Since the filing of the eruv lawsuit against Upper Saddle River and the retention of counsel, counsel has been working diligently to gather materials necessary to assert an aggressive defense. Mayor Minichetti has been dismissed as an individual defendant, and we have been informed that the newly formed Bergen Rockland Eruv Association will soon be joined as a plaintiff (as it is in the Mahwah lawsuit). In addition, the time within which the Borough has to respond or to file a responsive pleading has been extended until the end of September.

The lawsuit involves what is known as the “Mahwah eruv” which runs from Mahwah along Sparrowbush Road to West Saddle River Road and north to the New York border. We are informed that the remainder of the poles in Upper Saddle River with PVC pipe (known as “lechis”) are not connected to an active eruv. The Borough has agreed to maintain the status quo with the “Mahwah eruv” only, pending further Court action, but has informed Plaintiffs it cannot proceed to add lechis to or repair the remaining lechis in this second eruv area along Old Stone Church and Weiss Roads. Nevertheless, Borough police will take appropriate action regarding vandalism of any lechis.

Because of the necessity of not revealing strategy or privileged information, the amount of information the Mayor and Council can provide is limited but all filed substantive court documents will be posted or linked to the Borough’s website.

Please take note that the August 3, 2017 Upper Saddle River Mayor & Council meeting has been moved to the Bogert School gymnasium, 391 West Saddle River Road, Upper Saddle River, NJ 07458 to begin at 8:00 p.m. at which time the issue pertaining to the utility poles will be addressed.  In addition formal action will be taken.

 

Rose Vido, RMC

Borough Clerk

In 2015, Rockland Electric entered into a License Agreement with an organization to allow facilities related to an eruv to be installed on the utility’s poles in Bergen County, with the utility profiting from this agreement.  It has been reported that the project plans to attach wires to 113 poles in Mahwah, 40 in USR and 27 in Montvale.

The Mayor and Council never approved the installation of the eruv.  Rockland Electric did not notify the Borough of the agreement or the pending installation despite the fact that the Borough has an ordinance in place, (#16-15) which prohibits the placement of items on utility poles, of which Rockland Electric was aware.

Borough attorney Robert Regan instructed Orange and Rockland to remove the eruv on Monday, July 18.

On Wednesday, July 26 and Thursday, July 27, portions of the newly installed eruv in Mahwah and Upper Saddle River were vandalized.  A police investigation is underway and one arrest has been made.

On Friday, July 25, two Airmont, NY residents filed suit again the Borough in Federal District Court in Newark, seeking to prevent the Borough from removing the eruv installed on Orange and Rockland’s poles in our town.

The Borough agreed to allow the repair of the vandalized portions of the eruv, in return for the cessation of additional installation.  The Borough also agreed to delay removing existing eruv at this time.

At a special meeting held on Monday, July 31, the Governing Body retained Special Counsel, Bruce Rosen, of the McKusker Law Firm, an experienced litigator in Federal courts, who has handled cases involving eruv installations.

Special Counsel is exploring all options available to the Borough.  The Governing Body will aggressively fight to enforce our ordinance.

This is a matter of excessive entanglement with religion and violation of municipal ordinances.  It is not directed at any particular religious group.  The Governing Body will not tolerate or countenance any anti-Semitic or otherwise discriminatory comments at our public meetings and urge residents to avoid any such statements on social media or elsewhere.  Such statements will not be helpful to the Borough’s position and are totally inappropriate.

On the advice of legal counsel, the Governing Body will not be making any further statements at this time but will keep residents informed as the case progresses.

The Mayor and Council adopted its 2017 municipal budget at its public meeting May 4, 2017. The Budget Committee consisting of, Mayor J. Minichetti, Councilmen V. Durante, S. DiMartino and R. DeBerardine worked diligently to limit expenses and maintain a stable tax rate. Although many State mandated and uncontrollable expenses such as pension costs, health care and contractual salary expenses have increased, the 2017 budget has resulted in a municipal tax increase of $76.00 for an average assessed home of $755,500.00. The following are some items of interest:

The Borough of Upper Saddle River utilizes a General Ledger to keep an accurate accounting of all municipal finances. Recently our 2016 Audit was presented to the Council. The recommendations made by the Auditor will have been made by the end of June, 2017.

For years 2014 through 2016,  the tax rate decreased slightly.  In 2017 the tax increase is .01 or 2.7% over the previous year.  Effectively then the taincrease from 2014 to 2017 was 2.7% averaging less than 1% annual increaseDivide the increase of 2.7% by 4 years, it amounts to an increase of .675% per year.

For the years 2012 to 2016,  the collection rate has increased from 98.88% to 99.25%. Also, the amount of delinquent taxes from 2012 to 2016 has decreased from $503,558.72 to 279,959.76. In 2012, eleven (11) tax liens were sold at the annual tax sale compared to 2 tax liens sold at the 2016 tax sale.

During budget deliberations, consideration is given to our five year capital improvement budget. That portion of the budget includes funds allocated for road resurfacing, replacement of equipment in all departments, compliance with State and Federal mandates such as self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighter safety, lengths of large diameter hose for the fire department, replacement of heating equipment and roof replacement including wood surfaces on the salt barn to comply with DEP regulations dealing with the storage of road salting materials.  Each year we review with each department’scapital requirements to arrive at meaningful amounts.

In the last ten years we have worked to keep our outstanding debt at the lowest level possible.  This is one of the major reasons that Moody’s has awarded its Triple A rating to Upper Saddle River during this period of time.We also work to pay off as much debt as we can if funds are available; for example in 2016, we paid off $3.3 Million of outstanding debt.  Going forward we will continue to monitor our debt and keep it as low as possible. Upper Saddle River is in compliance with statutory limits.

Upper Saddle River only borrows monewhen the need arises. For five years prior to 2016 the interest rate was less than 1% per year paid on borrowed funds. In 2016 the Borough paid 1.20% interest on its Bans financing.  Because of Moody’s Triple A rating, we took complete advantage of low prevailing interest rates.

Our Bonds and Notes are based upon the needs of the Borough of Upper Saddle River and are in compliance with State Statute. We do not make any decisions or opinions on what other municipalities do as each have different needs, priorities, and financial projections.