Good evening. My name is Tessie Thomas and I am the President of the Montclair Council of PTAs (PTAC) an elected body that represents and supports the whole community.
I would like to start tonight with a Trivia Question. As you think about the answer, you will see it is related to some of the points we cover tonight.
The Trivia Question is – Who was the President of the US when the brand-new auditorium was added to the main building of Montclair High School? The question again is – Who was the President of the US when the brand-new auditorium was added to the main building of Montclair High School?
As we have stated earlier, we support the Community Investment Bond Referendum and urge everyone to vote yes to approve the Bond Referendum on November 8.
It is our strong belief that when information is transparently shared with our community, Montclair automatically does the right thing. The district organized Town Hall on September 29th was a great step forward in this direction. In keeping with this belief, we at PTAC, with an army of volunteers, have undertaken a significant effort. At the last BOE meeting, I shared that more than 100 volunteers had signed up to do the heavy lifting. That number keeps increasing. Let me put the activities and our effort in some context.
Our first job is to get the word out to everyone to ensure that every Montclair citizen is aware of the Community Investment Bond Referendum. What is it, why are we addressing it now, how is it being done, and what are going to be the tax impacts? We have pulled answers to these and many more detailed questions related to the Community Investment Bond Referendum. Much like the central repository that we created for the BOE candidates, we are posting this on the PTAC website – there is going to be a page that will cover all information related to the Community Investment Bond Referendum. The webpage will answer the what, why, how, when, where, and impact questions. It also provides information on voter registration, where to vote, and what the ballot looks like. More importantly – the information is designed to cover everything about the Community Investment Bond Referendum for those that have only a few minutes to spare and for those that have detailed questions. Please be on the lookout for this webpage going live this week.
In keeping with the theme of getting the word out, we have created a one-page summary flyer that covers all the topics related to the Community Investment Bond Referendum. These flyers will be distributed throughout the town – shops, local events, stations, etc. We have volunteers who will also be distributing these flyers at sports and other cultural events.
We have also designed and are ordering hundreds of lawn signs for those that would like to show their support for the Community Investment Bond Referendum and engage in discussions. Please reach out to get these lawn signs.
Independent of PTAC, there is a GoFundMe page setup by some parents to cover the expenses being incurred in our efforts to support the passage of the referendum. In case you would like to donate, that GoFundMe page is under the banner “Invest in Montclair”.
Families have also offered to host Coffee Klatches in their homes. We are organizing these in all the four wards. These will be informal information sessions where folks engage in discussions with Board members or district representatives to answer questions that are most important to them.
As you can see, the volunteers have been hard at work getting all these deliverables ready and to do the work to get it out to the community. When you see and review any of this, remember that parent volunteers worked hard to sort out the dense content related to this referendum into something that is easier to review and follow, they worked hard to design and produce the website, the flyers, the lawn signs among other things. This is being followed by volunteers working in the background getting this information out to all. I would like to give a shout out to all the volunteers and say a big thank you. You raised your hand and got to work as this is important for Montclair’s future vibrancy and success. A town like Montclair attracts families that consider the Montclair Schools an important criteria in their decision to move to Montclair. An image of crumbling schools with falling staircases will not get us there.
The answer to the trivia question – Who was the President of the US when the brand new auditorium was added to the main building of Montclair High School is Dwight D. Eisenhower. That is the key point behind the Community Investment Bond Referendum. There are many different aspects of the Referendum that are important, but I will cover one aspect tonight – the Tax Impact of this plan.
Issuing bonds that need to be repaid over 24 years sounds like “Tax Increases” – and that is true. But I think it is important to consider this in the context of the overall situation and our alternatives. Lastly it is important to think about the magnitude of the increases. So I am going to make four points that address the tax impact.
- The MPS infrastructure has been underinvested in. As an example, a cracked wall is not going away and waiting is not a solution. MPS needs $188M to fix and make the infrastructure safe and for education enhancements.
- Taxes do increase in issuing bonds, but know that taxes are going to go up even if we fail to pass the referendum. In my example, the cracked wall will need to be fixed and waiting to fix it can only result in more expenditures to fix it and with potentially costly accidents to cover. In that scenario we will be faced with potentially unpredictable tax increases where we may have little to no choice.
- We have a unique opportunity here to pay 69 cents and get a dollar’s worth of work done. The state has agreed to pay the remaining 31 cents with their coverage of debt service for $58M of the total bonds issued. We don’t know how long this state program to support school infrastructure lasts.
- A “Yes” vote on November 8, 2022 will give us safer schools with a 31% discount from the state, but with tax increases. But a “No” vote will likely result in higher and unpredictable increase in taxes and possibly without the 31% current discount.
These four points are at the heart of this effort.
The overall magnitude of the tax impact is estimated to be $732 annually for an average home assessed at about $629K. To put this in context – this is less than $2/day.
So, we will be engaging everyone in the Community Investment Bond Referendum. Our message is simple – it’s about time – let’s get it done.