A look at issues facing the City of Englewood. Michael W. Curley, Jr./NorthJersey.com
(Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com)
ENGLEWOOD — Faced with revenue shortfalls, declining reserves and a steep tax hike, the City Council on Tuesday appointed five residents to a Financial Advisory Committee that will tackle the city’s struggling finances.
The group will work to develop plans to improve the city’s credit rating, review short-term and long-term financial goals, evaluate the city’s budget, analyze the impact of collective bargaining and offer recommendations to the council on outstanding debt and other financial matters.
“They will hopefully come together immediately,” said Wayne Hamer, the council president. “They will do a quick analysis of our budget and make sure we adhere to sound economic practices.”
Residents Adam Brown, Jonathan Miller, Kevin Stewart, Jacqueline Wisner and Robert Kohlhagen will serve for five-year terms. The committee can expand to up to 15 members, said Hamer.
Brown is a former chairman of the recently-disbanded Englewood Economic Development Corporation and a co-author of a report sent to the city council earlier this month that blasted the city for “recklessly” failing to raise revenue and amassing debt.
The report, which was co-authored by councilman Charles Cobb and former councilman Marc Forman, noted that the city’s credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s in 2016 and 2017.
Cobb said Tuesday that the city is at a “critical impasse” with its budget and continues to work to bring down a tax increase that was initially pegged at 7.4 percent but is now at slightly below 6 percent. A 7.4-percent tax hike would have increased municipal taxes on the owner of a home assessed at the city average of $461,700 by $382.
The $65 million budget is expected to be introduced at the city’s next council meeting on March 28.
Mayor Frank Huttle, who called on the city last month to immediately reduce spending and increase revenue, has formed his own group to examine Englewood’s budgetary practices.
The mayor’s Budget and Finance Commission is tasked with reviewing expenditures, addressing the 2018 budget, establishing sound fiscal principals and setting up a five-year financial plan that stabilizes property taxes and improves revenue. It will be composed of no more than nine members, including residents, Huttle and no more than two city councilmembers.
Councilwoman Katharine Glynn is one of the two councilmembers. Michael Cohen was the other but said earlier this month that he will work with the council’s group and ask the mayor to dissolve his.
Hamer said he expects to add more members to the city’s Financial Advisory Committee in the near future based on recommendations from the council.