Lobbyist to address council

| 13 Sep 2012 | 01:24

— This Wednesday, the mayor and township council will hear from William Pascrell III, a lobbyist they are considering to represent the township in its quest to change the way things are done regarding the Newark watershed property.
Pascrell is a partner with the lobbying firm Princeton Public Affairs Group, Inc. (PPAG), headquartered in Trenton.
The township decided to consider a lobbyist in the hope of persuading state legislators to either put a surcharge on the water, which is here in West Milford, or to change the way the land is assessed and taxed.

Long fight

The fight with Newark over its watershed property has been going on for decades, but it has become an acute situation after the revaluation last year. The shift in taxes after the revaluation put a huge burden on the lakefront property owners and commercial property owners. Although the mayor and council have for years tried to get Newark, which is the largest property owner in the township with 16,481 acres or about 14 square miles of protected watershed property, to pay its fair share of taxes, the tax shift this year - and the impact it has had - seemed to spur the council on.
Instead of paying an increasing share of the tax burden, Newark appeals its assessments on a regular basis and wins, lowering the amount of money collected from Newark by the township each year. Yet, Newark sells the water to its users for millions of dollars in profit each year. The township’s position: water is a commodity and if Newark is making money from the sale of it, the township, which cannot develop any land near that property, should be compensated accordingly.
West Milford - along with the other watershed communities of Ringwood, Jefferson and Hardyston - has tried to change things through the courts but that hasn't worked. In 2011, Newark’s property was assessed at $25,244,300; in 2012 the assessment fell to $24,308,300. But the big difference came in the taxes paid. The township received nearly $1.6 million in taxes from Newark in 2011; In 2012, they will receive $822,107 because of settlements of appeals filed for 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The governing body is hoping having a lobbyist like Pascrell in Trenton on their behalf will turn things around.
The regular council meeting is on Wednesday, Sept. 19 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Pascrell is scheduled to address the council at 8 p.m. Prior to that, police Chief Timothy Storbeck will be sworn in and the library board will make a presentation.