Government

Freeholders Get Earful As Roselle Residents Question Financing For Mind and Body Project

ffb0547ee32103a68e6d_IMG_9905.JPG
Borough residents stood at the Freeholders meeting in a symbolic moment asking the board to more closely examine the impact the project would have on taxpayers. Aug. 18, 2017. Credits: Rebecca Panico
d63ae60ba88acc509989_IMG_9903__1_.JPG
Roselle Mayor Christine Dansereau speaks at the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting on Aug. 17, 2017 Credits: Rebecca Panico
2a1c76420d0bede1498a_IMG_9909.JPG
Roselle residents raised concerns about the impact the Mind and Body Complex project would have on local taxpayers at the freeholders meeting. Aug. 17, 2017. Credits: Rebecca Panico
3873db3921f0d06aa2ec_IMG_9908.JPG
Roselle residents raised concerns about the impact the Mind and Body Complex project would have on local taxpayers at the freeholders meeting. Aug. 17, 2017. Credits: Rebecca Panico
9d7b3ed0d1c57bb0d888_IMG_9907.JPG
Roselle residents raised concerns about the impact the Mind and Body Complex project would have on local taxpayers at the freeholders meeting. Aug. 17, 2017. Credits: Rebecca Panico
ffb0547ee32103a68e6d_IMG_9905.JPG

ELIZABETH, NJ - About 20 people Thursday raised concerns about the financing for the Roselle Mind and Body Complex during the public comments portion of the Union County Freeholders’ meeting.

The project includes a new school, community center, library and more in the borough.

The opportunity to speak was nixed last week when a freeholders’ special meeting vote regarding the issuance of $59 million in guaranteed bonds for the project was abruptly canceled after a Roselle resident threatened legal action against the board. 

MORE: Roselle Resident Questions Land Lease for Mind and Body Complex

Sign Up for E-News

“The county is reviewing financial documents as well as a number of other issues in making a determination” about the project, said county spokesman Sebastian D'Elia yesterday.

The resolution regarding the bonds was not on Thursday's agenda, but residents still came to raise concerns about the potential tax increase the project would create in the borough. The freeholders said they could not address the concerns at Thursday's meeting, citing potential litigation.

There are currently several different preliminary assessments that take into account different factors when determining the local tax increases for the project. Documents provided by Roselle residents have shown a tax increase of about $500, while other documents obtained by TAP have shown an increase of $294 by 2021.

Although state Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) was not at the meeting Thursday, he’s been a strong supporter of the project since he was mayor in Roselle. He said the property tax increase of about $500 for the project that’s been cited by residents is “absolutely false.”

He said the Roselle Board of Education currently pays rent to St. Joseph the Carpenter Church to use its facilities. The taxes that currently help pay that rent would be “moved” to pay for the new Mind and Body Complex school, he said.

“The payment that the borough and the board is going to be paying, [the residents] are already paying that now,” he said, referring to the lease between the St. Joseph’s Carpenter Church. He later added that several planned development projects in the borough will help generate revenue for the project too.

There were no residents who came in full support of the project at the freeholders’ meeting Thursday, but Holley cited the many supporters who came during the freeholders’ September 2016 meeting. The project also has the support of Roselle Councilman-at-Large Reginald Atkins.

Not all residents who came to Thursday’s meeting were against the project entirely. Some, including Mayor Christine Dansereau, wanted a new school and community center in their borough, but only if they could afford it. She described herself as a former “advocate” for the project when it was first introduced. 

"It looked like the perfect fit, except that the economy took a nose dive and Roselle was hard hit,” said Dansereau. “...The hope was that our new developments would provide the tax relief…And some of this is true, but not enough to help stabilize our overburdened taxpayers who will be forced to leave their homes because of soaring taxes.”

The median household income in Roselle is $43,397, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which is down from $58,041 in 2010. An NJ.com analysis last year showed that Roselle had the sixth worst income-to-property tax ratio in the state.

Anthony Esposito, who formerly served on the Roselle Board of Education, retained a lawyer who sent a letter to the county counsel last week raising questions about the land lease for the project. The letter also threatened legal action had the freeholders made a vote regarding the issuance of bonds for the project.

“I am against this project as it stands and totally against the financing plan,” Esposito told TAP last week. “The plan or the project was never brought before the people of Roselle through a bond ordinance from the borough or a bond referendum from the Board of Education.”

After listening to residents' concerns during a nearly three-hour long meeting Thursday, many of the freeholders thanked the residents for their input

Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen sent a letter to municipal mayors in the county to alleviate concerns that they’d have to pick up the tab if Roselle defaulted on paying for the project. He told TAP last week that would only happen if Roselle went bankrupt, and that's never happened to a municipality in the state.

“Please note, questions related to bond referendums, validity of municipal ordinances as well as the local politics surrounding this project rest with the Borough of Roselle,” Bergen wrote in the letter obtained by TAP. “The County's only involvement with this project is the bond guarantee.”

TAPintoElizabeth.net is Elizabeth’s free daily news source. Sign up for our daily eNews and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @TAPElizabeth.

Download the TAPinto App!  Click here for Android.  Click here for iOS.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Elizabeth

Make Music Roselle Park Lineup Includes Rock Bands, Singer-songwriters, Free Harmonica Lesson

June 12, 2018

ROSELLE PARK, NJ - The lineup for the first-ever Make Music Roselle Park will include two rock bands, a pair of singer-songwriters, a free beginner harmonica lesson and more.

The event being held on June 21, Make Music Roselle Park is part of Make Music Day, a global music celebration that takes place on the summer solstice each year and brings people of all ages and skill ...

Freeholder Board Announces Launch of Free Farmers’ Market Vouchers for Seniors

ELIZABETH, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has announced that the annual Farmers’ Market voucher program for seniors will begin again this summer. Starting on June 25, income-eligible adults age 60 and up can receive a total of $25 in free vouchers to purchase fresh produce at designated Farmers’ Markets throughout Union County.

The total of $25 is provided in $5 ...

Video: Union County Celebrates Pride Month with CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic

June 18, 2018

RAHWAY, NJ - Parents, children, friends, and all family members came out on Saturday afternoon to Rahway River Park for the Union County CommUNITY PRIDE Day Picnic.

The family-friendly celebration hosted by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, was a day of fun activities of arts and crafts, family lawn games, inflatable bounce houses, playground fun and more, along with music by the ...

Gov. Murphy still pushing a millionaire's tax, won’t say when he'll sign sports betting, weed bills

June 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - With a showdown on the state budget looming just 22 days away, Gov. Phil Murphy today re-emphasized his call for a tax on the state’s wealthiest households while hoping to avoid another shutdown of state government.

“Do I still want a millionaire’s tax? The answer is ‘yes,’ “ Murphy said at a press conference at the John ...

Get Empowered to Help Prevent Suicide

June 9, 2018

Over the past week social media and the news have been filled with stories and articles encouraging people to seek help if they’re in emotional distress. There have been countless articles about the need to break the silence around the topic of mental health and suicide, and I am encouraged by the support people are extending to others.

Often, the death by suicide by prominent ...

Troop 77 Eagle Scouts Benefit Bernice’s Place

June 18, 2018

Four boy scouts from Troop 77 in Westfield who recently achieved the rank of Eagle Scout chose Bernice’s Place as the recipient organization of their Eagle Scout projects. Bernice’s Place is part of the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless and is an afterschool and summer program for elementary school-age children who are homeless or at-risk, offering a safe and supportive place ...