My remarks from the council meeting

16 April 2010 205 views No Comment

I was well aware that when I was sworn into office in January that the State of the City and its finances were in bad shape.

  • Englewood was going to face the impact of the worst recession since the Great Depression and would impact our tax rolls and the ability to finance our government.
  • Englewood was also going to face the incoming administration of Governor Chris Christie and the 11 billion dollar deficit that the state was going to have to close this fiscal year. The impact was going to land right in the laps of our municipal budget and school budget.
  • But now as I am quickly approaching my first 100 days in office, I’m beginning to feel like Bill Clinton did in his first few months in office in 1992 when he said, “I knew things were bad, but I didn’t think they were this bad.”

    I have seen firsthand the state that Englewood is in.

    • The snow storms and then the catastrophic nor’easter revealed deep weaknesses.
      • Our communication system, by which the city should be able to keep its citizens informed in the case of emergency, is greatly lacking.
      • The resources and equipment that we have available is so insufficient that it is not enough to plow our own streets when it snows.
    • Our many public buildings are in poor and decaying repair.

    The city firehouse, as I have seen with my own eyes, is in complete disrepair. The truth is that it is falling down around the firefighters that serve us.

    I am pleased that the City Council President has chosen to discuss the firehouse because for years, the City implemented no plan on how to address the situation.

    I, along with our City Engineer, Kenneth Albert, have submitted for Federal Funding through Congressman Rothman for the construction of a new firehouse. In addition we must explore all other funding sources to allow this project to commence immediately. We cannot accept any more excuses for not building a new firehouse and also address the immediate hazardous conditions of the firehouse.

    We have a list of problems a mile long and it seems to me that the conventional wisdom is to tax our way out of them. This is not the solution. In fact, it pulls us further down a deadly spiral where higher and higher school and municipal taxes lead to consequences in the tax base. These consequences rob growth and force prospective buyers and investors, in both commercial and residential property to look elsewhere.

    Our taxpayers cannot sustain another increase in either school or municipal taxes.

    None of these problems are going away. Though we have the brainpower and the will in this City to find the solutions and make the tough choices, we don’t seem to be doing it. I am glad to hear that the City Manager has been working to reduce the budget down, but much remains to be done. The budget must provide each taxpayer with a zero increase in taxes.

    The City Manager presented a proposed budget in February with a 10.57% increase in taxes. Tax spending has increased over 38% since 2007. The City spends $14 million more per year than it did in 2006-2007. The average property tax bill in 2009 for the first time tops $11,000. With a 10.57% increase, the average tax bill would go over 12,000.00 for 2010.

    Adding the School Budget, the City of Englewood is projected to spend in excess of $100 million this year making it one of the largest businesses in Bergen County!

    This business as usual approach is no longer viable given the crisis that we face in this City.

    For the substance of the budget hearings, we must swear off the idea of adding to the already heavy burden that our taxpayers carry. To assure that we have the best and productive budget meetings I recommend to the City Manager and Council:

    1. All information and documents requested by the Mayor or any member of the Council in preparation for the meeting should be provided as soon as possible.
    2. Until a budget is approved by the City Council, that:
      1. The City freezes any new hires for employment.
      2. Freezes any salary increases and contract negotiations.
      3. No spending should exceed 2009 spending levels, unless under emergency circumstances.
      4. No capital improvement or improvements should be made unless for emergency conditions.
      5. Finally, the City Manager should present a City Budget with a zero base increase.

    I stand ready to help accomplish this in any way. I can and will meet with anyone at any time to accomplish this end. We must all resolve together as one community to get this done.

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