FLEMINGTON, NJ - Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver is predicting at least a two-year financial recovery period from the impact of COVID-19.
That’s what she told council members during the weekly briefing Thursday.
The mayor added that the borough is “in better shape” than towns that rely heavily on revenues from hotel taxes or parking authorities.
“They’re feeling a tax crunch,” she said.
Still, the mayor encouraged council members to contact state officials and ask them to support Assembly bill A-3971, which would provide corona relief funds to municipalities to make up for budget shortfalls by permitting them to issue bonds for the loss of revenue and/or unanticipated expenses directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Driver’s concern is for businesses that may not recover. And while most homeowners pay their taxes through bank mortgage escrow accounts, tax revenues from commercial properties are at risk.
The borough council decided not to extend the property tax deadline date from May 1 to June 1 since its obligation to pay both the county and the school district their portion of tax revenues was not extended.
The mayor said her concern is with the Aug. 1 tax due date. She wants to save the borough’s borrowing power in case there is a tax deficit next quarter.
OEM Coordinator Brian McNally said that echoing the moves of the state opening parks on May 2, the borough reopened Tuccamirgan Park.
He reported, “Flemington residents did their part and maintained social-distancing. There were no violations reported and everyone adhered to the requirements to keep the park open.”
There was concern that some of the recent changes have caused a misconception.
“Unfortunately, while parks have reopened, there seems to be an underlying notion from the public that we’re out of the woods,” McNally said. “And that’s the farthest from the truth. The governor’s stay at home order is still in effect.”
He added that the borough took heat over the weekend from people upset about the cancellation of events, most of which the borough didn’t have any control over.
Car shows, motorcycle outings and bike rallies or any activity that involves large groups of people are still prohibited.
Finally, as McNally has been doing all along, he is working closely with local businesses to help them interpret executive order #107, which governs activities allowable for non-essential retail businesses. He said Police Chief Jerry Rotella released a statement outlining the state rules.
The problem stemmed from a false narrative created on social media that resulted in the department receiving numerous emails and phone calls with questions and concerns about Flemington business activities. The chief encouraged business owners to contact the police department if any further clarification is needed.