SPDC Oktoberfest!

It was a beautiful day for that annual right of Fall, the SPDC Oktoberfest! Thank you to all our supporters and well wishers. Facts matter. Progress is undeniable. #KeepMovingForward.


Councilman Adams is talking the superb fiscal health of Scotch Plains in his latest weekly e-messenger piece to the community. Just the facts. Check it out here, and let's #KeepMovingForward

Message from Councilman Matt Adams

 

Welcome to October!  This Fall is a busy time for Scotch Plains.  The dawn of the new season brings federal, state, county, and municipal elections, along with robust planning for the new year that is right around the corner.  That means that the township’s administration and new Chief Financial Officer Christopher Macaluso, with input and direction from the Council, are hard at work on the 2023 budget.

Especially at this time of year there is, and should be, robust discussion about the direction of the municipality.  We have 9 full months “in the books” to reflect on since 2022 began.  At a time when talking points too often get substituted for actual data and statistics, it is critically important that the ongoing evaluation of the state of the township be done using objective facts, not opinion or conjecture.

I would like to highlight once such objective measure of the state of our town’s finances, a third-party report written by Moody’s Investor Service. Moody’s is a credit agency that, according to its website, provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities.

Moody’s is fiercely independent; it uses its own proprietary research criteria to assess municipal bonds to help guide the fiscal strength of local governments. For cities and towns that enjoy strong bond ratings, like Scotch Plains, they can borrow money at considerably lower interest rates to the direct benefit of taxpayers.

Although it must be used responsibly, this favorable bond capacity is part of the engine that drives the type of progress we have seen in recent years without appreciable tax increases.  It is achieved only through diligent financial management and sound fiscal planning.  Even as we dream big, we must live within our means, and that is exactly what independent observers like Moody’s look for and say we have done.

So, for people like me in a fiduciary role, as well as for any other taxpayer in our community, it is very important to hear what Moody’s has to say about Scotch Plains, especially as the township has enjoyed a relatively flat tax rate over the past eight years under governing bodies led by both Democrats and Republicans.  Since 2014, for example, the municipal portion of the tax rate in Scotch Plains has increased by an average of only 0.63%.  During that same period, the municipal portion of the tax rate was held flat -- with a 0% municipal increase -- in 2015, 2018, 2020, and 2022.  That is a tremendous feat, considering that the dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.84% per year between 2014 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 25.11% in that time.

In its report on our town, Moody’s writes: “Scotch Plains Township has an exceptional credit position. Its Aaa rating is much higher than the median rating of Aa3 for US cities. The key credit factors include a very strong financial position, a very strong wealth and income profile and a solid tax base. It also reflects a negligible debt burden and a somewhat elevated pension liability.”

Moody’s adds: The township's financial position is robust and is aligned with the assigned rating of Aaa. The cash balance as a percent of operating revenues (55.9%) is above the US median, and grew modestly from 2015 to 2019… Scotch Plains Township has an exceptionally healthy economy and tax base, which are in line with its Aaa rating.”

Those are not the words of a politician seeking elected office.  They are the words of a trusted, third-party authority regarding the financial health of a municipality.

Despite keeping taxes flat this year, Scotch Plains has used its budget for a number of improvements, such as: renovations to Greenside, Green Forest and Brookside parks; hiring a new police officer and providing our police officers with state-of-the art training and equipment like new fully outfitted patrol vehicles and body cameras; upgrading the municipal IT system; purchasing an ambulance and other life-saving equipment and education for our Fire Department; adding a DPW worker; improving leaf collection; and hosting a number of inclusive community events, according to the Town Manager’s budget briefing this spring, delivered at a public Township Council meeting.

I hope this public information helps residents gain a better understanding of the ongoing fiscal strength of our municipal operations. To review the municipal budget, as well as annual budgets back to 2012, click the tab for “Budgets & Financial Documents” at scotchplainsnj.gov.  The Moody’s report is included there, as well.

Please contact me at mattadams@scotchplainsnj.com if you have any questions or comments.

Thank you.


Your Latest Installment of JUST THE FACTS...

Your latest installment of JUST THE FACTS…
Our downtown central business district is on the rise. Our team has made unprecedented progress on downtown revitalization (see summary below), after a revitalized downtown has been talked about in Scotch Plains for 40 years! And, we are just getting started!
With 11 separate developers responding to our transparent RFQ process for the Tier 1, Phase 1 Redevelopment Plan adopted by the Council last November, we are one step closer to remaking our central business district into what residents demand and deserve.
#KeepMovingForward by voting Stamler, White, and Adams, on Column B by November 8.

Five Questions with...Elizabeth Stamler

TapInto's latest in its series on this year's incumbents on the ballot for Council focuses on Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Stamler, a fierce advocate for the residents of the place she was born and raised. Read the full article by clicking on this link

 

How long have you lived in Scotch Plaiins?
I am a lifelong resident (all 35 years) of Scotch Plains, earned a Master’s Degree in Accounting from NJ City University (2016) and a BS in Criminology from the College of NJ (2009). My family includes my partner, Seth; mother, Jeanne; and brother, John Dennis. I also have two dogs, Annie and Scout, and a foster dog or two from time to time.

Why are you running for reelection to Council?
I am running for another term on Town Council because I want to continue the momentum and progress that my running mates and I are making in Scotch Plains. It is hard to believe four years have passed by so quickly, but I believe there is still more work to do.

Tell us about your career and how your work and life experience will be beneficial.
I have spent my career in public service, so I know how to listen. I truly value the diversity of opinions that people bring to Council meetings or when they contact me to discuss issues in the town. I know they are reaching out to share their ideas because of how much they care about our town. In canvassing this year, I have heard from many residents about how we should do this or try that, and while it is not all feasible, it is always worthwhile considering different points of view because ultimately, we want to do what's most beneficial for Scotch Plains.

What are the issues that you think are most important in Scotch Plains this year?
What I am hearing most on doorsteps is that residents desire to carefully watch town spending and know about the future of downtown. Many people want to see our downtown revitalized, but want to know how much will change and at what cost. I agree with these concerns, but I also know that this has been a long time coming and that nothing worth having comes easily. I think it's extremely important to have new ratables in town, so the high tax burden is not solely on the backs of our residents. There is a high cost for living in this town. I think that's one thing we can all agree on. We do have a very safe town, however, and top-rated schools (which is where ~67% of the tax bill goes!).

What should people know about you that they might not know already? 
People should not hesitate to get involved in town issues. Your voice truly does matter and every opinion holds value. Please always reach out to your council members with ideas, questions, and concerns you may have. And don't forget to vote on Nov. 8!

Favorite music?
The Eagles, Zac Brown Band, Motown

Anything else you would like to say?
Please register to be an organ donor today. This year, we reached one million people who have received life-saving transplants. However, there are still 105,000+ people across the US waiting. Registering takes less than two minutes. You can do so here: https://registerme.org.


Five Questions with...Scotch Plains Councilman Matt Adams

TapInto’s latest in its series on this year’s incumbents on the ballot for Council focuses on Councilman Matt Adams. Read the full article by clicking on this link

Name: Matthew S. Adams
Current Occupation: Partner/ National Co-Chair, White Collar Criminal Defense and Regulatory Compliance Practice Group, Fox Rothschild LLP
Education: Rutgers University, BS (2004); Seton Hall University, JD (2007)
Family: Married father of 3 boys (Michael, 9; Andrew, 8; and Nicholas, 4)
# Years Living in Scotch Plains: I lived in Scotch Plains during law school from 2005-07, and moved back in 2014, where I have resided with my family ever since.

Why are you running for Council? 
I want to continue working on the elusive things that have evaded progress for too long because the best days for Scotch Plains are yet to come.

My grandfather -- a small business owner and local elected official in Monmouth County for close to four decades -- taught me that a public servant needs to fight every day for the needs of each and every member of the community that they serve.  My father, a police officer who ultimately ascended through the ranks to become chief of his department, taught me that there is nothing you cannot do if you put your head down and work hard at it.  I look to those important role models every day while tasked with the awesome responsibility of representing the residents of the community where I have chosen to settle and to raise my children.

Our parks, centers for socialization and growth for our children through organized and less formal activities, were allowed to fall into disrepair for too long. This changed with my leadership, and I want to continue ensuring that our town invests in our parks.

A year ago, Ida struck our region, and caused devastating flooding.  The storm reminded us that we continue to be especially vulnerable to flooding as climate change alters our weather patterns. The price tag for the various engineering and other work to make our community at less risk to flooding, however, is simply too great for our municipality to tackle alone.  Our ability to progress as a community depends upon our ability to become more flood resilient.  That is why we need to build bridges to state and federal leaders for their support.  I believe that I am particularly adept at this type of relationship building.

Sound fiscal management is vital in everything, but especially local government.  The decisions that we make as a council directly impact the wallets of our residents.  That is why I am particularly proud of the fact that we have presided over a time of such tremendous progress while keeping taxes flat and earning a AAA bond rating.  I am a details person.  My training and my job dictate it.  I sat down for hours with the mayor and the township’s chief financial officer during the budget process, carefully and painstakingly ensuring that residents would not see any increase in the municipal portion of their property tax bill. While progress no doubt requires expenditures, those expenditures must be fiscally responsible.  I am proud that we have achieved everything we have achieved for our community while keeping taxes flat and earning a AAA bond rating.  You can expect that same attention to detail from my colleagues and I as we keep moving forward.

Finally, a major part of leadership is representing all people, regardless of their background. I know that everyone will not always agree on all issues, all of the time, but when it comes to inclusivity, there is no middle ground, period.  Hate has no home in Scotch Plains, and I am not afraid to say it.

Tell us about your career and how your work and life experience are beneficial in your role as a Councilperson?
There is an obvious interplay between being a lawyer and working in government. The policy decisions that I make as a councilman are rooted in the same principles of our democracy that I have dedicated my career to mastering and carrying out through my work. Yet, there are other aspects of my legal career that I carry into my role in local government. Specifically, as a practice group leader and partner in one of the 100 largest law firms in the country, I also help run a significant business. The responsibilities and skills that I have developed in that role have direct parallels to my duties as a councilman in shaping budgets, handling personnel decisions, and developing policy.

In my personal life, I am the father of 3 very active young boys. My weekends are spent mostly on the sidelines coaching or in the stands rooting for my boys and their various teams. This has given me a direct feel for so many of the needs of our community, in particular our parks and recreation needs. This perspective has directly shaped my work as liaison to the Recreation Department and the rest of my portfolio of responsibilities as a councilman.

What are the issues that you think are most important in Scotch Plains this year?
In no particular order, because they are all equally important priorities:

  • Paving roads and fixing sidewalks;
  • Creating a local economy that attracts small businesses;
  • The revitalization of our downtown business district in an open and transparent way;
  • Continuing to rebuild our parks, recreation, and youth sports facilities;
  • Maintaining public safety and providing our first responders the tools they need;
  • Continuing to work toward solutions to the flooding issues in our town;
  • Pushing back strongly and decisively on over development;
  • Ensuring an inclusive, welcoming environment in our community, FOR ALL; and
  • Finding creative ways to derive revenue for our town to pay for all that needs to be done without increasing the tax burden on residents and keeping Scotch Plains affordable.

What should people know about you that they might not know already?
I have participated in dozens of marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons throughout my life  Those solitary events leave you alone with your own thoughts for hours. Through them, you don’t just learn a ton about yourself, you develop a mental toughness that you carry with you to the rest of your life.

Hidden Talents
I love to cook and to entertain. Before law school, I worked in nearly all facets of the restaurant business, in the front of the house and in the kitchen. It taught me a great deal about worth ethic, and also how to make a mean clam chowder, enhance the flavor of a bunch of things with rice wine vinegar, and, most of all, how to be hospitable.

Favorite Sports Teams
New York Yankees
New York Rangers
New York Jets
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Seton Hall Pirates

Anything else you would like to say?
Serving the people of Scotch Plains for the past 2 years has been the honor of a lifetime. If re-elected, I will continue to serve with honesty, integrity, and passion. Above all else, I am a fierce advocate for all our residents. Never hesitate to reach out to me at mattadams@scotchplainsnj.com, or let’s meet for a cup of coffee or a beer. The road to lasting progress is not always easy, but I am always in your corner.