As Mayor, I prioritize public safety as one of the most fundamental responsibilities of government. In Montclair we’re fortunate to have a team of excellent professionals serving our community, responding to emergencies, and keeping residents safe. Montclair residents can rest assured that our professional Montclair Fire Department stands ready at a moment’s notice, whether they are extinguishing house fires, resolving dangerous gas leaks, or helping residents during natural disasters and floods. Our firefighters can be counted on to answer the call and save lives. I know we all share a deep sense of appreciation for all our professionals do every day.
Another core priority has been to ensure the financial sustainability of our township. Since 2011, we have cut the debt by about $78 Million dollars and moved up to the highest bond rating (AAA). That has saved residents millions per year in debt service, which we use to make unprecedented investments in paving roads, replacing sewer lines, and other infrastructure improvements. In addition, we’re always focused on finding innovative, cost effective solutions to deliver the highest quality services to residents.
Our agreement to provide firefighting services to our neighboring township of Glen Ridge helps achieve both objectives – keeping Montclair safe and bringing in revenue to benefit Montclair taxpayers.
After working with Glen Ridge for a number of years, we know exactly what our annual costs are to provide fire service and protection. By engaging in a shared services agreement, Montclair receives dollars that far exceed our incremental cost associated with providing fire services to Glen Ridge. Our lone costs are fuel, maintenance, and vehicle depreciation; not one additional firefighter is employed to service Glen Ridge. Therefore, the net gain for Montclair taxpayers is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, every single year of our agreement. This revenue reduces costs to Montclair residents, promotes public safety and enhances the long-term financial sustainability of our township.
By achieving a multi-year agreement, Montclair is able to maintain long-term cost and service certainty. Subjecting our finances and service infrastructure to the whims of a yearly bidding process could result in Montclair being the winning bidder in one year, and undercut the next, putting our finances and firefighting capacity in a constant state of unpredictability.
For our neighbors in Glen Ridge, this agreement provides the protection, and peace of mind for residents that the first-rate, professional Montclair Fire Department affords.
We must also consider that in the absence of an agreement with Glen Ridge, the costs of maintaining our professional fire department would not be meaningfully reduced. Again, only a small savings on fuel, maintenance, and vehicle depreciation would be realized. However, without an agreement, we would not receive any dollars — dollars that are well above and beyond the costs we incur. Absent winning the bid, Montclair taxpayers would see items cut from the budget or have to make up those dollars with tax increases.
It is critical to realize that county mutual aid protocols dictate that without an agreement, the Montclair Fire Department would still be responsible for responding to emergencies in Glen Ridge. Montclair residents would bear the entirety of the cost, providing the service to Glen Ridge, for free.
In a competitive closed bidding environment, we measure the success of an agreement not just by money in hand today, but by the long term predictability this kind of agreement provides. We balance the overall value of the financial agreements with the practical and financial realities the absence of those agreements would create.
The fire agreement we have reached with Glen Ridge is a win-win for public safety and financial sustainability. As Mayor, I am proud of this agreement as it achieves our responsibilities to the residents of Montclair.
— Sean Spiller, Mayor of Montclair