The much debated proposed senior/community center is losing support. The council is now divided (maybe it is this council’s Marlboro Inn). Councilor Rich Murnick told the Montclair Times he no longer supports the idea. Councilor Nick Lewis sent a lengthy note that was posted to members of the Montclair Unmoderated (see jump for a snippet) basically saying that although the center wasn’t a “bad idea,” the Town’s budget in 2010 makes it creation impossible. Cary Africk and Renee Baskerville have already voiced their opposition. That leaves Mayor Fried and councilors Roger Terry and Kathryn Weller as the only members in favor.
Tthe Township is facing an incredibly difficult budget in 2010 and it does not appear that we can fund the operations of the Community Center, if we chose to purchase it. As a result of the change in Township Manager, the budget process has been somewhat delayed. We knew for some time that 2010 would be a difficult year, since we were starting with significant increases in health benefit and pension costs, modest wage increases and the usual increases in insurance and utilities. We are now learning from a preliminary review by Marc Dashield that our 2010 budget problem will be extremely severe. Our revenue is uncertain, due in part to the impact of tax appeals, the loss of parking revenue due to the business slowdown and huge question marks created by the change in administration in Trenton. We were just told by the Town Manager that we are facing a revenue shortfall in the $2 million range. It appears likely that expenditures will need to be cut by as much as $2 million in the coming budget. This appears to make it impossible to fulfill the dream of opening a Community Center by taking advantage of the opportunity to buy the Senior Care building in 2010. Even if we found a way to purchase it, the strain on our operating budget would make it impossible to run. The only way that the purchase could be considered at this point is if a donor or donors came forward and provided funds to operate the facility. This seems unlikely to me, but that possibility is being pursued by Deputy Mayor Terry and others. I did not realize the extent of our budget problem earlier or I would not have been party to giving the false hope that it was possible to purchase the Senior Care building. This does not mean that it was a bad idea or that the need doesn’t exist. It means that the specific circumstances surrounding the Town’s budget in 2010 create a situation that prevents the creation of a Community Center.