The Scotch Plains Management Corporation decided at their Feb. 12 meeting to formulate and present to the town council a budget that would not include the Special Improvement District fees for 2013.
The SPMC should have proposed a budget in December and failed to do so, according to Mayor Kevin Glover who sits on the board. Moving forward, Chairman Dominick Verdic and Treasurer Tom Russo stated they would work on a budget to discuss with the board and then present it to the council.
During the Feb. 12 SPMC meeting the discussion was heavily focused on whether or not the fee should be suspended and what changes the SID can make with the money they currently have to improve downtown Scotch Plains.
This would be the fifth year the SPMC would collect the SID assessment fee and Glover pointed out to the board that in five years he has not seen any substantial improvement to downtown.
“I don’t think it’s right for us to go as a SID and assess more money against our folks,” he said. “I think what we need to do is finally say this is what we can do or this is what we won’t be able to do.”
He added that much of what could be improved in downtown Scotch Plains starts with very common sense approaches. For example, he suggested adding outdoor café seating, better advertising for free parking and a banner across Park Avenue advertising some of the many businesses downtown offers.
Also, simple additions such as planters that are regularly replenished and making sure the streets are clean are what Glover hopes will be accomplished with the newly formulated beautification committee.
“Scotch Plains needs to say ‘We’re open for Business’,” Glover stated. “Open for business means making it more visible.”
Glover also mentioned that he has dusted off the old plans on developing the piece of property between Darby Road and the Municipal Building, which he said could use some new development like Fanwood to move the township forward.
Tom Russo, Treasurer of the SPMC, disagreed with Glover on some of his points. Russo stated that 150 or so properties and not every taxpayer or resident pays the assessment.
“All I’m saying is if you own a piece of commercial property in Scotch Plains and you can’t afford $33 a month and that’s going to break you, then I have some concerns about that,” Russo stated.
Glover said that he thinks the SPMC should use the money they have to move forward and show the businesses what they are capable of before instituting another tax levy.
“400 bucks is 400 bucks,” Glover said. “They’ve looked at several different management teams and the only one thing we’ve been constant with is we’ve taken 400 dollars out of their pockets.”
Glover added that he never said the suspension would be forever, but he added that he wasn’t offering what his position could be a year from now.
“The idea is you do have reserves that more than adequately fund you at least for the following year and probably for a year and a half,” he stated.
According to Russo, the group currently has $62,000 in their account, but after outstanding bills they are looking at $56,000 or $57,000.
Additionally, the money that was collected in 2012 won’t be allocated until the summer of 2013 and by receiving no money for 2013 from the SID assessment the group will need this money to last until 2014.
Verdic and Russo said they plan to hold a SPMC meeting on Feb. 27 to discuss the budget and hopefully have it prepared to present to council on March 5.