MontClairVoyant: In April, You ‘May’ Read June and July News


As I write this early on April 6, I heard Montclair residents might be asked in a November referendum to start approving $190 million in school repairs and upgrades — bonded in three parts over five years. A huge amount?


The Big Money

Yes, but most of the buildings are old and need plenty of work. So I’m okay with the amount, and would even vote for $190 million and 25 cents if the 25 cents were one of those new Maya Angelou quarters.


Is the giant sum — which would pay for ventilation improvements, boiler replacements, facility upgrades, and many other things — partly due to school infrastructure not being kept up enough over the years?


Reeling in the Years

The chickens came home to roost. And when they did, they visited Veggie Heaven to thank the staff and diners there.


Out Montclair’s recent Spring Fling event raised a much smaller but still significant sum — at least $25,000 — for the first-ever Montclair Pride festival scheduled for June 11. Nice?


Pride and Joy

Nice! If U.S. paper currency included a $25,000 bill, it could picture an LGBTQ person like James Baldwin or Willa Cather. And next time I go to a Montclair store, I hope they have change for that $25,000 bill.


July 4th is the month after the Pride festival, and Montclair’s Independence Day parade is returning for the first time since the pre-COVID summer of 2019. Good news?


Hotter Than July

Yup! One parade highlight will be again seeing old cars — including Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 sedan that guzzled so much ink there was barely enough left for him to write the Declaration of Independence.


The parade will honor esteemed community leader Al Pelham, who died last year, and the grand marshals will be two important 1982-founded organizations: Toni’s Kitchen and the Human Needs Food Pantry. Comment?


One More Parade

They did and do so much for Montclair, with the organizations feeding MANY people during COVID. Speaking of food, the July 4th picnic will also return — to Edgemont Park, where all geese are created equal.


In other news, Mayor Spiller has endorsed Donald Payne Jr. for reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives, with talk about progressive values and such. Thoughts?


What’s the Matter Here

A Payne challenger — Montclair High alum Imani Oakley — is much more progressive, but mainstream liberal politicians tend to stick together. Heck, Thomas Jefferson never endorsed Bernie Sanders.


Did Jefferson’s Monticello plantation cost that Founding Father $190 million to maintain?



Hardly. He hypocritically used the labor of his slaves even while espousing liberty for white men. Not sure who built Jefferson’s 1776 car — which, when new, even had a CD player that wasn’t used until the first CD came out in 1982.


Speaking of CDs, I noticed that every signature in this column is the name of a song or album.


A Song for All Seasons

By Rush, Steely Dan, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Phil Ochs, 10,000 Maniacs, Sarah McLachlan, and Renaissance. One of the various Montclair schools that need some fixes is also named Renaissance.



Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.



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  1. Dave,

    I think we could do better on the school bonding. I’m not great at math as I went through our school system, but a total annual tax increase of only $870 in year 5 doesn’t seem burdensome. After all, we stiffed the upkeep for decades.

    The total amount they said they really need is $300MM. It seems like a lot doesn’t it? But, interest rates are shooting up and if we wait it will cost even more. To fund the $300MM over the same period would only add $600 more in taxes to the average homeowner – $1,470 at year 5. This comes out to only about a 2.3%increase annually vs the 1.4% for the $190MM current recommendation.

    In return, we get our schools back up to our standards and configured for a 21st century learning environment.

    We have been penny wise and pound foolish for too long when it comes to our public schools.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. I totally hear you about the $300 million, but $190 million seems a challenging enough “sell” at this point as voters begin to get more of a say in school matters. If the $190 million for five years passes, and it looks like more work is needed after that, then another bonding referendum could be held. Meanwhile, the $190 million, if okayed, would bring a LOT of improvements.

  3. Good point Dave. We can easily hold another bond referendum for the $110MM balance. By then the Board will 100% elected members.

  4. Thank you, Frank! Fingers crossed that the $190 million (if that ends up being the total) is approved first. And, yes, it will be a while before every member of Montclair’s BOE is elected.

  5. Watchungski,
    I don’t understand. Wouldn’t higher property tax rates be a drag on home prices? Further, if assessed property values rose, wouldn’t that dampen the need to raise property tax rates? We are only talking bout a 1.4% annual increase, too.
    And why wouldn’t home values similarly increase in 07042?

  6. And look at it from a family of school age children POV. An avg home pays $20k in taxes. It costs $20k a year to educate a child. Every household’s additional child is a financial bonus. If it costs $870 more 5 years out to educate and additional child or two at the fixed $20k tax levy, it is a no brainer. And if the parents move after the last one graduates, it is only an avg 10 year cost horizon. Those of us that don’t use the public schools are still gaining the public good benefit of sending appropriately educated young adults out into society.

  7. Thank you for the comments, Watchungski and Frank.

    Watchungski, a relatively modest but not insignificant rise in taxes that could be caused by school bonding is worrisome. But long-delayed major fixes to our schools are necessary. And, as Frank noted in the comment after yours, that rise could be mitigated at least somewhat.

  8. And I forgot. The BoE said one reason to accelerate the spending was the opportunity to recoup about a third of these costs from the State’s School Development Authority. C’mon, admit it – getting a 33% discount is quite the additional enticement. So, that $870 increase would go below $600, or an increase of less than 1%. Full disclosure, I remain mystified why the district didn’t apply for a State grant to offset the $1.4MM Watchung athletic field & playground cost.

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