Cindy Matute-Brown for Mayor - Korwel Circle Meet and Greet!!
Another fantastic day yesterday discussing neighbors’ concerns and questions they have about our municipal government! Lots of questions about schools, property taxes, tree protection, development downtown, our town’s finances, insularity in our town government and with developers, and leadership required to change the way our government is run so we can get things done for us and our neighbors.
Thank you, Gina & Joe Velazquez and Dianne & Zadil Lucas for hosting me and all of our fellow residents. We all had a wonderful time!
We talked a lot about how creative revenue generation could help us manage our property tax burden and I explained how I’ve led our town’s thoughtful process to allow certain cannabis businesses to operate in West Orange. I think that once they open, we may be able to garner $2 million per year in additional sales tax revenue. This is new - according to the New Jersey statute, municipalities who permit certain cannabis businesses to operate may tax their transactions. Please see my earlier post for further details on our measured, thoughtful entry into this industry.
I also heard a lot of questions about development of downtown and some concern about what has happened. I will have a lot more detail posted here soon, but suffice to say that by defaulting the former developer who controlled the downtown properties, we have created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for West Orange. We have interest from people who are ready, willing, and able to completely transform the areas on and around Main Street. As we discussed yesterday, I stood up and insisted that the Mayor reject the developer’s plans to turn the area into a distribution warehouse center, default the developer and regain control of our own town in the quickest possible manner. We did that and now we have a tremendous opportunity for our downtown to transform into something we have all wanted for so many years.
I also heard questions about West Orange schools from some relatively new residents. We talked about the great experiences that we have had and those other neighbors have had in West Orange schools and the job that our current Board of Education does with our schools. Two things on our schools. First, I think that our municipal government needs to foster a closer relationship with our schools so we can find savings and investments to ensure that we are looking out for all of our residents. And second, we need to band together with the Mayors of our neighboring towns to advocate for full funding of public schools by the state. The state does not fully fund the public schools and that failure at the state level, results in a higher burden on the local property tax base. It’s not fair and I will organize my fellow Mayors to try to do something about it.
Speaking of taxes, we need to manage our property tax burden in three ways. First, look for creative revenue generation. Second, plan for smart development that elevates property values and our tax base. Third, organize and advocate at the state level for full funding of our public schools to relieve our residents of the added burden that the state’s failure to fully fund schools inflicts on us and our neighbors. We have to stop being insular and we need our town government to be a leader in Essex County advocating for West Orange residents. We have too much at stake to continue down the same path we’ve been on for so many years.
Thanks again Gina, Joe, Dianne, and Zaldil. Our next meet and greet event is at 11:00 on Saturday, July 23rd at Willow and Olivia cafe on Main Street. I hope to see you there!