Local Finance Board approvals given; Lyndhurst case deferred pending legal review

TRENTON –The Local Finance Board today approved these applications under the Environmental Infrastructure Trust Loan program: Fanwood, $2.187 million; Ocean Township sewer main, $1 million; Ocean Township water main, $850,000; Dover Town, $265,000; and Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, $19 million.

The board approved these bond re-fundings: Bergen County Improvement Authority, for Englewood Board of Education, $18 million; and Old Bridge Municipal Utilities Authority, $10 million.

Warren Hills Regional Board of Education was approved for $21.3 million.

Two U.S. Department of Agriculture loan applications received approval: Frenchtown, $2.633 million; Upper Deerfield, $1.887 million.

The board  OK’d these towns’ applications to revert to a calendar year from a fiscal year: Upper Beach and Highlands boroughs, and Berlin and Manchester townships.

Kearny’s $2.9 million qualified bond ordinance application was OK’d.

Fire districts

Jackson Township Fire District 1 was approved for $460,000 to replace firefighting apparatus.

Howell Township Fire District 3 was approved for $500,000 to replace a rescue/hazardous materials truck. The purchase price is $788,000, and financing is 1.96 percent for a three-year term.

Tax appeals

Lincoln Park was OK’d for $222,000. This is partially related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency purchasing more than 112 flood-damaged homes, thus reducing the town’s ratable base.

Chairmen Thomas Neff pointed out that in the future, the board will be requiring explanations from towns as to what they have done short of borrowing: have they eliminated nonessential programs, curtailed overnight travel, used layoffs or furloughs, and adopted aggressive bargaining postures with unions.

“There will be a more stringent review going forward,’’ he said.

Tax appeals/Lyndhurst

Two applications involving Lyndhurst, $2.988 million and $1.143 million, were not voted on. Neff said the board wants the Attorney General’s office to review first whether they are lawful under the “tax appeals” umbrella.

The application is related to a complicated, lawsuit-entangled, 10-year-old matter involving a  once-proposed 2,000-unit multifamily residence and golf course development project that never came to fruition.

In reference to Neff’s earlier comments about what towns have done short of borrowing, Lyndhurst officials said the town already has resorted to layoffs and cutting services.

But still, the board wants legal OK before proceeding on the case that involves disputed tax assessments and contaminated property.

Rockaway’s $2.07 million application was approved. The town said it has cut personnel from 170 to 150 and has set aside $800,000 so that it is not borrowing the entire amount needed.

Bordentown Township’s application for $568,000 was OK’d.

West Deptford refinery

West Deptford’s request for $33 million was approved. This is related to a multiyear heavily-litigated tax appeal battle involving the now largely shuttered Eagle Point refinery that Sunoco currently owns.

Town officials told the board that the various parties have worked toward a $32.4 million settlement covering the years 1988 to 2011 and would like to finance the entire amount over 20 years, and that for all but the first year the average household tax impact would be in excess of $50 per year.

The board’s chief concern was that the town itself has not formally approved the matter yet, and it did not want finance board approval being used as “leverage’’ to try and force other local officials to back the settlement. 

Local officials informed the board that would not be the case.

Neff stressed that that the board was not giving an opinion on the overall settlement, but merely was considering the appropriateness of the financing itself.

Bond ordinances

Pequannock’s $5.2 million bond ordinance request was approved. This was for acquisition of flood-prone properties.

Irvington’s $150,000 application was approved.

Hudson County Improvement Authority’s $145 million application was approved This is for renewal of a pool that helps Bayonne, Hoboken, Weehawken, and several other towns with  financing.

Also approved:

Middlesex County Improvement Authority, $15 million

Bergen County Improvement Authority, Fort Lee Board of Education, $20.4 million

 Atlantic County Improvement Authority, luxury tax funds usage, $3 million

Camden,  proposed public-private contract amendments for water supply and wastewater treatment that are designed to improve transparency, among other things.

The budget of Woodbine Municipal Port Authority was approved; approval of such budgets falls under the board’s purview. Local Finance Board approvals given; Lyndhurst case deferred pending legal review