Articles Archive for October 2010
Commission Will Examine Fiscal Practices, Make Short and Long Term Budget Recommendations
To view the Mayor’s letter forming the Commission, click here.
ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Frank Huttle today formed the Englewood Finance and Budget Commission within the Office of the Mayor, which will will be charged with examining the financial and budgetary practices of the City of Englewood, determining a long term plan on how to best utilize and leverage City assets, maximize the operational efficiency and administration of City government; and accomplish the stabilization of property taxes.
The Finance and Budget Commission will be charged with making recommendations with respect to the 2011 City Budget, as well as a three year budget plan. The recommendations will be presented to the City Manager and the City Council for implementation.
“Over the last several years, the never ending increases in spending and property taxes have seen our municipal budget balloon up to 40% in the past few years alone,” said Huttle. “With a decline in real estate values, tax revenues for the City will drop and expenses will continue to rise. Coupled with a new state law, which mandates that spending cannot increase more than 2% with certain exceptions and a proposed 30% cut in state municipal aide, it is more clear than ever that we need to pull the resources and talents of both the public and private sectors to finally find a way towards fiscal responsibility.”
The Commission would not serve merely as advisory committee but as a task force with a clearly defined mission and finite, deliverable goals. The mayor stressed that the Commission’s first priority is to address the 2011 City Budget and to issue a report to the governing body to meet all challenges facing each of our residents and City for 2011.
“The old way of doing things is clearly no longer working, if it ever worked at all,” the mayor concluded. ”Englewood must pull together the resources of its public sector, its talented private sector and the community as a whole to get us back on sound fiscal footing. This commission, which is composed of elected officials and highly qualified local citizens, is the first step in getting our city and our budget back on track.”
The following is a list of appointees the Englewood Finance and Budget Commission:
Douglas Duchak, President and CEO, Englewood Hospital
Gabriel Bousbib, Gottex Fund Management
Mark Forman, CPA
Adam Brown, of the firm Adam Brown Associates
City Government Members
Frank Huttle III, Mayor
Jack Drakeford, City Councilmember, Ward 4
Lynne Algrant, City Councilmember, At Large
Professional Accounting Expert
Mr. Joseph Kelly, CPA, RMA, with the firm Suplee, Clooney & Company
From: The Record, October 18, 2010 by Giovanna Fabiano, Staff Writer
ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Frank Huttle has created a finance and budget commission to help the city weather tough financial times, he said Monday.
The commission — a task force of elected officials and local finance experts — will examine the city’s budget, help stabilize property taxes and create a three-year financial plan, Huttle said.
The mayor’s announcement — in a three-page letter to city officials — comes a day before the city is set to introduce an ordinance establishing a citizens committee on finance, made up of five to seven residents who would review the budget and serve as advisors to the mayor and council.
The council’s ordinance was supposed to be introduced at a meeting earlier this month, but Council President Scott Reddin said he removed it from the agenda after Huttle complained that the advisory committee would report only to the council, and not the mayor.
The ordinance on tonight’s agenda now reads “mayor and council.”
But despite the timing, Huttle insisted Monday: “I don’t see these as dueling committees.”
He added that the finance commission is something he has planned on creating since taking office last year.
“As you know it has been my firm stance since being sworn in as mayor to bring private sector budgetary practices to the city government, to impose discipline in spending and a focus on long term planning,” Huttle states in his letter.
The major difference between Huttle’s commission and the council’s proposed committee, is that the mayor’s is not made up solely of residents, he said.
“This is not an advisory committee,” Huttle said. “It’s a task force made up of elected officials and residents rolling up their sleeves and accomplishing goals.”
Under the city charter, the mayor has the authority to create ad hoc committees.
Huttle’s commission consists of nine members — three elected officials, five community members with finance and budget experience and a professional accounting expert.
The elected officials are Huttle, Fourth Ward Councilman Jack Drakeford and Councilwoman-at-large Lynne Algrant.
The community members appointed were Douglas Duchak, president and CEO of Englewood Hospital; Gabriel Bousbib of Gottex Fund Management; Mark Forman, a Certified Public Accountant; and Adam Brown of Adam Brown Associates. The professional accounting expert is Joseph Kelly of Suplee, Clooney and Company, who worked with the mayor and city council on reducing the failed school budget earlier this year. Kelly will serve the commission on a pro bono basis, Huttle said.
Reddin said Monday he would have preferred one committee, but added that he did not object to Huttle’s commission.
“I would have liked to have seen just one, but I never discourage input from anybody in the community, especially those who have knowledge of budgets and financial matters who can help us in these financial times,” Reddin said.
The council’s ordinance will be introduced tonight and likely voted on in November, Reddin said.
The agenda for this week’s City Council meeting is now available. Click here to download a pdf of the agenda.
The Council and I began the Meeting with (2) resolutions honoring…
1. Atul Lalan, owner of the 7-11 store on 13 Tenafly Road, for promoting recycling at his store, and for helping to keep Englewood a green city.
2. The INSPIRE (Introducing New Solutions to Promote Integrity, Respect, and Equality) Club from Dwight Englewood School for their leadership in promoting diversity, communication, and for educating their peers about other cultures and traditions.
Following the honors, the Council and I briefly discussed the recent emergency situation in which reverse 9-1-1 calls went out at 1:20 in the morning to Englewood residents. Deputy Chief Suffern clarified that the issue has been resolved for future emergency situations and that a new template is to be created (by ward, sector, radius) to determine where calls will go out. I believe that during this situation, there was dangerous lack of communication at a time where communication was vital. I hope that in the event of a future crisis, the City will work together to communicate effectively in order to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents. Nonetheless, I would especially like to commend the local police, Deputy Chief, and County S.W.A.T. team for their outstanding efforts.
What I made clear during my remarks, and what I would like to stress again, is the importance of Englewood’s assets. When I look at Englewood, I see a beautiful city with beautiful people, and diversity joining everyone together. Not only are we diverse, but so are our assets. Englewood has much to offer, from bergenPAC to Flat Rock Brook, to Bennett Studios, to Englewood Hospital – just to mention a few. Ideally it is these assets that make us unique as a City, and if they are properly utilized, they can help to generate additional revenue for the City. We have much to offer by way of both public and private entities, and we should take advantage of that. This is a process that needs effective and visionary planning; I look forward to collaboratively working with the City and its residents to achieve this and make Englewood one of the best cities there is.
The following ordinance was up for its introduction and first reading…
#10-34, which would establish a Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Finance, was withdrawn from the agenda. There were major problems with this ordinance and I believe that before it is introduced, the Council must have work sessions. This ordinance will be re-introduced to the Council on October 19th.
The following ordinances were up for their second reading and public hearing…
#10-30 reappropriates $29,794 in order to dredge Quarry Pond, located in Flat Rock Brook. Similarly, #10-31 reappropriates $249,597.72 for the same purpose.
Flat Rock Brook, as I stated before, is a wonderful asset to the community of Englewood. It is a greatly utilized, non-profit organization that is used by the public at no cost to the city. I consider Flat Rock Brook to be one of the most beautiful parts of Englewood. Quarry Pond is the largest of four ponds here in Englewood, and serves a variety of functions as noted by Ken Albert’s report, including: flood storage, improving water quality, hosting wildlife, and capturing sediment. If the pond is not dredged, the pond will likely be lost to sediment and thus environmental consequences may result upon the surrounding area.
I am happy to approve this ordinance. I would like to add that it was great to see so many of Flat Rock Brook’s volunteers and supporters show up to the Council Meeting. Their attendance truly shows how dedicated these individuals are, and how they are working as effectively as a community here in Englewood. Let their dedication and participation serve as an example to all of Englewood.
#10-32 would amend an ordinance establishing fees for licenses, permits, and other applications within the city of Englewood. This ordinance would require that all public agencies charge $0.05/page for letter sized pages and smaller and $0.07/page for legal sized pages and smaller. Electronic records would be free of charge, which are those sent by e-mail and fax.
#10-33 would amend ordinance #3-19 to include Block 2519, which includes real property inadvertently left out by the original ordinance which may be affected by the special assessment.
Again, I would like to thank everyone who came out to listen and participate in the Council Meeting on Tuesday night. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to address any of your concerns. The agenda for October 19th’s Council Meeting is posted here.
At last Tuesday’s Council Meeting, there was a great deal of public commentary and participation regarding particular items on the Agenda, of which I will discuss further below.
There was a large reaction by the community on the second reading and public hearing of Ordinance #10-27. The Ordinance would appropriate $250,000 for the reassessment of all real property in Englewood. Many residents came up to the microphone to speak, bringing up very good points which I will address:
- Why do the properties being reassessed require professional review? Why can’t it be done internally by the city?
The reassessment is not done by the City simply because you lose objectivity.
- Why is there only one company doing the revaluation? Why are there no comparative bids?
The tax department is strictly governed by the state law to get (3) quotations or bids. However, those reassessing can choose not to quote or bid on the City, considered “non-responsive.” Only one company responded, which is why the City chose this particular bid. This process is completely transparent, and all professionals in the business are fully aware of this process and their opportunity to bid.
- Why is the city doing a revaluation again? Didn’t we just do one in 2007?
Yes, we did. Unfortunately, as some citizens pointed out, we were at the height of the real estate market at that time and now the properties are worth much less. The reassessment will hopefully accomplish equalizing property values to reflect the current market, which will greatly reduce the number of tax appeals and the refunds the City might have to pay if they are successful.
- Who actually owns the data? Can’t databases be transferred from one company to another so that we can seek out cheaper bids in the future?
This is a great point. The City Manager will have to look at the contract in order to determine who owns the data as acquired from the previous reassessment. We do not have to have one single company provide us with the data every time we do a reassessment, we can just transfer that data to another company. First, it must be made sure that we are the owners of that data.
The result: the Ordinance was voted on, with four Councilmembers voting to adopt, and Drakeford opposed.
It is no surprise that Ordinance #10-28’s second reading and public hearing also caused a similar reaction. This ordinance would appropriate $810,000 to provide for the acquisition of trucks and equipment for the City of Englewood Department of Public Works. There are also a few key points on this that need to be addressed:
- Shouldn’t a written report be given every time something is voted on so that the citizens know the real benefit of the project?
I could not agree more. Written reports are great to examine the cost-benefit analysis of all projects. It is imperative that we obtain statistical data and facts for this particular ordinance. Like one citizen said, in addition to just “buying trucks,” it’s also factors like manpower, training, and overtime. Seeing the terrible system of snow removal that we had last year, we need to take greater precautions so that this does not happen again in the future.
- Where is the money for this coming from? Didn’t we just pass a budget not too long ago? Am I going to have to come back every month and see a new ordinance requesting more of the taxpayer’s money?
The budget we passed allows room for this. The money being spent is from the capital part of the budget. The Council must then pass an ordinance in order to issue the bonds to it.
- How come issues aren’t more transparent here in Englewood? I feel as if I am not getting enough information.
This is a great point, and one that I cannot stress enough. The City of Englewood is doing its best to make information available in print and online. I myself am trying to promote even more transparency by speaking directly to the people through the use of my own website. I also must stress the importance of the citizens of Englewood to come to council meetings and participate. It really does benefit the whole system.
The result: the Ordinance was voted on, with all members voting to adopt. I voted to support this ordinance because I witnessed first-hand the poor conditions and dated, decaying equipment the DPW had during the snowstorm last year. It is never a good idea to spend money, but when an issue of such as this keeps getting deferred, we end up in a crisis situation where something needs to change. I have requested a meeting with the City Manger to work directly with the director of the DPW to determine our plan of action. We must balance working with both the DPW and private contractors. If we properly contract, the City should experience an overall savings in real dollars. However, until I receive a full and complete report about what is being done, I will not be entirely satisfied.
In conclusion, I have approved all of the Ordinances this week.
It was wonderful to see so many people active in our community on Tuesday night, and I hope that this participation will continue in the future, as you all present many constructive and insightful comments to both myself and the Council. Whether you agree or disagree, your voice will be heard. We will all work as a team, not just as a Council, to make the decisions. Public participation is critical to ensure Englewood’s future success.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any of your questions or concerns via this website, e-mail, or phone at (201) 871-6666.
From: The Record, August 9, 2010
ENGLEWOOD — A plan to restructure the police ranks to include more high-level supervisors and reduce the number of patrol officers is in limbo, after the city council declined to vote to override the mayor’s veto.
Mayor Frank Huttle vetoed an ordinance adopted by the council last month, which revises the organizational chart of the department, allowing for two additional lieutenants, two fewer sergeants and one fewer captain. The chart also reduces the maximum number of rank-and-file police officers from 64 to 60. Huttle claimed he used his veto power because he and the council were not provided with enough information to justify the plan, which would include eight promotions and cost the city an additional $7,000 the first year and $27,000 the next.
Council members were set to vote on a resolution to override the veto at a public meeting Tuesday night, but after a lengthy discussion, which at times turned contentious, they chose not to act on the measure — essentially, leaving it in limbo.
“At this point, the ordinance doesn’t stand, so Chief O’Keefe and I will sit down and evaluate what happens next,” Deputy Chief Lawrence Suffern said Wednesday.
“The council said they wanted additional information before they go forward, so they may require us to sit down and go over things with them, or they might decide not to do it at all in these economic times,” Suffern said.
In the meantime, the ranks will remain the same, Suffern said.
Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe said the reorganization allows for more supervision and accountability, but Huttle said the council should have seen a comprehensive plan analyzing the impact a smaller force would have on public safety and overtime.
Average overtime in 2009 in Englewood exceeded $20,000 per officer, a number city officials vowed to reduce in 2010.
Huttle rebuked the council for not taking action, suggesting the resolution to override the veto would not have carried Tuesday night had there been a vote.
“It’s either an up or down vote,” Huttle said. “The intent of a veto is not to put it on another path to adoption.”
“This is what’s wrong with our city government — we have discussions and then it goes into a black hole, and it may resurrect in the future and it may not,” Huttle added Wednesday.
Councilman Ken Rosenzweig, who suggested holding off on the resolution until the council had more information, said city officials have until the end of the year to vote to override the veto.
“We’re not working under a time limit here, and although I was satisfied with the initial information given to us by the police chief and assistant city manager and don’t want to micromanage…I don’t have a problem with getting the council more information,” Rosenzweig said.
“The mayor can veto an ordinance within 10 days of its adoption under the city charter, but he can’t tell us when we have to take action,” he said.
Under the vetoed ordinance, the total number of superior officers would remain the same, but the layout would change. No layoffs were proposed, and any reductions are the result of attrition, according to Assistant City Manager Bob Gorman.
From: The Record, September 2, 2010
ENGLEWOOD — A fire that destroyed a James Street home over the weekend has prompted questions about the condition of some properties owned by a company that wants to expand a supermarket nearby.
City inspectors issued three violation notices to GLF Realty Co. Inc., the company that owns 13 James St., two days before it burned to the ground, according to city officials and records.
Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli has said it was probably set deliberately.
Inspectors also ordered the house next door, which is owned by the same company, emptied out and boarded up after they found fire hazards and evidence of illegal tenants, according to officials and city records.
Mayor Frank Huttle III said the city is doing a “complete and thorough review.”
“Any developer who can’t take care of his property has no business developing even a square inch in this town,” Huttle said. Noting that James Street abuts the city’s downtown business district, he added, “there was no reason for this property to become vacant and then in violation of the city’s building codes, which resulted in the dangerous conditions we witnessed last week.”
GLF Realty is asking the City Council to rezone James Street to allow multifamily housing units and other changes that would allow an expansion of the ShopRite supermarket and its parking lot. The company owns at least a dozen properties on James Street and several more on surrounding streets.
The Planning Board is set to memorialize a resolution at a meeting tonight that urges the council to get more information about the potential impacts of the proposal, and to consider alternatives.
Dozens of residents have shown up to protest the development at public meetings in recent weeks.
City records obtained by The Record show a number of property maintenance violations at GLF Realty properties in the neighborhood over the last 10 years. The violations ranged from orders to cut the grass to reports of illegal tenants living in building attics.
Irv Glass, a principal with GLF Realty, said the company responds to maintenance requests and fixes problems as soon as possible. As for illegal tenants, Glass said they are “not something we condone or permit.”
“Once they’re rented, we don’t go inside,” Glass said. “We don’t have knowledge of what’s happening until someone picks up the phone and tells us there’s an issue. When we get a phone call, we correct it.”
Englewood Construction Official Peter Abballe said the company has been responsive to complaints and requests for maintenance at its properties.
The company was ordered to board up the windows and padlock the doors at 13 James St., the house that burned, and to properly maintain the exterior of the property on Aug. 26, city violations records show.
Abballe said he found no signs that anyone was living in the house at the time of the inspection, but that there were signs of prior break-ins.
Padlocks were installed the Friday before the fire and plywood coverings were set to follow, Abballe said. The building was demolished after it was determined to pose a risk to surrounding homes following Saturday’s fire.