Montclair’s Capital Finance Committee says its ability to advise council is threatened by an “unwillingness of the township manager to cooperate.”
The CFC details alleged difficulties with town manager Marc Dashield in a status report from citizen members — Peter Rappoport, Joan Zief, Ben Asher, Brian Clarkson, Amod Vaze and John Reichman. The report, signed by chairman John Reichman, is dated October 17 and was sent to council members and the town manager. Reichman tells Baristanet that the CFC have not received a response to this report:
When the CFC was reconstituted in 2008, its mission was, among other things, to assist in developing and recommending capital expense policy, to review capital projects and prioritize them and to review and analyze capital budgets. We believe that we have had a substantial, constructive impact on Montclair’s capital spending policy. Our initial report provided the Council and the public with important information which had not been previously compiled or analyzed with respect to the Township’s debt; we successfully recommended, over the initial objections of the Township’s consultant, that Montclair needed to convert much of it short term notes to bonds in order to take advantage of low interest rates and to remove the risk of future rate increases; and we gave thorough and reasoned reports explaining why the Council should not pursue the Senior Care project, but go ahead with South Park Street.
There are important matters for the CFC to examine in 2011 and 2012. We want to review and report back on the following matters: (i) whether the South Park Street project continues to make economic sense in light of the Town’s delay in proceeding with the Project and its large, unexplained underestimation of the project’s costs; (ii) the Town’s practice of putting unexpended capital funds into the operating budget; (iii) the Edgemont Park project where there appears to be a lack of clarity about what that project will cost and who will pay for it: (iv) developing a methodology for ranking and prioritizing capital needs which the Town Manager’s current, bare boned capital budget fails to do; (v) the sale of capital assets and whether the proceeds should be used for short term fixes to the operating budget; and (vi) weaning the Town away from putting predictable annual expenses, such as street paving and IT upgrades, in the capital budget. We are also, of course willing to look at other issues when they arise or which the Council wants us to examine.
Unfortunately, our ability to advise you is by threatened by the unwillingness of the Township Manager to cooperate with us. For example, over the course of the last year, we have repeatedly asked Mr. Dashield for copies of the Town’s capital budget as soon as it prepared. We were repeatedly assured by Mr. Dashield that it would be provided to us and we would have an opportunity to provide input.
Mr. Dashield nonetheless submitted a capital plan to the council. We never received a copy or any notice that this was occurring. Further, the “plan,” to be charitable, is completely lacking in any of the details that the Council needs to make an informed capital spending decision. There is no ranking of projects by importance, no analysis of budgetary impacts and no evaluation of alternatives.
This was far from the first time we have received no cooperation from the Town Manager. Previously, it took us months to even get a meeting with Mr. Dashield.
We believe that we have made substantial contributions to the Town and the Council and we want to continue to contribute, but we need Mr. Dashield’s cooperation consistent with the Council’s July 22, 2008 resolution.