*Our 2017 platform page is in italics, and our 2018-2020 record is in bold.*
Caldwell needs a long-term economic development strategy that promotes higher home valuations, keeps taxes low, increases shared services, generates new revenues, and confronts the economic realities of the 21st century.
The Borough’s recent property reassessment found 59% of homes in Caldwell gaining value since the previous reassessment but 41% of homes losing value since 2005. The average home value has declined since 2011 (1). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median home value in Caldwell dropped by almost 18% from 2010-2015 compared to 2006-2010 (2). We will work to ensure that municipal policy helps all average home values rise by supporting investment in our downtown and ensuring the Borough’s Master Plan is kept up to date and forward looking (3).
THE RECORD: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2019, the estimated average home value in Caldwell has risen to $456,000, an notable increase from previous years. Following the recommendation of the 2017 Master Plan Re-Examination Report and input of the Planning Board, in 2019 we voted to authorize a Rehabilitation Plan that will help increase ratables for the Downtown, help the Borough meet its legal burden of affordable housing, and generate increased business for local merchants. It will also provide a 5-year tax abatement on any commercial or home improvements.
- High property taxes are much harder on residents living on a fixed income and make our community less attractive to would-be homeowners. Caldwell needs to find new ways to fund the annual budget that ease the burden on taxpayers. We will work closely with local businesses as well as local, county, and state officials to develop revenue strategies that actually lower property taxes (4).
THE RECORD: The FY 2019-2020 budget addressed a municipal history of using short-term solutions that blurred actual budgetary costs and necessary repairs. Maintenance to our municipal properties had been deferred, staffing had been reduced to the point of affecting daily operations, and our emergency fund had been depleted. Though it included a tax increase, we voted to pass that budget to help put Caldwell on better, long-term financial footing with the goal of a lower property tax burden for FY 2020-2021. Later that year, on October 1, 2019, we voted to pass Ordinance 1372-19 which removed the sewer fee from the property tax. This did three things:
1. It lowered the property tax burden by over $1,000,000.
2. It ensured that non-taxed properties’ sewer usage would no longer be financed by property tax payers.
3. It enabled a sewer fee based on actual usage.
The FY 2020-2021 budget will reflect this lower tax burden while continuing to help the Borough recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
- Caldwell and West Caldwell have a common interest in more shared services; benefits to residents would increase and total taxpayer cost to both communities would decrease. We support a long-term evaluation of more shared service opportunities, beginning with the Department of Public Works, and a better overall relationship with West Caldwell.
THE RECORD: We have voted to renew our Recreation contract with West Caldwell, and would like to make more progress in regard to shared services.
- Caldwell’s economy is both local and increasingly centered on mobile shopping. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, 48 cents of every dollar spent at downtown shops gets recirculated locally, while only 14 cents spent online benefit Caldwell (5). The Borough needs to consistently encourage local shopping while utilizing every means available to incentivize downtown patronage. Increasing pedestrian shopping will also help to lower infrastructure maintenance costs (and therefore, property taxes) in addition to improving Caldwell’s air quality. We will promote a long-term economic development strategy that confronts these truths and innovates accordingly.
THE RECORD: For the past 3 years, we have supported #SmallBusinessSaturday events in the Downtown, and during the pandemic, Jonathan made successful motion to remove the normal $50 permit application fee for small business owners with outdoor seating so that merchants could more easily recover. We have supported active engagement between the Borough and Caldwell University to help welcome students into our Downtown.
- Local business owners have requested new municipal signage that would increase shopping downtown. We will advocate for new signage, especially parking, in order to help shoppers discover our downtown stores and shops.
THE RECORD: On April 21, 2020, we voted to acquire additional property to eventually expand current parking in the Downtown by 40% in the Smull lot instead of a more expensive, multi-level parking garage. This will expand parking capacity for new patrons to our Downtown. We would like to make more progress towards better signage when the lot and larger parking plan is implemented.
- The Farmer’s Market in the Smull Avenue municipal parking lot was a highlight of community life in Caldwell before it closed. We will advocate for a return of a Farmer’s Market and for the health, environmental, and economic benefits purchasing of locally grown produce.
THE RECORD: We supported the weekly set-up of the City Green Mobile Farmers’ Market Stand, which sells locally grown produce on the Green every Thursday in the Spring. We hope that an expanded Smull Parking Lot will help bring a full Farmers’ Market back to Caldwell.