NUTLEY, NJ - With the Coronavirus pandemic not even at its peak in Essex County, with more than 120 cases in Nutley and six deaths, as of Thursday evening, Nutley township faces revenue and finance concerns.
The Board of Commissioners were proactive and on March 18 declared Nutley in a State of Public Health Emergency, even before Gov. Phil Murphy did so for the State of New Jersey, which was also supported by President Donald Trump. This enabled eligibility for funds related to the Coronavirus pandemic and ability to receive a significant reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In a phone interview, adhering to social distancing rules, Revenue and Finance Commissioner Thomas J. Evans spoke about the financial concerns the pandemic has on the township. “Obviously there is a heightened concerned over the collectability of taxes given the current health crisis and how it effects the economy,” he said.
The township has increased their targeted spending on essential items related to the Coronavirus pandemic, such as protective gear for first responders. They also increased their contribution to Nutley Family Service Bureau, allotting the not-for-profit organization another $25,000 to sustain the food pantry.
“Over time the cost incurred for Coronavirus expenses, protective gear, including transportation costs, we can apply for reimbursement. Any out-of-pocket costs related to the Coronavirus pandemic are reimbursable,” said Evans.
The township will apply for reimbursement of all spending due to the pandemic. “Selecting information necessary to make applications for reimbursement of the extra costs related to the Coronavirus we will be making applications related to this purpose,” he said.
According to Evans, this pandemic should not have a significant impact on the 2020 Municipal Budget as a result. The township is anticipating revenue will slow down given the impact on the economy and jobs. However, revenue has slowed down at the township.
“We are collecting and identifying these costs and putting them in separately, tracking the costs to submit to the government for reimbursement. We will be making the application shortly and do not have to wait to send it. Significant monies are available through the government,” Evans said.
While the office remains open, no one is allowed into the Municipal Building, Public Safety Building, and Public Affairs. The Code Enforcement Office is managing inspections for people who need permits. All residents must call or email the appropriate department for permits and other concerns. Township employees are working remotely, practicing social distancing; phone calls are being transferred.
The township is accepting water bills and taxes through their website Nutleynj.org (an additional fee is applied) and through the mail.
According to Evans, the federal government funding is being freed up quickly and the application process and receiving help from Trenton should be before the end of the year.
The township just mailed out notices to renew dog and cat licenses. The township’s third quarter taxes are due on May 1. Evans is trying to extend the grace period for third quarter property taxes to avoid interest on the payments. However, municipal tax payment periods are controlled by Trenton. “I am waiting on clearance from the state. I have to wait a few days to see if I can waive fees. Under statute, I cannot waive the late fee. Locally the Board of Commissioners doesn’t have the right to waive fees without permission from the state. I am working behind the scenes with the state,” he said.
A notice will go out to all residents if the late fee on property taxes is waved. In order for this to happen a resolution would also have to be voted on by the Board. “I don’t want to take penalties and late fees from anybody during the crisis,” said Evans.
Evans said the Board has made their application for the transitional state aid, as the township has been receiving since Roche left Nutley/Clifton in 2013. It’s too early to determine if the pandemic will have an impact on our application. Since 2014, Nutley received a total of $25 million in transitional state aid.
Last year the township received $3,250,000 and is anticipating 85 percent of that this year, approximately $2.6 million. By law the township can only anticipate 85 percent of the previous year’s state transitional aid, which is currently figured into the pending municipal budget as revenue.
“We qualify for the transitional aid formula, we made our application to receive the state aid. How that aid availability is impacted by the pandemic crisis we have not been given any indication yet,” he said.
Evans said the Board plans to introduce the municipal budget soon. BOC public meetings are being held virtually for the time being. Residents can call in, listen to the meeting and speak during public comment periods.
The significant impact on the economy because of the pandemic has slowed progress on the On3 site, formerly Hoffmann-La Roche.
Eugene Diaz, principal, Prism Capital Partners, LLC had to stall the construction of the hotel on the Clifton side. Potential development on Nutley has stalled too. Diaz hasn’t been reached for comment.
Nutley supported having Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University built on the campus, which is located on the On3 site. “Central to the townships state aid application is the medical school on the On3 campus,” said Evans.
Evans said the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) recently announced a suite of programs to help small businesses, including grants and loans, up to $5,000. For information, visit cv.business.nj.gov.
Congress passed a federal relief package, approximately $350 billion in forgivable loans available to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program. For information, visit sba.gov and click “Learn More.”
“Any relief we can get from the state we are working on doing that,” said Evans.
Since 2016, TAPintoNutley.net has been the only locally owned news organization serving the Township of Nutley, and is a member of the New Jersey Press Association. The Nutley Board of Commissioners first named TAPintoNutley.net the township's 'Official Electronic News Source' in 2019.