At Tuesday evening's meeting of the Westfield Town Council, a special ordinance was approved allowing for the issuance of a $1.295 million bond that would provide for the funding of property tax credits.
Following the meeting, Town Administrator Jim Gildea explained that the bond, which will enable the town to pay three-quarters of the tax appeals that have been made by Westfield homeowners, will put the town in the "best position possible going into the 2013 budget."
"When the refunds are given, they come out of the town's cash flow, cash on hand, not the county's or the school board's or the library board's, that's why we have a reserve. So we have to have the cash on hand in order to refund that money or provide the credit. That's why it's most difficult for the municipality portion of the budget to absorb as the appeals increase in one calendar year. These are all residential appeals," Gildea explained.
Gildea said right now the town is at "an appeal peak" and while a reevaluation is something that must happen it is not imminent as "timing is the key." He explained that most towns in Union County have not done a reevaluation in "quite a while," but he noted that following a reevaluation appeals tend to skyrocket intially.
"When you haven't done a reevaluation in so long, your appeals usually spike for one year. There's another school of thought (that says) 'Well, if you talk about a reevaluation maybe it scares people away from making the appeal,'" Gildea said.
The reevaluation process can take a year or two, he said and is a "very lengthy and costly process."
He also noted that Westfield's tax assessor has done an excellent job, with the help of the town's attorney, handling 600 filed appeals with just under 400 that were successful.
"It's a lot to do in a very compressed time for one person," he said. "Tonight's important because we're doing everything to assist the town's financial outlook for 2013, so that from a budget perspective we have some flexibility."
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Adina Enculescu addressed the council and asked Mayor Andy Skibitsky if he had any "second thoughts" about the midblock location of the Central Avenue pedestrian activated HAWK signal.
"The light is staying where it is," Skibitsky said.
Central Avenue resident Maria Carluccio also addressed the council and, as she has done for the past two years, questioned the midblock location of the signal. She asked council members how they taught their children to cross a street and began to sing "Don't Cross the Street in the Middle of the Block." The song, a jingle from the 1960s that was used as a public service announcement in New York City to teach children about traffic safety, advises them to cross at the corner, something Carluccio said she has been telling the council is safest for quite some time.
"This is like the fable of the Emperor's (New) Clothes. Somehow you've been able to pull this off, Mayor Skibitsky. It's really incredible that you've managed to dupe-not us because we see it everyday-dupe people into thinking it's somehow safer to cross in the middle of the road," she said.
"Where did you teach your children to cross the street?" Carluccio asked Skibitsky, as she said all other council members seemed to be wearing "a mute button." When the mayor told her to "please proceed" she likened him to President Barack Obama debating Gov. Mitt Romney.
Deviating from her usual topic, Carluccio mentioned that she was recently robbed by solicitors whom she described as two young women selling magazine subscriptions. She said one asked to use her bathroom while the other engaged her in conversation. Days later Carluccio realized the girl who had used her bathroom had "done her weekly toiletry shopping" while in there. Carluccio said she reported the incident to the police when she realized what had happened.
Greg Kasko, who also routinely questions the location of the HAWK, provided Skibitsky with a document that called into question accidents that had been previously reported to be at different locations.
Kasko said he continues to come to meetings because some of the questions he has asked have not been answered. On the document he gave to Skibitsky was a list of accidents that have occurred at Central Avenue and Clover Street dating back to March 5, 2003 and Central Avenue and Cambridge Road going back to August of 2002.
Kasko said four of the accidents that the report Skibitsky presented in December of 2011 did not occur where the stat sheet reports them to have taken place. Kasko said an accident at Central and Clifton was listed as Central and Clover. A second accident which happened at Mountain and Orchard, across town, Kasko said, had been listed under Central and Cambridge accident history. Numbers three and four happened in driveways on Cambridge, not at an intersection. Kasko said he had obtained the reports from the police department and implied that Skibitsky used the stat sheet to justify the midblock location of the light.
"Can you tell me why those four accidents appear on that stat sheet?" Kasko asked.
Skibitsky said the report that was given to him by the police department.
"So you trust the police department gives you up-to-date facts?" Kasko asked.
"I trust our police department," Skibitsky said.
The meeting began with a presentation by Amy Lovato, who spoke about an upcoming fundraiser held by 117th Cavalry Association on Saturday, Nov. 3. The night will benefit the Family Readiness Groups of the 102nd Cavalry Squadron of the Army National Guard and help fund many programs for soldiers and their families which are not paid for by the government. Click here to learn more about the upcoming event.