: CCM recommended a 0% tax increase because it was deeply concerned about the long term financial health of Montclair. Large year over year increases and a large debt burden are not in the best interest of Montclair’s long-term financial health. We believe that the recent lower overall tax rate was due, in part, to the efforts of groups like CCM, OBAC and Capital Finance Committee.
Ms. Weller-Demming asserts: They wanted us to foreclose on the Pre-K.
FACT: CCM did not suggest that anyone foreclose on the Pre-K. Rather to address the very large unpaid loan which was owed to the township by the Pre-K. This loan had been on the books for years.
Ms. Weller-Demming asserts: Demand higher payments for shared services which would have forced our partner communities to other providers.
FACT: CCM stated that townships with shared services should pay at least the same amount as Montclair residents for the same service. We believe that Montclair citizens should not be subsidizing services for other towns through higher taxes.
Ms. Weller-Demming asserts: CCM asked the Township to stop leveraging grant funding for our capital needs.
FACT: CCM has no idea what Ms. Weller-Demming is referring to.
Ms. Weller-Demming asserts: CCM requested to restrict investment in public trees.
FACT: CCM did not suggest restricting investment in public trees. CCM wanted to make sure that amounts that were bonded for shade trees was actually used for shade trees.