Township Engineer Kim Craft described the projects that the municipality is seeking grants for at the Montclair Council’s conference meeting Tuesday night. LINDA MOSS/STAFF

By LINDA MOSS
moss@montclairlocal.news

Saying that proposed federal-tax changes will be devastating for New Jersey residents, the Township Council weighed in on the issue Tuesday night by passing a resolution against the legislation that will eliminate so-called “SALT” deductions.

The local governing body at its conference meeting unanimously voted for the resolution, which urges Congress to protect the deductibility of state and local taxes, SALT, from federal income taxes, a feature that’s been part of the federal tax code for more than 100 years.

“I emphatically vote yes, because I believe the federal government is ruining our state by doing this, Congress and our president,” At-large Councilman Bob Russo said. “I think we have to send a message to them. It is absolutely outrageous what they are doing.”

That action came after the council held a hearing where representatives of more than a half dozen entities, local nonprofits as well as the township, made their pleas to receive Community Development Block Grants. The municipality has applied for grants for five projects, including improvements to Rand Park, seeking roughly $97,000 for that alone.

Representatives of United Way of Northern New Jersey, COPE Center Inc., the Montclair Neighborhood Development Center, HOMECorp, Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates, known as S.O.F.I.A., Brother to Brother, Succeed2gether and the Interfaith Hospitality Network also addressed the council explaining what they would do with the grant money they are requesting, initiatives ranging from help for the homeless, anti-opioid addiction programs, after-school tutoring, and safe-dating courses for young women.

The CDBG program is run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and funds local community-development activities.

While attending to those local issues, Russo and Third Ward Councilman Sean Spiller said that they wanted to make a statement about the controversial tax-reform legislation that the U.S. Senate passed last week. Experts say that removing SALT deductions will particularly hurt residents in New Jersey, New York and California, where residents pay high local and state taxes.

Earlier this week, state Governor-elect Phil Murphy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Jerry Brown held a joint press conference to announce their plans to team up to derail the legislation, possibly by challenging it in court.

The municipality’s resolution, and critics of the proposed tax reform, contend that without SALT deductions New Jersey residents will be subject to double taxation.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville was in festive garb at the Township Council’s conference meeting Tuesday night. She had come from a holiday event at the Charles H. Bullock School.
LINDA MOSS/STAFF

“The deduction is especially important for middle-income homeowners, as 50 percent of the deductions claimed by taxpayers making $50,000 to $100,000 are for property taxes,” the resolution said.

It asks New Jersey’s Congressional delegation “to oppose, with voice and vote, any proposal to eliminate the fair and reasonable SALT deductibility provision” from the Federal Tax Code.

“This is something that is pretty straightforward for all of us here in New Jersey, in terms of obviously asking Congress to look at what’s happening at the federal level … to ensure that New Jersey’s best interests are … [considered] going forward,” Spiller said.

Even First Ward Councilman Bill Hurlock, who has said he abhors township resolutions on national issues, voted for Tuesday’s SALT one.

“I don’t usually vote on these types of things, but I will vote yes in this instance,” he said.

During the CDBG hearing, Township Engineer Kim Craft outlined the projects that the municipality is seeking funds for. In addition to adding barrier-free improvements to Rand Park’s playground, the township is proposing the repaving of: Fulton and Miller streets, at $170,000; Hitchcock Place, at $76,000; and Woodland Avenue and Wheeler Street, at $229,000.

Mayor Robert Jackson questioned the cost estimates, saying that they seemed “extraordinarily” high.

HOMECorp’s Acting Executive Director David Gill made a pitch for roughly $69,000 to replace 23 windows at that group’s affordable-housing residence on Williams Street, which is nearly 100 years old.

The United Way has applied for $100,000 to create a new driveway for its building on South Fullerton Avenue, which currently only has one driveway for entrance and exit.

Brother to Brother, led by executive director Joe Davis, for the first time ever applied for a CDBG grant. Davis told the council that his organization is seeking $25,000 to create a summer, night-time mentoring program for males from the six to the eighth grades.

That program would be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and aims to help build self-esteem for boys and keep them busy during summer nights, Davis told the council.