Guttenberg Mayor Raises Red Flag Over Weehawken’s Funding Shortfall for Regional Fire Department
Guttenberg, NJ – Guttenberg Mayor Wayne Zitt has voiced concerns over the Township of Weehawken’s inadequate funding for the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue (NHRF&R), potentially putting firefighters at risk. Zitt attributes the issue to Weehawken’s use of tax abatement deals with developers, leading to manpower shortages and compromising firefighter safety.
“There have been manpower shortages at dangerous fires that are placing our firefighters in potential peril,” said Zitt. “And it stems mainly from the Township of Weehawken purposely shortchanging the department through tax abatement deals it has made with developers.”
Weehawken, led by Mayor Richard Turner, who also serves as the NHRF&R’s board chairman, has allegedly exploited an outdated budget formula for the department. This formula is used to calculate annual payments made by each of the five member communities, including Weehawken, West New York, Union City, North Bergen, and Guttenberg. As a result, Weehawken has managed to exempt up to $618 million in assessed 2022 improvement taxes, primarily on waterfront properties, by using Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements with major property owners.
The NHRF&R’s annual budget is funded by contributions from the five towns, based on each community’s total assessed tax valuation. However, this does not include properties that are exempt for various purposes, such as PILOT program agreements. According to Mayor Zitt, Weehawken has signed multiple PILOT agreements with major waterfront developers, reducing the township’s required contributions to the NHRF&R. These revenues are not included in the department’s budget calculations.
Mayor Zitt claims that Weehawken’s approach is deceitful, taking advantage of communities like Guttenberg and Union City, where the use of PILOT programs is virtually nonexistent. He says that Weehawken is collecting millions of dollars in tax revenue on properties that are not considered to have any taxable improvement value when calculating its payments to the NHRF&R.
“This is a deceitful method of taking advantage of other communities sharing the service such as Guttenberg and Union City where the use of such PILOT programs is virtually non-existent” said Zitt. “Weehawken is annually collecting millions of dollars in tax revenue on properties that are not being considered to have any taxable improvement value when calculating its payments to the NHRF&R. It unconscionable.”
In response to the issue, Guttenberg has called for an updated formula for computing contributions from the five member towns, urging Mayor Turner to make the process fair and free of abuses. If necessary, Guttenberg is prepared to take the issue to court to protect the well-being of NHRF&R members and North Hudson residents.
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