Tuesday, October 29, 2019

DCA Meeting Transcript and Chairman's Summary 9/11/19




Recap of September 11, 2019 DCA meeting (by Craig Heard):

  • DCA Board and Director
  • Craig Heard, Chairperson of the Roxbury Mount Arlington Study Commission  
  • Gina Genovese, Executive Director of Courage to Connect.
  • Mayor of Roxbury (on our Commission) & their Business Administrator  
  • Mayor of Mount Arlington (rep on Commission is a Council member) & their Business Administrator and another, consultant of Mount Arlington, Jon Reinhardt
Craig: I explained a little history about completing our report final draft in December 2018 and
engaging an independent study by a consultant group in 2017 to do their own study of the consolidation. The result of which were both used to project the property tax impact of both studies on Roxbury and Mount Arlington. TO accomplish this we engaged Matt Laracy, CPA.
The conclusion of that was the analysis of the Equalization report which showed:

  • Without equalization applied and projected saving implemented, the property tax reduction to Roxbury and Mount Arlington was 8-10% for Roxbury and 12-15% for Mount Arlington. 
  • With equalization applied, Roxbury would receive a property tax reduction of 11-13% and Mount Arlington would receive no tax reduction and the State would have to subsidize the shortfall.

I proceeded to explain, with this result in July finally completed, it became evident that the equalization provision was the barrier and I reached out to Marc Pfeiffer, the architect of the Statute, to see if there were any solutions that could be explored to solve the problem, without hurting either Roxbury or Mount Arlington.
Marc said, in that we were the only commission to ever get this far, there were no previous cases where this problem would have been addressed before our study.
Therefore, to summary more of my comments I said:
Since we must advise the County to be on the November ballot by August 10, 2019 and we need to address the equalization problem to research and present to the DCA a possible solution to this issue, we needed an extension beyond December 2019.
I also stated that without the equalization issue resolved, the Commission cannot support a consolidation unless both municipalities benefit, which has been our resolve since the start of the Commission 4 years ago.
Then I turned it over to Gina-highlights below:
Gina explained more about the grassroot Local Option under the Statute to allow the public to continue their mission and acknowledged the 4-year study and work of the volunteer commission members.

There was no question to me or Gina by the Board or Director.
The Director then asked if there was any public comment.
All 5 of the Roxbury and Mount Arlington moved to the chairs and were sworn in.
They spoke for about 30 minutes allowing each person unlimited time to:
  • degraded our Commission
  • "we have commissioners that do not what they are doing and have no experience"
  • the study is flawed
  • the township will not allow any consideration of a Consolidation unless equalized value under the Statute is applied.
  • members of the consolidation are made up of members that could not get elected to public office
  • personal attacks in their comments. 
  • The independent consultant members have no experience in municipal government  and are not competent to do this report.

Some Board members asked some questions and clearly showed they were throwing softballs to help support the speaker’s comments.

One Board members said, yes, I was involved with this Statute 20 years ago and we always knew equalization was a problem. (so for 20 years DCA did nothing to address it)
They asked the crew if they provided documents to the commission requested through cooperation or OPRA. They responded yes, which we can prove is a lie. In fact, we have an OPRA request right now that Mount Arlington is on their 10th delay and not responding.

Look, both townships have fought this for 5 years even before the Commission was even formed when we were gathering signatures. We have persisted and are at the end game. Nobody ever thought we would get this far, and we have.
I wanted to respond to the comments and attacks made by the Townships, but I was not allowed.
The Director then proceed to say, no extension at this time, however:
Needless to say, Gina and myself felt we were disrespected by the DCA in allowing the townships to attack our mission, disrespect our commissioners and allow the township to continue without giving us a chance to refute their allegations. It was shameful.
With some of the comments made, the Director should have shut them down or stopped their attacks. SUMMARY COMMENTS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 TESTIMONY BEFORE THE DCA LOCAL FINANCE BOARD OF DIRECTORS 3 PAGES

To highlight and summarize the decision by the DCA & motion passed:
This is what Melanie said after the testimony: (nobody asked our opinion of this Motion)

1-No extension at this time beyond December 2019
2-The DCA requested we finalize our detail Consolidation Study findings and recommendations for Consolidation to support the summary draft provided to them. (they have had it since February)
3-The DCA will be appointing staff members to review the Study report in conjunction with meetings with both Mount Arlington and Roxbury to examine our Study findings and receive feedback. The Commission will be present at these meetings to provide any further input we may have. The mission is to see if any shared services may develop from our study.
4-The Commission will report to the DCA, in November 2019, the progress of these meetings regarding the proposed Consolidation along with Shared Services areas.
My Comment now:
In the meantime, the Commission will continue to research the equalization issue solution and work toward recommending changes to or means within the Statute to find alternatives. Time is of the essence.

Only that will encourage others to consider Consolidation, as the Statute intended, but does not address the most important problem of equalization.
It should also be noted that even with equalization applied the State must subside the negative effect, as shown in the Statute, but there is no guarantee in the future that those funds would be guaranteed as the funding in the Statute may not be appropriated in the future.
The Commission is not willing to proceed if both Roxbury and Mt Arlington see no impact on property tax reduction. At this time equalization is the problem and if equalization is not applied residents of both township WIN with significant tax reductions.
The Commission will have to decide how to proceed if the mission is only shared services, in that both townships should have done that on their own and it is not the mission of our commission and outside the scope of the Statute.


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