Friday, May 15, 2015

Denville Has One of the Lowest Debts in the County


At a recent Republican County Committee Candidates Night in Denville I was surprised by exaggerated remarks by my fellow Councilman, Kevin Scollans.   He claimed Denville has a major debt problem and there was a lack of transparency about it.  That is shocking to because Denville has one of the lowest debts in all of Morris County and Denville has an outstanding credit rating as well as lower municipal taxes.  New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states and Morris County has some of the highest property taxes.  This is a huge problem that all of us our frustrated with.  Denville’s local government has been working extra hard these past few years to dampen tax burdens.  We’ve done it with extensive grant applications, government efficiencies, township improvements that attract businesses and pressuring state reform.

As far as transparency, the municipal budget is discussed publicly for months at the beginning of each year.  The budget is available online and at Town Hall for anyone to review. 

If Councilman Scollans wants transparency, he should make sure he is transparent as well.  His claim left out how Denville bonds at an unbelievably low interest rate, unlike debt that you or I have from credit cards or mortgages,  This year we bonded for less that 1%.  That’s an exceptionally low interest rate!  At rates that favorable, we need to take advantage of responsible lending. Very similar to why it often makes good sense to mortgage a home within your means.  Low interest loans can  make good financial sense.  As well, some of our debt is the result of the damage caused by Hurricane Irene which destroyed the Valleyview Firehouse and other town infrastructure.  Once FEMA reimbursement is finalized, our debt will go down significantly.  That should have been mentioned.

Why does the town have debt?  More expensive items such as fire trucks, ambulances or long term capital projects can be very pricey. It would be irresponsible to hit taxpayers with that cost in one year.   Large Township improvements or a new vehicles benefit residents for many years, sometimes up to 20 years.  It wouldn’t be fair to force current Denville residents to pay a huge amount of money for something that will be used by our Township for many years ahead.    Could you imagine how high taxes would be on years where we need a new firetruck if we paid it in cash?  A current resident footing the bill for an item that many generations will benefit from in the future is grossly unfair.  Some loans are worth it because we have such low interest we can spread that cost responsibly over time without having a bank-breaking tax impact.  Each year during our budget workshops many Council members, including myself, carefully watch our debt schedule. We are fortunate to have a sensible Township finance officer, Mike Guarino, and an independent auditor who help keep Denville’s financial stability one of the best in the county.

Councilman Scollans is good volunteer in our town.  I’ve worked with him on many projects but I was completely surprised at his deceptive comments. As a Councilman he’s voted for every municipal budget, except one, since he’s served on the Council. If he was so concerned with the debt why did he approve all those budgets?

While I agree massively high-interest debts outside our means are reckless, however reasonable loans at historically low-interest rates, from a town with a stable financial structure, are wise.  Let’s not create issues for election-year politics and let’s not mislead residents about Denville’s debt, which is one of the lowest in the County.