Hi everyone, last week I sent out a long form update on some of the business before the Council. I just wanted to do a quick refresher as we go into what we expect to be a long night tomorrow. First, here is tomorrow’s Council Meeting agenda.
As a reminder: We will not be introducing the revised Lackawanna Development plan until June and we will not be voting on leaf blowers tomorrow, either. We will be voting on the budget.
The meeting begins at 6:00pm tomorrow, Tuesday, May 16th with a public hearing (public comment) on the Municipal Budget. I don’t know how the Mayor will juggle the start of public comments on the regular agenda and if those will start immediately following or after we pass 11 Proclamations, many of which are being presented (e.g. read). But I suspect we’ll be taking public comment most of the earlier part of the evening. As always, you can watch the meeting on TV Channel 34 or on YouTube.
What’s this talk about PILOTs?
Like most of you, I’ve read about the budget shortfall for the Montclair Public School district this year. It’s unfortunately become an annual tradition that I don’t find surprising, but of course find sad. With 600+ less students, I do agree with Board of Education Chair Allison Silverstein that some cuts are necessary. And I’ll get to PILOTs in a moment. But I really want to stress something fundamental here:
After Newark, Montclair is the second largest producer of votes in elections in Essex County. We also tend to be the ATM for the Democratic Party in New Jersey. So something that I would like to see is a movement where we all start demanding more from our State and Federal governments for schools. Right now there’s only one competitive Democratic Primary happening for state legislative seats in the entire State of New Jersey and it’s for our district. When someone asks you for their vote for Assembly or Senate on June 6th (or before for mail-in ballots and early voting), ask them what they’re doing or will do to boost funding for Montclair Public Schools.
We can do more to share our piece of the pie. But let’s all collaborate and grow the pie. A massive federal infrastructure bill included no money for school buildings. Trenton is sitting on a big surplus. We’re still recovering from over $20M in revenue loss from the pandemic and are facing a possible recession in the next year.
Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), are a very good tool to maximize revenue from developments for the municipality. Traditionally, PILOTs were a tool for incentivizing development for areas truly in need of redevelopment. Over the last decade, these have been used extensively with the result being a $70M reduction in Township debt and property tax increases being held at bay now for many years. But as I said when advocating for dissolving the Board of School Estimate (by converting to an elected school board) and in the vote to pass the infrastructure bond last year: our Township and our School District are intrinsically linked.
I have a fundamental belief that when developments in a PILOT arrangement contain residential square footage, that the school district must receive a portion of those dollars relative to that square footage and the anticipated number of children going into the school system. To be clear, as a steward of the municipal budget (26% of your property tax bill) that is me saying that I’m willing to give up some of that money we’re legally entitled to for the greater good e.g. both of you governments being successful.
I would also like to see stronger collaboration between the School District and the Township in terms of sharing services and costs to the extent state law allows.
Two More Cannabis Retailers Coming
Assuming the Council passes the Resolutions before us, we will be awarding the two remaining recreational cannabis licenses to Night Owl LLC for use at the former DLV Lounge and to Kush Connections for their location on Valley Road across from Tierney’s.
We took our time to make sure we got this right and I’m really happy that we’re awarding these licences to Montclair locals. This will round out our new local cannabis industry for now with licenses already given to TLEHL Inc. for manufacturing, Genuine Grow for cultivation, and Ascend for the initial recreational license. It makes me really happy to see Montclair residents obtaining the majority of these licenses overall in a new industry where multi-state operators might have had a strong advantage. It goes to show the strength and passion of Montclair entrepreneurs.
If all goes well, I do see us opening up the law to consider additional licenses in all categories next year.
I’m in final talks with Benjamin, other family, friends, political advisors, and more on my decision on whether or not to run for Mayor for the May 2024 election, run for re-election to the Council or hang up my hat. If I’m being frank, part of this decision is around whether I have the financial resources to be able to compete. So, this Wednesday night, Meredith and Marshall Bergmann are hosting a fundraiser to benefit my election fund. Please consider joining us for a beautiful evening and a flowing conversation.
I have another event coming up on May 30th if that date is better for you.
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