Around Town With Mayor Palmer
The following is from Mayor Kenneth Palmer:
Growing up in Pine Lake Park, the Sixth Avenue Park was a mainstay for me and my friends. Whether it was basketball, baseball or football, we always seemed to be playing at the park. The park was within a short bike ride distance so when the street lights came on, I could get home in five minutes. Unfortunately, over the years, Sixth Avenue Park, like a number of our parks in town, have been in decline for a myriad of reasons. One of my goals after being elected, was to develop a systematic plan to revitalize our parks. Some of our parks need a major overhaul (Sixth Avenue Park), while some other parks can use some updating (playground equipment at Bowker Field) and some other parks are in great shape (World War II).
With the cooperation and help of the Town Council, we are implementing the Park Revitalization Plan. The plan is to revitalize one park per year. This year we have already begun revitalizing the Sixth Avenue Park. To date, we have ripped up the black top that covered half of the field. I am proud to announce that the Town Council has approved the purchase of new playground equipment and we plan to construct a small pavilion so parents can sit in the shade. We are resurfacing the basketball and tennis courts, improving the beach volleyball court and installing an irrigation system so the field will be green and lush. We want to make this park a place where parents and kids look forward to using.
Importantly, we are paying for the Park Revitalization Plan from our Open Space Fund. As a part of your tax bill, each tax payer pays 1 penny per $100 of their assessed value towards our Open Space Fund. This past year, the Open Space Tax yielded approximately $320,000 in revenue. That seems like a lot of money, however, the majority of the Open Space revenue is used to pay the bonds taken by the town to fund some large purchases of Open Space along County Route 571. Thanks to Martin Lynch’s diligence (our tax assessor), Manchester Township was reimbursed over $800,000.00 from the State of New Jersey’s Open Space fund for those purchases. Please note, this money is specifically earmarked to maintain our parks and open space.
For those who have lived in town for a number years and can recall when the town previously improved this park, vandals were not far behind. As a deterrent and protection to town property, we are installing cameras that provide 24 hour surveillance. I have also asked our police department to increase their watch of the park. When completed, my hope is to drive by the Sixth Avenue Park and see kids playing football in the fields, toddlers swinging on the playground swings, and parents enjoying some shade under the pavilion. After we complete Sixth Avenue Park this year, we will turn our attention to the next park. Slow and steady wins the race.
Manchester Township is pleased to accept the generous donation of a Senior Motion Wellness System from Pfizer and the Wakefern Food Corporation that will serve as a fitness and meeting space for seniors at Harry Wright Lake.
The Township Council accepted the donation through a resolution passed at their July 25, 2016, meeting. Representatives said that the equipment ties into an initiative to encourage seniors to eat well, socialize, and challenge their minds.
“It’s going to be a great benefit to the town,” said Director of Public Works Al Yodakis, who worked with representatives from Pfizer and Wakefern to select a location for the equipment at Harry Wright Lake beyond the band shell and adjacent to the outdoor fitness center and walking trail. The entire process of manufacturing to installation is expected to take approximately six weeks.
Because of our sizeable senior citizen population, Manchester Township is the first site selected by Pfizer and Wakefern to receive a donation of this wellness system. The equipment will serve as a neighborhood destination where senior residents can meet, exercise, and connect with one another. In addition to the exercise center, benches are planned at the site.
“On behalf of the Council, I’d like to thank Pfizer and Wakefern for their generous contribution to Manchester Township,” said Council President James A. Vaccaro. Mayor Kenneth Palmer also offered his appreciation to the companies for their donation.
The Township Council is committed to keeping costs down and creating opportunities for our senior population with no impact to the taxpayers, and is thankful for the assistance of our neighboring businesses in a “spirit of mutual cooperation.”
Both Mayor Kenneth Palmer and members of the Township Council have put their support behind Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed school funding fairness formula, a plan that promises significant property tax relief for Manchester Township.
Manchester officials have contended for years that the current funding formula is inequitable, leaving our property owners to pay comparatively more than other municipalities to support the school district. The proposed changes to the funding formula would set a flat amount of aid for each student, regardless of district, saving property owners in Manchester an estimated average of $600 based on the average home value of $157,700.
“This would make a huge difference to Manchester in property tax relief. Passage of this single measure would provide the largest decrease in property taxes for every Manchester resident,” said Mayor Palmer, who recently signed a pledge from the Governor’s Office to support the Fairness Formula. He encourages all residents to reach out to lawmakers to advocate for its adoption.
In a further show of support, the Township Council at its July 11 meeting passed a resolution in favor of the proposed funding formula. “The new funding formula would provide substantial tax relief to Manchester’s residents, including our senior citizens who survive on fixed incomes. A lower tax rate would also attract new homeowners, businesses and developers to our town, improving the economic environment for everyone,” said Council President James A. Vaccaro Sr.
Currently, of the $9.1 billion in aid to school districts throughout New Jersey, about $5.1 billion goes to 31 districts, while the $4 billion goes to the remaining 546 districts. Gov. Christie’s proposal would reallocate funding so that each student, everywhere, will receive $6,499. This would result in a 247 percent increase in school aid to Manchester Township.
According to the Governor’s Office, the Fairness Formula is “an equal per-pupil funding plan that would provide tax fairness for all residents and better public education for every New Jersey student.” The plan would not impact special education funding.
Currently, 14 percent of Manchester’s school district funding comes from state aid, while some urban districts receive close to full funding. School taxes make up 54 percent of a homeowner’s property tax bill, with 27 percent allotted to the municipality and 19 percent to the county.
Residents are encouraged to send letters of support to Gov. Christie’s office:
Gov. Chris Christie
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Rolling Thunder, an organization dedicated to educating the public about POW/MIA service members, joined with Manchester Township’s Veterans Committee to unveil a “Chair of Honor” in the Municipal Complex lobby on April 5th.
With 91,000 United States service members missing since World War I, the unveiling was about raising awareness, according to Rolling Thunder Vice President Charles Webster. “Today’s ceremony speaks for them,” he said. The Chair of Honor is a simple yet powerful reminder of the thousands of service members who remain unaccounted for.
Mayor Ken Palmer recognized that our Township has a substantial population of Veterans, which means this issue hits close to home for many. Our Township’s Veterans Advisory Committee actively finds ways to recognize and care for Manchester Township’s Veterans. “It’s a privilege for us to place this Chair of Honor in our Town Hall,” said Mayor Palmer.
March is “Read Across America” month, a nationwide reading celebration that takes place annually in recognition of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2nd. Manchester Mayor Ken Palmer, Council President Jim Vaccaro, Councilman Craig Wallis, and other local dignitaries visited Manchester’s three elementary schools and read to our students. MTES Principal Linda Waldron and Mayor Palmer also appeared on MTES-TV and presented “Morning Announcements” to the staff and students.