Elected officials at the federal, state, and municipal level are working hard to help families cope with the financial challenges resulting from the Covid-19 Pandemic.  Stimulus plans, eviction moratoriums, and grace periods for mortgage payments are all examples of recent actions taken by our government to assist families in need. 

Governor Murphy recently signed Executive Order No. 130 allowing municipalities to extend the grace period for the May 1st property tax payment until June 1st.  It is one of many initiatives being taken by the state of NJ to provide much needed relief to homeowners struggling financially during this very challenging time.  Under existing law, towns may allow a ten-day grace period for tax payment without interest or penalty.  In the event of a natural disaster, towns have the ability to extend the grace period for a month; however, no such law allowed towns to extend the grace period in response to a pandemic until Executive Order No. 130 was issued. 

As a resident of Montville Township, I was deeply concerned with the lack of transparency and empathy from our elected officials on our township committee.  The official response to Executive Order No. 130 was posted on the Montville Township’s website on April 29th.  In this letter, the town does not include specific data and/or numbers to back up their decision not to allow for this extension.  They then appear to divert blame to Governor Murphy for the timing of his executive order.  The MTC claimed that this order came after the scheduled April township committee meeting, and that their May 12th meeting wouldn’t give them enough time to get everything in order.  All meetings are being held remotely.  I would assume, with something so important and pressing as this is, they could have conducted an emergency meeting to address this immediately following the executive order.  In March, they chose to allocate quite a large sum of money from the Open Space account to use for recreational purposes.  They chose to do this during a pandemic.

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After reading this, I was curious about other town’s responses.  I read statements issued by the mayors of Denville and Middlesex Borough.  While both mayors chose different outcomes, they both displayed empathy and compassion for their residents.  Middlesex’s mayor even included concise numbers to explain his reasoning. 

We are living through one of the most stressful and challenging times in modern history.  The unemployment rate has skyrocketed across the country in the past month.  The elected officials in our town should demonstrate compassion and transparency, especially with issues as pressing as property tax payments.  A statement of excuses doesn’t exonerate them from fulfilling their responsibilities. 

 

Christine Antal

Montville Township Resident