Collingswood Board of Commissioners Retrospect Candidate Forum Kate Delany

Interview with Collingswood Together Candidate Kate Delany 2021 Election

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?

As a company valued at $8 billion, Morgan Properties can afford to make timely repairs, ensure tenants have consistent heat in the winter, and address quality of life issues at stake. We cannot neglect a quarter of our town. It is the job of local government to protect the general well-being of residents. Route inspections, rigorous code enforcement, possible involvement of NJ Department of Community Affairs–serious strategies need to be employed. And engagement with the residents at Parkview is critical. Parkview residents know what the problems are. They need to have a voice in the solutions.

Likewise as both a taxpayer and parent of kids in our public schools, I believe it’s time to end the routine use of tax abatements for developers. Our current mayor is a land use attorney who has made a lucrative career in fast-tracking development and tax breaks throughout the region. Using Collingswood to build his resume has left our town with eight tax abatements on the books, making us one of just twenty power users of development abatements statewide. As the State Comptroller has noted, tax abatements increase the burden on taxpayers. Perhaps most significantly, when these tax breaks are arranged between local governments and corporations, school districts are left out. Collingswood elementary schools lack librarians, counselors, and full time nurses. We need to get out of the corporate tax break business and into the business of fully funding our schools. The mayor is working from a decade’s old playbook. Maybe in the 80s and 90s it was necessary to offer tax breaks to incentivize developers to move into town. But automatically continuing the practice all these years later is an impediment to affordability for residents.

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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