TAPintoWestfield: Raise Revenue, Not Taxes

This article originally appeared in TAPintoWestfield on Oct. 5, 2017

tapintologo.pngI’m running for Mayor because we pay too much in taxes and get too little in return. Since our current Mayor was appointed in 2005, property taxes to support municipal services have gone up 65 percent and non-tax revenue has stayed relatively flat. That means the Town has become increasingly reliant on property taxes to provide basic services.

Remember when the town paid for half of our sidewalk repair, provided deck chairs at Memorial Pool and parking tickets cost $20? If you think you're paying more and getting less, it’s because you are.

We have been conditioned to expect so little that when grandiose announcements are made about fixing bathrooms at Tamaques Park, or the dangerously broken swing sets at Mindowaskin, we are thrilled! In many municipalities, these “upgrades” would be considered routine maintenance.

Any good business leader will tell you that you can't cut your way to growth. We need to look at our budget with fresh eyes to re-imagine how we spend, redefine what we get, and reignite growth in our town.

Let’s start with how we spend.

I will personally review every line item in the budget, asking questions and challenging assumptions. It’s what I did as a matter of course in the business world. I will improve operating efficiencies by leveraging technology to streamline processes, reduce waste and ultimately reduce costs. I’ll end the “turf wars” by collaborating with the Board of Ed and neighboring towns to identify opportunities for shared purchasing, services and staffing. I will always put the taxpayer first.

Let's get better at what we get.

It's true that 25 percent of every tax dollar goes to Union County and we don't get our fair share in return. Our current mayor has had 12 years to get more money for our Westfield taxpayers and has little to show for it. It's time to put politics aside and actually talk to the county about how our dollars are spent, and proactively work to secure the grants we deserve. The first step in securing grants is actually applying for all that are available.

In 2016, Westfield received less than .5 percent of its budget in grants, the lowest percentage of grant money compared to Fanwood, Cranford and Summit. This year, Fanwood retained a grant writing consultant at $2,500 a month, resulting in almost $2mm in grants—20 percent of their entire budget! That’s an excellent return on investment.

We need a plan to grow.

We need a master plan that will chart a course for smart growth and managed development to attract new businesses and service industries to Downtown. In Summit, prominent consulting firms McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group have opened offices, attracting young, well-paid professionals to live in town, shop in their stores and eat in their restaurants. We can experience the same growth, enabling us to put more pressure on Trenton for a peak one-seat ride, further improving our property values and quality of life.

Achieving this collective vision is going to take courage, creativity, and proactive leadership, but we won’t get there if we keep following the same (unpaved) road we’ve been on for the last 12 years. I humbly ask for your vote on November 7th as an investment in the future of our town.

For information on where and how to vote in Westfield, click here

Please visit: brindleforwestfield.com and facebook.com/brindleforwestfield; or email me at shelley@brindleforwestfield.com

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