Articles Archive for April 2014

[30 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 427 views]

Dear Residents,

I have attached below a Press Release on the redevelopment of the Lincoln School and Firehouse Site. I was pleased to announce this historic development at last night’s City Council meeting. For those of you who may not have been there, I hope this is informative.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle

Mayor Huttle Announces Ambitious Redevelopment Project for Long-Stalled Lincoln School Site

(ENGLEWOOD) – Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle III is pleased to announce the execution of an ambitious agreement for a redevelopment project at the former Lincoln School site, a project that has struggled to get off the ground for many years because of the flailing economy.

“For seven years, the city struggled to successfully find a way to redevelop the Lincoln School site,” said Huttle. “That’s why I’m all the more proud that the current council and I have been able to work together to find a sustainable vision and create a project that the city can be proud of.”

Huttle noted that when he first became mayor, the council attempted to sell the Lincoln School property in the grips of the Great Recession when the real estate market had crashed, for a gross sale of less than $3 million, which would have yielded the city a return of closer to $2 million after costs. Huttle successfully fought to hold off on the sale until real estate values rebounded, believing it wise to also make sure that one of the largest parcels of land available for redevelopment in the city was included in the new master plan.

“I am pleased to announce that last night the city entered into a redevelopment agreement for a purchase price of $7.9 million, close to four times more than what we would have yielded during the recession. More importantly, two leading developers – Sterling Properties and BNE – have worked with the city to achieve a product that we can all be proud of. By applying business disciplines and working together with two top developers, we managed to create housing that fits into the fabric of our community and is fully integrated into the recently adopted Master Plan,” added Huttle.

This new development will be the springboard for a comprehensive economic expansion of Englewood’s downtown. With 186 one- and two-bedroom apartments units, the complex is designed to bring a residential feel to the center of Englewood’s downtown to complement the city’s many other amenities, including restaurants, shops and the Bergen Performing Arts Center. The $50 million project is situated across from scenic McKay Park and creatively designed so that the parking garage is situated within the complex and generally not visible to passersby.

Huttle hopes to follow up the project with the creation of 12 housing units for young adults with special needs, as well as additional senior housing, so that every resident will have the opportunity – whether it be a young adult heading into their first apartment or a senior citizen wanting to age in place – to remain in Englewood.

“Englewood is a diverse community and it’s that diversity that gave us the strength to weather the national economic storm probably better than many other towns, putting us soundly on the road to recovery,” concluded Huttle.

Huttle noted that Englewood is proud to be “Bergen County’s downtown” with the leading regional performing arts center in North Jersey and 1.2 million square feet of retail and commercial space that is nearly fully occupied at 95 percent.

# # #

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[25 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 15 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see today’s article in NJ.com entitled “Veterans help Englewood ditch paper for the cloud”.

I am very pleased that Englewood will be piloting the digital permitting process which will go live May 13, 2014

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

Veterans help Englewood ditch paper for the cloud

A Newark company is helping Englewood take permitting out of city hall and into the cloud. (Myles Ma/NJ.com)
Print By Myles Ma/NJ.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on April 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated April 25, 2014 at 7:06 AM

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ENGLEWOOD — A group of veterans is helping put Englewood city government in the cloud.

Bright Star, a Newark company, helps governments and businesses go digital.

They came to Englewood to alleviate congestion in the city’s construction office, among the busiest in Bergen County, according to Tim Dacey, city manager.

“The humanity of helping soldiers needs to be a priority.”
Since 2010, the city, like every municipality in New Jersey, has had to deal with a 2 percent cap on tax increases. In response, Englewood has turned to technology to simplify the city’s work.

The construction office was an obvious target. The permitting process requires a four-page document to explain, and it relies heavily on paper forms, which can get lost.

In addition, the office is only open during business hours, when many people can’t come in.

“It’s a very time-consuming, paper-oriented process,” Dacey said.

Dacey decided there had to be a better way. After looking around, he found Dorothy Nicholson, CEO of Bright Star.

The company’s work will allow residents to submit permits and track their progress electronically.

“The goal is to have happier customers and to make sure we don’t lose anything and that the permit process goes smoother and quicker,” Dacey said.

Nicholson founded Bright Star in 2008 with $30,000 of her own savings. The company is her second startup.

What sets Bright Star apart is that its employees are U.S. veterans. Many of Nicholson’s family members are veterans, and she made them her focus after seeing friends return from Iraq and Afghanistan have difficulty holding down jobs.

“There really was no leeway to enable them to slowly get back to the practice of working with other people,” she said.

Employing veterans requires flexibility. Many need to be out of the office twice a week for therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bright Star uses a job sharing program to allow other workers to fill in. The company also practices job sampling, which lets new workers try various positions.

On the upside, Nicholson said, veterans are motivated and willing to learn.

Dacey, a veteran himself, said Bright Star’s use of veterans was one of the things that attracted him to the company.

Englewood is piloting the digital permitting process with a few frequent users.

“The guys that are doing it really like it,” Dacey said. “It makes it easier to submit your stuff and follow your progress with permits.”

All of the building inspectors have been equipped with iPads. They use the devices to log inspection results, which are automatically uploaded to the cloud.

Contractors can see how their permits are faring over the Internet instead of coming to City Hall.

“It compresses the amount of time it’s going to take to process inspections and permits,” Dacey said.

Englewood paid Bright Star $100,000 for the work, as well as the cost of the iPads.

Bright Star’s other clients include the State of New Jersey, which had to approve the new digital coding process in Englewood, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Borough of Roselle.

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Digital permitting will go live for all Englewood residents May 13.

Nicholson hopes Bright Star can be a model for other organizations.

“Yeah, there’s a bottom line that you’ve got to be aware of,” she said, “but at the same time the humanity of helping soldiers needs to be a priority.”

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[24 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 38 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see article today’s article in the Record entitled: “Bergen, Hudson counties mayors presenting one voice to expand a light rail line”.

I am very pleased that 12 Hudson and Bergen County towns voted unanimously in favor of supporting the light rail extension line to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. This has never happend before.

The light rail extension will generate a massive econimic engine, improving the quality of life, and create jobs for both Hudson and Bergen counties as well as the Metropolitan area.

Bergen, Hudson counties mayors presenting one voice to expand a light rail line

APRIL 24, 2014 LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014, 12:31 AM
BY STEPHANIE NODA
STAFF WRITER
NORTHERN VALLEY SUBURBANITE

AMY NEWMAN/THE RECORD
Linda A. Mosch, senior director, budget and administration capital planning and programs discussing extending light rail service into Bergen County at a meeting on Monday in Englewood.
New commission seeks to create single voice for lobbying efforts

ENGLEWOOD – A commission of mayors and officials from 12 municipalities near the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail have jointly expressed support toward extension of the line.

Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle III, left, and Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, right, at the Mayors’ Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission meeting at bergenPAC. Huttle and Fulop are co-chairs of the newly-formed organization that will press extending the line into the region.
The Mayors’ Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission, co-chaired by Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle III and Jersey City Mayor Steven M. Fulop, had its first meeting at bergenPAC on April 21 to discuss the benefits of bringing the light rail to Bergen County.

During the meeting, officials from 12 Hudson and Bergen county towns voted in unanimous support to extend the light rail line to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Commission members will create “one single voice” by passing resolutions and writing letters of support to state officials.

“This is something that has never happened before,” said Huttle.

Officials supported extending the light rail line saying it would create more jobs, decrease traffic congestion and enhance economic development throughout the region.

Despite its name, the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line does not travel through any Bergen County towns. The line terminates on 51st Street in North Bergen. Extending the line to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center would add stops in Ridgefield, Palisades Park, Leonia, Route 4 in Englewood, and Englewood Town Center. The state and federal government have not indentified any funding for the project.

The light rail extension will generate a massive economic engine, quality of life, and job creation for the two countries and the metropolitan area, said Huttle.

“Each mayor [from Hudson and Bergen counties] independently echoed the importance of unified support from all levels of government,” said Huttle.

NJ Transit created a draft environmental impact statement in 2012 that examined two alternatives to extend the line to either Tenafly or Route 4 in Englewood. After vehement opposition by Tenafly residents and officials, NJ Transit came up with a third alternative to bring light rail to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. Englewood officials had argued that ending the line at the hospital would allow the light rail to run through the city’s downtown.

NJ Transit is working on a supplemental impact study that reviews extending the line to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, which it hopes to submit to the Federal Transit Association (FTA) in late fall.

The commission, which will meet quarterly, wishes to work with NJ Transit to maintain this timeline.

Public hearings on the project are scheduled to occur at the end of the year, with a final impact study completed in time for summer of 2015, said Huttle.

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer commended Huttle for his leadership in creating the commission and looked forward to extending the rail line as a way of expanding transportation options for surrounding communities.

“Living in the most densely populated region of the most densely populated state, the way to solve our transportation challenges is to invest in better public transportation,” said Zimmer in a statement.

Traditionally, light rail provides an economic boost for towns along the line. Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez said the light rail would also benefit commuters to traveling to Hoboken and New York City

“We need to basically impress on our state and federal legislatures that this isn’t just for the towns on the line,” said Suarez. “It’s for the whole region. Light rail will serve as economic engine.”

The light rail project is important to Ridgefield, since there is future redevelopment planned for areas surrounding the line, said Suarez.

West New York Business Administrator Joe DeMarco said that a passenger could travel from Englewood to Hoboken in 33 minutes when the rail is completed.

“My commute from West New York [to Englewood] was equal to that, after being stuck in traffic,” said DeMarco. “I think [light rail] opens up opportunity and benefits from anyone on and near the rail to a great degree.”

Leonia Mayor John DeSimone said light rail is “a good plan for the whole region” that will bring new jobs and economic development.

“It will make a lot of sense for Leonia,” said DeSimone. “It provides a nice mode of transportation up and down Bergen and Hudson counties. I think it will be a boom to towns along the route here.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-9, said mass transportation projects like the northern branch line would “help strengthen New Jersey’s transportation corridors which serve as a lifeline to our region’s commuters.”

“Having the local mayors and elected officials united and active is critical to advancing this important project and I commend them for their dedication,” said Pascrell in a statement. “As a former mayor myself, I am committed to working with federal agencies, New Jersey Transit, and municipal and county officials on behalf of expanding mass transit deeper into the communities of Northern New Jersey.”

Email: noda@northjersey.com

http://www.northjersey.com/news/transportation/united-front-for-light-rail-expansion-1.1001622?page=all

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[23 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 231 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see my message below to alert you of the bus line changes effective May 5, 2014.

On May 5th, the Rockland Coaches -Coach USA will cease operation of certain bus lines that service the Northern Valley Area: 11C – Spring Valley NY/Montvale NJ to GWB Terminal; 20/84 – Tappan NY to GWB Terminal; and 14 – Harrington Park NJ to GWB Terminal. As a result of the following actions, service interruption to residents of the City of Englewood should therefore be kept to an absolute minimum.

NJ Transit is currently working on an arrangement with Saddle River Coaches to assume the 11C and the Route 20/84 bus routes. If the agreement has not been made by May 5th, NJ Transit will step in and run bus service along those bus routes until such time as a private carrier can be put in place. The 14 line will not be taken over by NJ Transit due to its very low ridership. Pascack Valley Rail service running parallel to the 14 line will accommodate those commuters that presently utilize the bus line.

The Mayor’s office was in direct contact with NJ Transit yesterday regarding the situation and has been in communication with the Offices of the District 37 State Legislators, who have worked diligently to insure the situation has been resolved with minimal impact on residents.

I hope that this update has been helpful and minimizes any confusion that may have surrounded these changes. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

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[21 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 16 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see article below entitled: “Englewood mayor hopes to jump-start Bergen County light rail plan” in today’s Record.

I am very pleased to have held the first meetng of the Mayors Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission where there was a unanimous vote to support this much needed project.

Please stay tuned for more to come.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

Englewood mayor hopes to jump-start Bergen County light rail plan

APRIL 21, 2014, 3:15 PM LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2014, 6:41 PM
BY KAREN ROUSE
STAFF WRITER
THE RECORD

AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Linda A. Mosch, senior director, budget and administration capital planning and programs discussing service at Monday’s meeting.
ENGLEWOOD — Mayor Frank Huttle III hopes to jump-start a long stalled plan to bring light rail service to Bergen County by emphasizing the economic benefits a thriving light rail system can bring to the rest of the state.

Huttle, joined by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, on Monday held the first meeting of the “Mayors’ Hudson/Bergen Light Rail Commission” at bergenPAC where more than a dozen officials began crafting a strategy for moving the project closer to construction.

AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle III during Monday’s meeting.
The light rail system is run by NJ Transit and named Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, but it only operates in Hudson County – from Bayonne up to Tonnelle Avenue in North Bergen. But Bergen County officials have long been pushing NJ Transit to extend the line further north into Bergen County. Three years ago, there appeared to be some movement on the project when a proposal called for extending the light rail to Tenafly, but strong opposition from that town in 2012 forced NJ Transit to eliminate that option and bring the proposed terminus to Englewood.

Since then, a new proposal had emerged that would allow the line to continue on from Tonnelle Avenue to stops in Ridgefield, Palisades Park and Leonia, before ending in Englewood. Once constructed, the nine-mile stretch would take 33 minutes, said Linda Mosch, a senior director in NJ Transit’s capital planning office. New to the latest proposal is the addition of a parking garage at Englewood Hospital – the first of three proposed stops in the city — and the possibility of additional parking in downtown Englewood, Huttle said Monday.

John C. Leon, NJ Transit’s senior director of government and community relations, told the group that NJ Transit staff is currently working on a new supplemental document to send to the Federal Transit Administration that will outline the changes. He said that document should be ready to submit to the FTA this fall, and that public hearings will likely be scheduled for the spring of 2015.

Funding, however, has been one of the main obstacles to the project. No source of cash has been identified.

An official from Congressman Bill Pascrell’s office told the group that the project, expected to cost nearly $1 billion, could apply for funding that would require a state match. He said the state has to have a solid plan and a commitment to contributing a 50 percent match to qualify for the federal funding program.

Huttle said the mayors’ commission – which voted on Monday to support the project and advocate for its completion – is just the beginning of creating a unified voice that he hopes will strengthen the state’s position, and encourage Trenton lawmakers to provide a funding match.

Fulop said that although Jersey City has light rail, it stands to benefit from an extension in Bergen County. Jersey City, he said, has had massive growth in jobs, but can’t build more roads to bring people into the city. “More access points and the better that light rail system is, the better Hudson will be and the better Bergen will be,” said Fulop.

“We want to coordinate an effort, multi-county, and create the understanding it’s a statewide issue,” said Fulop. “It creates jobs. It makes Jersey more competitive and it’s important to the entire state.”

Huttle said he expects a final document to go to the FTA in the summer of 2015.

Email: rouse@northjersey.com

- See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/englewood-mayor-hopes-to-jump-start-bergen-county-light-rail-plan-1.1000203#sthash.jNJVLoJF.dpuf

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[20 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 12 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see article below in NorthJersey.com Bloomberg News on April 19, 2014 entitled:
“Payrolls rose in most states in March led by Florida”

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

Payrolls rose in most states in March, led by Florida

April 19, 2014 Last updated: Saturday, April 19, 2014, 1:21 AM

By SHOBHANA CHANDRA

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Wire Service

* As much of the country pushes straight ahead, New Jersey continues to flounder

Payrolls climbed in 34 states in March and unemployment rates fell in 21, showing the job market was making progress across much of the nation.

But in New Jersey, the economy is still struggling; last month the state shed 1,300 jobs, and unemployment rose to 7.2 percent.

Florida led the nation with a 22,900 job increase in payrolls, followed by North Carolina at 19,400, figures from the Labor Department on Friday showed.

Nationally, gains in hiring will probably help lift consumer confidence and spur household spending, which accounts for almost 70 percent of the economy. The Federal Reserve, in its latest Beige Book review of regional conditions, said the labor market was “generally positive.”

“Broadly, we are seeing improvement in the labor market,” said Michael Wolf, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C. “As the economy gains more momentum, employment increases and spending improves.”

Over the past two months, Florida’s payroll count has climbed by a combined 7,800, the biggest gain over a similar period since April-May 2010. Nonetheless, the jobless rate in the Sunshine State rose to 6.3 percent last month from 6.2 percent in February as almost 60,000 workers entered the workforce.

“Cold weather elsewhere is pushing people to the Sunshine State for some respite,” said Wolf. Combined with the late Easter holiday, “winter tourism in the state has been extended. Those business owners are seeing an uptick and are ramping up hiring accordingly.”

Highest and lowest

The unemployment rate in Ohio dropped to 6.1 percent, the lowest since April 2008, from 6.5 percent in February, today’s report showed. Missouri and New Mexico were among states with the biggest increases in joblessness last month.

Although unemployment in Rhode Island remained the highest in the country, it declined to 8.7 percent, its lowest level since September 2008, from 9 percent. Nevada was second-highest, with a rate of 8.5 percent, followed by Illinois at 8.4 percent.

North Dakota had the lowest unemployment in the nation, holding at 2.6 percent, where it’s been since January
– See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/business/jobs-gaining-elsewhere-1.999435#sthash.0qWka8nn.dpuf

Please go to my website: englewooone.com

Payrolls rose in most states in March, led by Florida

www.northjersey.com

Payrolls climbed in 34 states in March and unemployment rates fell in 21, showing the job market was making progress across much of the world’s largest economy.

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[20 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 25 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see below the article on April 17, 2014 in the Suburbanite entitled: Settlement may end delays at ERA South project-City will recoup legal fees in deal with development group”

I am pleased that City officials will receive $550,000 to cover legal fees after this settlement as both Bill Bailey and I worked very hard in making this happen.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

Settlement may end delays at ERA South project in Englewood

APRIL 17, 2014 LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014, 12:31 AM
BY STEPHANIE NODA
STAFF WRITER
NORTHERN VALLEY SUBURBANITE
PAGES: 1 2 > DISPLAY ON ONE PAGE
City will recoup legal fees in deal with development group

ENGLEWOOD – An apartment complex, office space and new retail space south of Route 4 that was stalled for five years may begin construction after a settlement agreement was reached between city officials and ERA South developers.

The city council approved an amendment to a 2011 settlement agreement during the April 8 meeting relating to a 2009 lawsuit. ERA South developers – S. Hekemian Group and MDK Development LLC – filed the suit against the city over a disagreement with affordable housing.

The Fair Housing Center of New Jersey filed an appeal in the Superior Court of New Jersey against “ERA South, LLC vs. City of Englewood, et al.” in 2012, arguing that the city did not submit an affordable housing plan to the state.

While city officials, ERA South developers, and the Fair Housing Center of New Jersey agreed to the amendment, a judge still needs to approve the deal, said City Attorney Bill Bailey.

Officials will receive $550,000 to cover legal fees after settling the five-year lawsuit with S. Hekemian Group and MDK Development LLC.

ERA South developers plan to construct 195 apartments, 40,000 to 200,000-square-feet of office space, and a small retail area.

Council President Lynne Algrant said the “relief is palpable” that the settlement was coming to a conclusion. She thanked Bailey and Mayor Frank Huttle III for their “tireless work” over the last five year.

“It’s a settlement that we can all agree is advantageous,” said Algrant.

Ward 3 Councilman Eugene Skurnick said he was “extremely pleased” about the settlement and looked forward to the revenue the city will gain as a result of the development in the south of Route 4, which was stalled during the long settlement process.

“We can’t continue as a financially vibrant city where expenses are going up and income is going down,” said Skurnick.

Ward 2 Councilman Michael Cohen said the ERA South development was one of the major projects that will impact the city’s revenue stream in the long term, referencing Liberty School, a building purchased from the Englewood Board of Education that is now used to house city recreation program, and Lincoln School, which officials plan to redevelop.

“It was an exhaustive process that took far longer then it ever should,” said Cohen. “I’m happy it was concluded in a manner with circumstances that are relatively favorable to the city.”

ERA South developers – S. Hekemian Group and MDK Development LLC – filed a lawsuit against the city in 2009 in order to build 1,065 apartments south of Route 4. The suit argued that developers should build housing in south of Route 4 since the city did not send an affordable housing plan with the state. Officials were supposed to submit an affordable housing plan at the end of 2008, said Bailey.

The creation of 1,065 apartments did not include plans for affordable housing. Developers also plan to build 40,000 to 200,000-square-feet of office space as part of the agreement, a hotel, and a small retail space, said Bailey.

City officials and developers of ERA South settled this two-year old lawsuit in 2011, agreeing to 195 apartments.

In 2012, the Fair Housing Center of New Jersey appealed the judge’s approval of the settlement on the basis that Englewood did not have enough affordable housing, said Bailey.

As part of the amendment to the settlement, ERA South developers have agreed to build 15 affordable housing units within the 195 units.

Under guidelines set by the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH), a residence receives an “affordable housing” designation for a 30-year period. Once 30 years has passed, the house is eligible to go back on the market, said Bailey.

In order to meet affordable housing demands as part of the agreement, officials will designate 64 units – most of which are located in the First Ward’s Westmoor Gardens – that are at the end of its 30-year period as affordable housing for another 30 years.

Officials can also make use of 16 affordable housing credits going forward, said Bailey. During a prior round of COAH certification, the city had 16 affordable housing units over the needed amount, said Bailey. Officials are now able to use credits from these units to meet their current COAH requirements.

PAGES: 1 2 > DISPLAY ON ONE PAGE

– See more at: http://www.northjersey.com/news/settlement-may-end-delays-at-era-south-project-1.998049#sthash.gbYrCalq.d

www.northjersey.com

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[20 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 3 views]

Dear Residents:

Please see below article in the April 17, 2014 entitled: “Council takes step to avoid cuts in budget – Move keeps $1.2M in spending plan”

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle III

Englewood council takes step to avoid cuts in budget

APRIL 17, 2014 LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014, 12:31 AM
BY STEPHANIE NODA
STAFF WRITER
NORTHERN VALLEY SUBURBANITE
Move keeps $1.2M in spending plan

ENGLEWOOD – The city council will not have to cut $1.2 million from the proposed budget, giving the administration greater flexibility in 2014.

The council avoided making the cut at the April 8 workshop meeting by approving a 3.5 increase to the spending limit and passing a measure that allows unspent money to be used in the next two budgets, otherwise known as a “cap bank.”

Officials voted 3-2 to approve raising the appropriation cap limit to 3.5 percent and creating a cap bank, with Ward 2 Councilman Michael Cohen and Ward 1 Councilman Marc Forman casting the two dissenting votes.

If the appropriation cap increase was not approved, officials would have cut $1,245,000 from the introduced budget. The $60 million budget, which will raise taxes for the average property owner by $68.90, was created accounting for the 3.5 percent spending limit increase.

By approving the cap bank, City Manager Tim Dacey estimates $151,166 will roll over to the following budget cycle. He said that if the council had approved a cap bank in the past, officials would have never risked having to cut $1.2 million out of the budget. Since expenses were cut the last three years, officials had a lower base budget to work with.

Traditionally, Local Bond Law “prohibited from increasing their final appropriations by more than 2.5 percent or the cost-of-living adjustment, whichever is less, over the previous year.” This year, the Department of Community Affairs set the spending limit increase at .5 percent.

In 2011 and 2012, the council rejected creating a cap bank.

Council President Lynne Algrant supported creating a bank both times it was proposed in the past, while Ward 2 Councilman Michael Cohen rejected the idea both times.

Earlier this year, Cohen presented a non-binding resolution for a zero percent tax increase, which his colleagues rejected. He voted against the cap bank and spending limit increase since it was his “intention to do everything he can to not raise taxes and keep Englewood affordable.”

“I fully do not support overtaxing our residents,” said Cohen. “The argument over and over again [was that] we would have to make some serious decisions about what we have to cut [if the ordinance did not pass.] We are elected to make tough decisions… I’m ready to make tough decisions on the behalf of the public I represent.”

Algrant said the cap bank and the appropriation cap increase were tools provided by the state that allowed local municipalities to have control over their own finances.

Ward 3 Councilman Eugene Skurnick, who was against the cap bank in 2012, supported the measure this year since the state had set the appropriation cap limit at .5 percent instead of the traditional 2 percent.

“In other years, I did not vote for the cap since there was no financial reason,” said Skurnick. “We had a lot of surplus and we didn’t have all the tax appeals, and revenue wasn’t going down. There was no prior justification in my mind to use the cap.”

Email: noda@northjersey.com

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[17 Apr 2014 | No Comment | 108 views]

Dear Residents,

In case you had missed it, I have pasted below an Opinion Editorial piece that I had written that was published in the Record this morning on the “invisible” tax on our tax bills, namely our County taxes.

Although we are all aware of and involved with our municipal and school taxes, the County taxes, which are part and parcel of our property taxes often times go unnoticed.

I believe that for greater transparency we should bring the county portion of the tax bill out of the shadows and have a separate bill that is fully articulated for taxpayers.

I encourage you to read the piece and also to educate yourself further on the subject of how county taxes affect your local property tax bill.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle

Opinion: Shining a light on the ‘invisible’ tax
APRIL 16, 2014, 5:01 PM LAST UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014, 5:01 PM
BY FRANK HUTTLE III
THE RECORD

Frank Huttle III, a Democrat, is mayor of Englewood.

A RECENT ARTICLE (“Bergen County tops NJ in property tax bills,” March 20) in The Record not only highlighted the unfortunate distinction Bergen County now has of being home to the highest average property taxes in New Jersey, but underscores the need for a solution.

In surpassing Essex as the costliest county for homeowners, the average property tax bill in Bergen County – when factoring in municipal, school and county taxes – jumped to $10,642 in 2013, a 1.5 percent increase from the year before.

However, The Record’s story failed to mention that the most sizeable increase came from the county’s portion of the tax levy. This trend – which most property taxpayers are unaware of – has frustrated and perplexed many local officials for years.

For example, by reading the chart included in the story, Englewood would appear to have one of the largest tax increases of any Bergen municipality last year, at an average of $542. Consequently, my phone started ringing of the hook with residents asking, “Mayor, why are you not controlling property taxes? Why did our taxes go up $542?”

This is because the average resident sees one tax bill and thinks the mayor is solely in charge of controlling that bill. However, that is not the case.

Since I became mayor in 2010, I have approached city government with a business attitude by employing best practices and disciplines found in the private sector. Because of this, we have seen no increase in taxes for the last three years while increasing municipal services as well as our surplus, all despite a $2 million decrease in state aid and an increase in funding mandates.

County tax levy

What was lost in The Record’s chart is that we held the municipal property tax levy flat for the last three years in Englewood. Instead, the spike our residents saw in taxes was largely due to a 65 percent increase in the county tax levy.

Perhaps the county executive, Kathleen Donovan, who is effectively the mayor of 70 towns, should take a page from Englewood’s playbook in controlling runaway property taxes?

Essentially, the county tax is the invisible tax that most residents don’t realize is included within the bill they receive from their town. It’s time for the county tax bill to come out of the shadows and into the forefront if we ever hope to get a grip on these perpetual increases.

In order to make county government more accountable to taxpayers, we need full disclosure and transparency. Separating the county tax bill from the municipal bill and providing a greater explanation of what the county tax funds would be a good first start in order to arm residents with the knowledge they need to hold their government accountable.

Additionally, we need to address the unfair burden placed on municipalities when a property owner appeals their tax assessment. If the property owner wins the appeal and is due a refund, the burden of refunding that money falls squarely on the shoulders of the municipality, even though a large portion of what was owed was due to the county and school tax levies.

In 2012, for example, we saw a large spike in appeals and owed roughly $2.4 million in refunds to property owners. Of that $2.4 million, roughly $1.3 million or almost 55 percent was the portion that had originally been owed to the county and school district, and yet the city was left on the hook to refund the entirety of the money to property owners.

Unfair law

We must reform the tax refund system so that the county and school district pay their allocable cost of the refund to properly match the real tax costs. The current law is completely unfair to municipalities and does not foster full disclosure of the real tax costs.

Furthermore, the unpredictability of the county tax levy and the equalized valuation process leaves towns in the lurch at the 11th hour when they are trying to craft the next year’s budget. Much of this can be alleviated through greater cooperation and disclosure so towns can plan more accordingly.

At the end of the day, property taxes will never be controlled until all arms of government take equal responsibility and learn to work together more cooperatively – that includes local, county and state government.

Regards,

Mayor Frank Huttle

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