“Pencils down!” Campaign Complete

Thank you, Blairstown! from Kevin Doell on Vimeo.

It’s now time for Blairstown’s voters to exercise their rights to choose. If you still need more information to make your decision please take a look at our website  or send an email to Team@betterblairstown.com to contact us.

We can’t say enough about our gratitude to the family, friends, and supporters who have helped us along the way. It has been an honor to participate in the democratic process as candidates for office. We highly recommend the experience for everyone.

Please honor those who have fought for our freedoms by voting on November 6th.

When November 7th rolls around, and each day thereafter, you can “vote” again by volunteering for the causes that shape our community and make Blairstown a great town to live in.

Thank you, Blairstown!

Respectfully,
Kevin and Karen

REVIEW: Sikkesmoorhead.com… Really?

REVIEW: Sikkesmoorhead.com… really? from Kevin Doell on Vimeo.

If a campaign team can’t fill out a website template in seven months, what does that say about what they will accomplish as members of the Township Committee?

As for an update, the NJ Herald printed a new article today that listed a facebook page under one candidate’s submission. The other candidate did not respond to the paper’s request for information.

Two points on that last note. Not everybody is on Facebook and won’t go there because of all the negativity on those pages. As for ignoring a newspaper’s request for information, well that says a lot about a person’s commitment to transparency.

We Care and Prepare

Doell and Klein Care and Prepare from Kevin Doell on Vimeo.

When it comes down to it, our “Care and Prepare” video is about accountability.

Voters have the right to know what their candidates have been doing to prepare for the office they are running for, as well as their record of voting, which says a lot about a candidate’s long-term commitment to the democratic process.

The bottom line is that Doell and Klein have showed up at every Twp Committee meeting since April to learn the issues and engage in the process. In addition, we have a demonstrated history of voting.

Our opponent’s record speaks for itself. They attended just one Township meeting in seven months and their voting record is not what one would expect of those seeking office. Out of the last 10 general elections spanning 2007-2017, Doell and Klein both voted 10 times in 10 years. One of our opponents voted only once and the other in only 50 percent of the general elections during the same 10-year period.

If you are not committed enough to our democracy to vote, why should you expect to have the privilege of holding public office?

The Warren County Board of Elections makes available public voting records.  You can call them at 908-475-6314 for information.

Our public voting record is available through this link.

Vote Doell and Klein Nov 6 for a #BetterBlairstown.

Have you considered voting by mail?

Do you have a plan to vote in the November 6 election?
Consider mailing your ballot.

Voting by mail is easier than you think:

  1. Print out the “Vote by Mail” application form that is available online from the State of New Jersey.
  2. Fill out the application and mail it 7 days prior to the Election. But be SAFE. Mail it TODAY!
  3. The form linked to is already addressed for you. Just mail it to:

Holly Mackey
Court House,
413 Second Street,
Belvidere, NJ 07823-1500

  1. Fill out the ballot that Warren County sends you and mail it in. DONE!

BUT, you have to be a registered voter in order to vote by mail. You can check your status online.

If you are not registered, you can fill out a form to register.

Call us if you have any questions!

9/26 Twp Committee Workshop Takeaway… Blairstown’s broke…

 Just eight members of the public attended to hear the message that we are broke.

Much of the discussion was around what’s to be discussed on Oct. 24 at North Warren Regional High School. The picture painted was grim…

The township’s operational budget has already been cut to the bone and Blairstown’s financial reserve balance will drop another $70,000 by year end. If nothing is done to shore up our town finances we could be “bankrupt in 4 to 5 years.”

The Township is proposing taking out a bond for $1 to $1.2 Million to fix some roads and would apply the revenues from a new $0.055 municipal tax (per $100 property valuation) to pay off the bonds and recharge the plummeting reserves. The resultant municipal tax would generate around $400,000 a year in new revenue for the Township.

When discussing the Open Space tax, we learned that if all open space debts were paid off, there would be about $82,000 left over. The idea was floated to cut the Open Space tax in half in order to offset the proposed creation of the Municipal Tax. A concern was raised that the Open Space tax covers more than open space. It covers history and recreation activities as well, thereby providing resources to the town to cover a range of other expenses. Cut the Open Space tax too much, and you will need to find the resources from somewhere else.

Other conversations ensued about getting Hardwick and Knowlton and other surrounding towns to contribute funds to offset the costs of maintaining the Fire Department and the recreation programs. This is “Old Business” as well, as it has been a point of discussion for many years, but without any real progress.

There was also a fair amount of talk around complex issues such as combining schools, the difficulty of generating tax rateables, and the challenges inherent in growth and development while preserving Blairstown’s rural character.

By the end of the evening, there was a general feeling of “no” in the air. No way. No how. No shot. No can do. Yes, there is a lot on Blairstown’s plate, but it’s clear that Blairstown needs some new energy and innovation to turn the “No’s” into a few “Yes’s.”

Vote “Yes” for Doell and Klein  and a #BetterBlairstown on November 6!

Other Notes on Agenda items…
OLD BUSINESS
1 – Walnut Valley Underground Oil Tank Remediation. No update. STILL OLD BUSINESS
2 – Proposed Amendment to the “Water” Ordinance. TOWN HAS TO GO TO BID FOR REAL COSTS TO FIX. COULD BE AROUND $600,000.
3- Set date for Social Media Seminar. MAYBE FEB 2019?
NEW BUSINESS

1 – Marty’s Reliable Cycle Buck Hill Brews and Views Fall Bike Ride- use of Footbridge Park as starting and ending point and parking for riders. October 29 from 7:30am – 2pm.
APPROVED COOL
2 – Rotary Halloween Parade on Oct 31, 2018 from 4pm-6pm- Main Street to Bridge Street to Stillwater Road. APPROVED GREAT
3 – November 2018 meeting date change from Nov 14 to Nov 7. Cancellation of Dec 26, 2018 meeting. APPROVED OK
4 – Discussion – Oct 24, 2018 Public Forum Meeting Agenda… OH BOY… see you on the 24th

TWP June Workshop Crib Notes: No 24-hour police, no major road repairs this year, and what a 2019 Municipal Tax might look like

pothole
My favorite Heller Hill Pothole… as of June 2, 2018 (hopefully gone by this post)

I attended the Blairstown Township Committee monthly Town hall “Workshop” meeting on Wednesday, June 27, and learned a couple of things I thought I would pass along in case you hadn’t heard:

  • No 24-hour Blairstown Policing on the Horizon: The Township has scrubbed its previously announced November public referendum on whether to expand the Blairstown Police to a 24-hour operation. The Committee members stated that the move would be cost prohibitive given the current fiscal situation where there just isn’t even revenue to cover both the cost of additional policing and the Township’s pressing need to fix its roads…
  • No Major Road Repairs in 2018: New Jersey contributes one paved road to Blairstown a year. This year’s contribution will go to fixing Mohican Road. That’s it. All other paving repairs would need to come from the Blairstown budget. However, since there is no money in the 2018 budget for road paving, the only action the Township can take this year is to fill the worst of the potholes with patches. (If you have a doozy of a pothole you want fixed, contact the town and they will have the DPW fix it.) Any 2019 paving projects will need to be planned for in the 2019 budget
  • New Revenue Sources are Needed for the 2019 Budget: For months now, Township Committee members have been talking about the insufficient funds in the current budget to take care of our basic infrastructure, including roads. The discussion Wednesday night covered some specific ideas to include, establishing a new Municipal Tax and getting a loan to cover the cost of the road repairs. The cost of the tax to the tax payers’ would be offset by cutting the “Municipal Open Space” tax in half – from $.02 per $100 of assessed home value down to $.01.
  • How Much New Revenue is Needed? According to Township documents, every additional penny of taxes per $100 of assessed home value only provides the Township with an additional $71,000 in annual revenue. Mayor Lance felt that the Township needed to be aggressive with a possible temporary increase of $.05 per $100 of assessed value in order to care for just the road problem. Such an increase would add about $355,000 to the Township’s coffers. This would certainly be helpful given that at the May meeting the Township identified more than $1.5 million in needed road repairs. Deputy Mayor Van Valkenburg suggested that any additional taxes could be used to pay down the loan that would be needed to fix the roads.
  • How Much Might Your Taxes Increase by? The answer depends on your property’s assessment. According to 2016 data from the US Census Bureau there are 2,325 total housing units in Blairstown at a median value of $304,000. After analyzing figures from the Township’s May presentation, it appears that every penny of tax assessed on a $304,000 property is worth around $30. So at the end of the day, if the Township assessed a new five cent tax to fix the roads, while dropping our open space tax by one cent, the median household would incur an extra $120.00 annually, about $10 a month or $0.33 a day. If your house is worth more, the rate would be higher. If your house is worth less, the figure would be lower. The $10 a month is just an example.

For all this, it’s early days when it comes to decisions around the 2019 budget. Much will change in the months and weeks to come as more information becomes available and discussions take place. However, if we want to have a say in how our local government is run we need to be a part of those discussions. Yes, that means showing up. As you can see, attending the Township Committee meetings can be quite enlightening. I highly recommend it, though you may want to fuel up on some coffee before you get there as they tend to run a little long at times!

Kevin Doell

What’s In Your Better Blairstown?

#BetterBlairstown

We had a great campaign kickoff party yesterday. The event attracted a truly diverse set of people who shared a great many things in common. One commonality among all was the desire to make a #BetterBlairstown.

As part of our research, Karen and I hung a large sheet of paper on the wall. We offered up some crayons and waited to see what would happen. Sometimes the most powerful way to engage is not with a statement, but with a question so we asked, “What’s in your Better Blairstown?”

In all, I counted 46 comments and a good number of exclamation points. Here’s what folks wrote from the left side of the wall to the right. (No political puns intended, though a good pun nevertheless as you’ll see from the comments below.):

  • Unrestricted recreational
  • Even treatment of events
  • Call Pete!
  • Understanding differences
  • Tennis courts
  • Different cuisine
  • Roads paved
  • Keep taxes low
  • More Democrats
  • Live feed TC meetings
  • Switch police coverage instead of 24/7. Leave 4am-10am on state watch, instead of 12 am – 6 am
  • Better and professional town website that also lists all the town events + businesses. Make Blairstown attractive to prospective residents
  • Support senior citizen development / complex
  • Reconfigure COHA map
  • Create schedule for future road paving projects
  • Dedicated Democrats!
  • Newly paved roads
  • Clean water
  • Progress
  • More things to do!
  • Work on Bus. Develop.
  • Train service to Hoboken / NY
  • Trains and buses to get to work!
  • Protected land
  • Jobs!
  • A Welcoming Community for ALL!
  • Fix roads
  • Fix Sewer
  • Fix the F Sewer working together
  • Community Center
  • Community Center
  • Creative thinking to solve issues
  • More for kids that went into sports
  • Change
  • Restaurants! Not just pizza
  • Support alternative, common sense waste management
  • Bring the Community Together Rep + Dem = One Voice
  • Keep our taxes low
  • A Booming downtown
  • A café or hangout spot that stays open late
  • Paid EMT!
  • Bike lanes
  • Televise town meetings so all can see and hear the issues. Can go through facebook.
  • Darker skies!
  • Don’t allow public officials to intimidate those who are working for positive change
  • Community Pool

When all was said and done, the question posed to those who attended was, “How would getting representatives elected to Township Committee that shared their viewpoints impact their ability to achieve their goals for Blairstown?”

For me, the answer is that we will start making progress and building momentum for positive change.

The question also calls to mind that it will take a concerted group effort to make it happen. We need the community’s support and investment if we are to be successful. Please donate today if you can, or lend your talents to our campaign as we work to make a #BetterBlairstown for all who live here.

Kevin Doell

Time is running out for the “Energy Receipts Tax Property Tax Relief”

decline in energy tax receipts

Blairstown is running out of money. This point was made pretty clear at the April 25th Blairstown Township Committee Workshop meeting. You can see the full slide deck here. Each year, the budget runs about $4 million just to keep the lights on, so to speak. We get about $3M from the energy receipts tax and plug the $1 million dollar hole with fund balance reserves, which are fast being depleted. None of the money comes from local taxes because we just so happen to live in one of the handful of communities in New Jersey that doesn’t have a municipal tax.

That’s right. There are no municipal taxes in Blairstown. Period. Instead, our bills have been paid for by a power company for decades on end. But the well has been drying up over the years as others have tapped into the same resource and we need to look for other resources to keep our township going.

During the meeting, the Township leaders laid out a picture of declining revenues in the face of increasing need. For example, there was one slide showing the need for more than $1.5 million in road repairs, above and beyond the pot holes we drive over every day. There was also mention of the need for a new fire truck, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then there was another slide that spoke to the desire to increase local policing to run a 24-hour coverage at an additional cost of about $414,000. We learned that this decision would be left to the voters in a referendum in the November election.

What was ironic here was that while it was clear that Blairstown doesn’t have enough revenue to pay for what we already have, suddenly the conversation shifted to a debate on whether or not to have a 24-hour police force. The fact that we don’t have the money to pay our “normal” bills was left behind.

This will prove to be an interesting discussion in the months to come as we figure out as a community what to do about the impending budget shortfall. What was plain to see is that the energy receipts money tree has lost its bloom. Soon we will all have a lot more “skin in the game” as we pick up the tab and begin the make investment decisions that affect the future of our community.

The big question is, when will we run into a deficit scenario? The graph above shows years past. What will the graph show for five years hence? That’s a question for the next town hall meeting.

 

Better Blairstown Blog Comments Policy

On these pages we will share our thoughts on the issues facing Blairstown as they pertain to our candidacy. Sometimes we will cover economic issues, other times, community happenings, or issues around communications and accountability.

We hope this proves to be a positive forum to share ideas on how to make a “Better Blairstown” for all residents. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our ideas, but we feel this needs to be an online space that is safe for disagreement. As such we will ask that everyone adhere to our comments policy below, which is intended to keep the “civil in civics.”

We reserve the right to delete any comments that are in poor taste, mean, snarky, or downright uncivil. We believe in the First Amendment freedom of speech, so if someone wishes to violate the comments policy, they should feel free to share those thoughts on their own blog or social media platform, not ours.

Special thanks to Michael Hyatt for sharing his thoughtful policy in the spirit of open exchanges.

Comments Policy

  1. You may comment without registering.
  2. You may post anonymously. I don’t recommend this, but you may do so if you wish. I may change this rule if it is abused.
  3. You may post follow-up questions. If you have a question, chances are you are not alone. Others are likely thinking similarly. Therefore, I would rather receive your comments on my blog than via email. It is a better use of my time to address everyone at once rather than answer several similar emails.
  4. You may disagree with me. I welcome debate. However, I ask that if you disagree with me—or anyone else, for that matter—do so in a way that is respectful. In my opinion, there is way too much shouting in the public square to tolerate it here.
  5. I reserve the right to delete your comments. This is my blog. I don’t have an obligation to publish your comments. If you’re a U.S. citizen, The First Amendment gives you the right to express your opinions on your blog not mine.Specifically, I will delete your comments if you post something that is, in my sole opinion, (a) snarky; (b) off-topic; (c) libelous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, profane, pornographic, offensive, false, misleading, or which otherwise violates or encourages others to violate my sense of decorum and civility or any law, including intellectual property laws; or (d) “spam,” i.e., an attempt to advertise, solicit, or otherwise promote goods and services. You may, however, post a link to your site or your most recent blog post.
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