Letters to the Editor

What is True Cost of PILOT Tax Program?

032881d8f939fabda52c_mini_magick20170308-28352-iliugt.jpg
032881d8f939fabda52c_mini_magick20170308-28352-iliugt.jpg

To the editor:

Flemington Borough Council has failed to answer the fundamental question of what the proposed tax abatements for Jack Cust will actually cost county taxpayers, and for how long.

A two-page explanation on the use of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) programs, written by but not credited to Mayor Phil Greiner, was posted to the borough’s website, HistoricFlemington.com, on Feb. 21. Essentially it says that tax abatements are complicated and our borough and county government is to be trusted to serve public interests.

Sign Up for E-News

At the Feb. 27 regular meeting of the Flemington Borough Council, it was announced that Council will proceed with a vote to move forward on the developer agreement. Details the PILOT program would follow later as a separate ordinance for vote sometime in the future. Again, trust the Borough Council.

Mayor Greiner presents that a separate vote on the PILOT program is a safeguard, however the 2010 state Report of the Comptroller, “A Programmatic Examination of Municipal Tax Abatements” offers the following caution:

“[such] processes ... tend to limit meaningful public involvement ... In addressing particular projects, the public generally is limited to the ordinance process. This gives them little opportunity to influence outcomes since internal committees make most specific determinations before an ordinance is introduced and, as reported by the local officials we interviewed, these ordinances generally are assured of passage once introduced.”

The Comptroller’s caution should be heeded in Flemington. When has this Borough Council ever voted anything but full approval for the Cust plan, at any stage? Remarkably, Council meetings have also not been recorded since Jack Cust presented in August, 2016. This summer the proposed six-story development, already 50 percent higher that the approved 2015 Master Plan called for, grew to seven and eight-stories which is double the approved height, and Mayor Greiner commented that it “it looks like our town now.” Really?

The substantial height and density sought by Jack Cust has gone unchecked, dismissed as necessary to make the deal economically feasible. However, like other aspects of this project the developer’s claims of cost, and his ability to finance this enormous project have never received critical, transparent review. How can this community have any faith in their representatives to negotiate the best deal for the borough? What evidence is there of “negotiation” when advocacy for the interests of one developer, who secured his position as the designated developer on the basis of buying a liquor license, is their focus?

It may have been easier for the Council not to put the current redevelopment effort for the Union Hotel block out for competitive bid, not making Requests for Proposal. However, this action undermines the process and credibility of the Council. Unlike the Global Ag site redevelopment, the tried and true strategy here has been to play on fears that there are no alternatives and to ignore that the sweetheart deal afforded to Jack Cust will set a dangerous precedent for future projects.

Again, a caution from the state Report of the Comptroller:

“Many municipalities told us that long-term abatement applications in their town were rarely, if ever, denied, bringing into question the robustness of cost-benefit analyses being undertaken. Many local tax assessors reported not being involved in the process at all, even though they would seem relevant to any review of tax impact. Some municipalities have committees of municipal officials who review abatement applications and make recommendations to the governing body. Notably absent from these committees, however, are county and school district representatives, another example of the current system’s failure to adequately consider these interests. Even the temporal span of particular long-term abatements seemed to be tied more to how conservative the municipality is towards abatements than to calculated determinations of how long the development needed a subsidy. In short, current requirements and processes could be enhanced to ensure that comprehensive analysis occurs to distinguish worthwhile projects from unnecessary giveaways.”  

Greiner and others can stick to their story that the PILOT program is complicated to avoid the details, but real leaders can explain solutions in simple terms. Rather than just promising the borough and surrounding municipalities that the project won’t increase taxes, let’s start with an account of the tax revenue that the current Union Hotel block project should generate without a PILOT. Then specify what is Jack Cust’s proposed payment in lieu of taxes. We can figure out the rest.

Michael Harris

Flemington

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Flemington/Raritan

Voter Turnout in Raritan Township

June 15, 2018

To the editor,

We want to share our admiration for all of the Raritan Township residents who came out to vote in the June 5 Primary Election. Additionally, we want to say "thank you" to our Democratic supporters for their votes.

As we look to the General Election on Nov. 6, we reflect on the importance of this election for our children, seniors and all those in between as we ...

Alzheimer's is Public Health Crisis

To the editor:

 

With more than 5 million Americans now living with Alzheimer’s and with more than 15 million acting as caregivers, Alzheimer’s has become the nation’s most expensive disease. This year alone, it will cost $277 billion to take care of those stricken. The Alzheimer’s Association predicts that, by 2050, more than 14 million Americans will be ...

Candidates 'Weaponized' News Article

To the editor:

I was dismayed to see my 2014 news reportage inaccurately weaponized by council members Marc Hain and Brooke Warden in their campaign flier attacking Al Brewer. The headline “School security at issue: Flemington-Raritan board member accused of leaking secrets” is less than a half-truth, given the ensuing revelation.

Marc and Brook ignored my follow-up report in ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_74a8914ea73d125c58fc_a1ebc45f9ab90ef3e8c6_c0caf2d5e2dceef79bda_20180220_124359

Tue, June 19, 12:00 PM

Al Fresco's, Flemington

Small-biz-Networking Meetup

Business & Finance

Mon, June 25, 9:00 AM

Flemington Public Library, Flemington

Coding Camp at Mediatech

Education

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 16

Summer is in the air, and the latest episode of AtlantiCast is ready to help you enjoy some fun outdoors while staying safe! This week’s episode opens with tips for sunscreen usage from Atlantic Health System’s Chief Medical and Academic Officer, Dr. Jan Schwarz-Miller. You’ll also learn about how Atlantic Health System is advancing the future of health care through ...

Voter Turnout in Raritan Township

June 15, 2018

To the editor,

We want to share our admiration for all of the Raritan Township residents who came out to vote in the June 5 Primary Election. Additionally, we want to say "thank you" to our Democratic supporters for their votes.

As we look to the General Election on Nov. 6, we reflect on the importance of this election for our children, seniors and all those in between as we ...