Collingswood Board of Commissioners Retrospect Candidate Forum Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson for Collingswood Board of Commissioners

On 4/16/2021 The Candidates from Committees Collingswood Together (Column 1) and Team Collingswood (Column 2) responded to questions from our local newspaper The Retrospect.

In this post are the responses from Candidate Kate Delany as submitted for this special election issue.

The 30-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement on the Parkview apartment complex will end in 2026. Resident complaints and police reports indicate living conditions have deteriorated since Morgan purchased the property in 2017 resulting in recent enforcement actions to bring standards up to borough rental unit health and safety standards. As the complex houses a quarter of the borough’s population, what is your vision for what happens next when the PILOT agreement expires?

I got to know many Parkview residents when I delivered meals through South Jersey Mutual Aid during the early part of the year.  They are working families, elderly and people trying to make a living who don’t have heat or don’t feel safe. Our neighbors there should not have to live in such deplorable conditions. This situation is simply unacceptable.  Although the current administration is taking steps now, they should have acted sooner.  We cannot keep awarding tax breaks with these types of measurables.  Also, recently Morgan Properties sent out letters to Parkview senior residents that the existing senior subsidies would be discontinued.  Although this effective rent hike was withdrawn, Morgan Properties needs to improve conditions before they consider rewarding themselves. To that end, I would like to see an advisory board created of Parkview residents, non-Parkview residents, Parkview management and local officials.  Let us figure out and solve what’s going on with Parkview together.

With the opening of the new public safety building near, the old police and fire buildings will be vacant. The borough owns the police department building and the Collingswood Volunteer Fire Company owns the firehouse. What do you think should be done with those properties, which are both in borough-designated areas in need of rehabilitation?

Back in December 2019, my running mate Bill Johnson and I, along with other members of the Collingswood Democratic Committee, asked the planning board and commissioners to not just rubber stamp a re-examination of the decades’ old Municipal Master Plan but to instead facilitate real public engagement. If community input factored into this process, this document could more fully outline development goals, including community priorities in regards to housing, recreational areas, open spaces, etc. Any new public project should include a social impact calculator to assess items such the fiscal return, health and safety, equity and environmental impact of any proposed project to truly appraise the community wide return on investment. My slate feels strongly about transparency, hence our slogan. Collingswood together should be making decisions about our community’s future.

The Borough of Collingswood carries close to the total allowed municipal debt service – 3.5 percent of total assessed value of properties – and has carried debt near or at the ceiling for a number of years. Debt service will comprise approximately 18.8 percent of the total expenses for the borough in 2021. Should the borough continue this policy of borrowing or seek to reduce the debt service? If continuing the policy, what are your priorities for future borrowing?

It’s time for Collingswood to make financial decisions that keep future generations in mind. Collingswood is one of just ten towns (out of NJ’s 565 municipalities) that are over the 3% net debt limit recommended by the state.Though Collingswood’s credit rating has previously been rated as junk bond status, we continue to take out massive loans. This is a burden which both current residents and future generations will have to shoulder. Public debt comes at a cost to future Collingswood citizens. As the parent of two young kids, I believe it is practice that needs to be reformed. It’s time to pay down debt and stop borrowing against the future.

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