Significant tax appeal payments, capital projects and debt issuance headline the town council agenda this evening. Here’s the agenda and proposed legislation http://bit.ly/SCpEIl.
Successful tax appeals, either from tax court judgments or settlements, require the town to pay out at least $485,708. The agenda also includes two large commercial property tax settlements whose impact on taxes is unclear. However, the two properties have high final assessments – 141 Short Hills Road - $46.4 million and West Orange Plaza - $52.5 million – and double-digit percentage changes in assessment. These impacts appear likely to amount in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. (I’ve asked the administration for clarification.)
The administration had originally proposed a resolution authorizing it to apply to the state for approval to borrow up to $1 million to help pay for tax appeals, but that was withdrawn from the agenda.
The administration has also requested council approval for two bond ordinances. The first (Ordinance 2366-12) seeks to reallocate previous authorization and funding for $1,606,799:
- $400,000 (reduced from $500,000 in the original ordinance) to renovate the artificial turf soccer field at the high school
- $200,000 to light the football/track & field facility at the high school
- $350,000 for a new concession stand at the high school
- $200,000 for public works vehicles/equipment
- $200,000 (increased from $150,000 in the original ordinance) for computers and software
- $56,779.25 for “improvements to outdoor facilities”
- $200,000 for improvements to the municipal building
This ordinance reflects previous debt issuance, so it doesn’t require adding to our debt level.
The second ordinance (2367) appears unclear on the amount of authorization and how much debt would be issued. The entire amount is to be borrowed, according to the town chief financial officer. An e-mail yesterday from the mayor puts the borrowing at $1,717,024.44 for:
- “various road improvements, including, but not limited to Nicholas Avenue and Mountain Avenue, and improvements to outdoor facilities …”
- According to the mayor’s note, the funds will go to $873,824 for road resurfacing for unspecified streets, $100,000 for Nicholas Avenue, $600,000 for Mountain Avenue and $143,201 for the balance for “outdoor facilities” from the other ordinance
Both ordinances are on the agenda for first reading tonight. They would typically come up for public comment and final approval at the next council meeting, set for December 18.
Ordinarily, school capital projects requiring debt issuance are subject to voter referendum. However, state law allows for “shared services” agreements between municipal entities to share the cost and use of common facilities and equipment. In this case, “shared services” would allow the township, which can borrow without a referendum first, to do the borrowing. The town and schools would then specify which entity pays for which part of the cost. The school district and township are now operating under such agreements. The proposed projects would likely require an additional agreement.
Joe Krakoviak is a West Orange Township Councilman, since 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com.