SPRINGFIELD, NJ – In a meeting with Ziad Shehady, the Township’s Business Administrator, we discussed some of the issues for 2017. Shehady was appointed Business Administrator in the Township of Springfield on September 14th following the resignation of the interim administrator who resigned in May. Shehady was chosen by a vote of the Township Committee after working with a consultant who reviewed 35 resumes.
Shehady is a homeowner in Springfield, resident for almost 20 years and had served eight years on the Township Committee, serving twice as Mayor. In 2010, he was the youngest mayor in New Jersey. He is a graduate of Jonathan Dayton High School and New York University. He has served on many community boards and worked for several members of the State Assembly. He served in the United States Military for 13 years and reached the level of Captain in the Infantry & Signal branches. He is also a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The issues we discussed included another attempt to change Springfield’s form of government, the budget effect of the Baltusrol tax appeal and economic development.
The form of government is under review. Springfield is a Township. Its officials elected by its citizens are the five members of the Township Committee and members of the Board of Education. Every year the members of the Township Committee elect one of its members to be Mayor. That system has meant most mayors serve a one year term and then another person takes on the responsibility.
Mayor Fernandez did not run for reelection. The Township Committee elected Deputy Mayor Diane Stampulous to become Mayor at the annual reorganization meeting Tuesday. During his time on the Township Committee, Mr. Shehady was elected to two one year terms as Mayor.
In 2012, the Charter Study Commission was tasked to study the form a government and the ultimate decision was to keep the current form of government. Now, the Township Committee voted again in favor (4-1) of putting the issue of changing form of government on November 2017 ballot. If it is approved a new Charter Study Commission will be formed.
The main reason consideration being given to form another commission because of concerns the current form of government is not the most representative the citizens of Springfield. Other concerns are about the relatively short time served by Mayors and the partisan nature of elections at the local level.
Shehady noted that Jersey City does not have partisan elections. Instead, the candidates face each other in the general election. (There is no primary in nonpartisan elections.)
If it passes the referendum passes, five commission members will be elected and have 90 days to give an opinion about the form of government. If they recommend changing it, the recommendation is put on the November 2018 ballot to be voted on by the citizens of Springfield.
During the November 22 Township Committee Meeting it was announced the the Baltusrol tax appeal was settled (https://www.tapinto.net/towns/springfield/sections/government/articles/township-committee-meeting-11-slash-22-baltusrol-tax). When discussing the matter Shehady started the conversation on the topic saying, “Baltusrol is a great neighbor.” The result of the appeal was to lower the assessment. For budget purposes, it means a loss of about $250,000 of annual revenues in the future municipal budgets. There will be no clawback of past revenues. Springfield’s current budget is divided between Union County - $12.7 million, the schools - $38.0 million, and the municipal government budget for other city services - $23.0 million. So, the revenue loss from Baltusrol represents just over 1% of the budget for municipal services.
Regarding economic development, Shehady is focused on helping create a more thriving business community. This starts with finding out how the Township can create a more compelling environment for current and prospective businesses. In his view, progress in economic will help provide financial benefits to the community, enhance the quality of life and so doing, improve life styles.
In 2017, he plans to work with members of Springfield’s Business Improvement District (BID) and to build a contact list for all businesses in Springfield. One new business that may join that list appears to be Wawa, which is considering moving to Springfield in 2017. It will be the first store opened in Union County. He also feels Route 22 brings opportunity with more attention.
Improving the areas along Morris Ave and Mountain Ave should also help economic development. Some progress is being made including the completion of one phase of streetscaping in the area and with an application for a $400,000 grant to finish additional phases.
Shehady noted Springfield is rated AA+ and its tax collection rate is great.
Links to websites for Ziad Shehady follow:
Springfield Website - http://www.shehady.us/
Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/shehady
Picture below shows Shehady (fourth from left) at Township Committee Meeting