January 29, 2018

Gottheimer, mayors discuss grants, infrastructure, ‘tax hike bill’

HACKETTSTOWN — In an effort to work together to help “claw back” federal tax dollars in the Fifth District, Congressman Josh Gottheimer, D-5th, met with local government officials from Sussex and Warren counties for a Mayors Summit on Sunday at the Hackettstown Municipal Building.

The summit, which Gottheimer has held multiple times with mayors across the 79 municipalities in his district, was held mostly behind closed doors with 10 mayors and four council members in attendance.

Attending from Sussex County were Andover Borough Mayor John Morgan, Andover Township Mayor Janis McGovern and Newton Mayor Wayne Levante.

After the session, when members of the media were allowed to speak with the officials briefly, Gottheimer stressed the importance of touching base with local government leaders, taking note that the timing was ideal since the new year brought in newly elected officials.

“Sometimes we meet one-on-one, or by phone, but this was great to get everyone together in a round table,” Gottheimer said.

Topics during the roughly one-hour discussion varied from infrastructure investments to improving rural broadband connectivity to the “tax hike bill,” as Gottheimer calls it, which was signed by President Donald Trump at the end of 2017.

Gottheimer was avid in fighting against the bill and has vowed to leave “no stone unturned” when it comes to sharing best practices and how government officials can save money for their towns and their taxpayers.

The “tax hike bill” sets a cap of $10,000 on the amount of state and local property and income taxes that can be deducted from federal taxable income. Gottheimer noted that for the residents in his district paying “some of the highest federal taxes in the nation,” the bill will only make it worse by increasing taxes and lowering property values.
With the mayors in attendance representing various political parties, Gottheimer stated that there was “nothing partisan” about the meeting.

“We share the same constituents, so let’s work together across the aisle to get it done,” he said.
Levante said he appreciated Gottheimer holding the meeting, adding that communication can often be missing in the different levels and layers of the government.

“(Gottheimer) is keeping us informed about what is going on and what opportunities we can take in our towns to save money,” Levante said.

Of those opportunities were various grants that Levante said many of the mayors in attendance did not even know about.

Levante said it came as a shock to know that the last grant Sussex County applied for was back in 2008, adding that anything and everything officials can bring back to their taxpayers is beneficial.

“I just can’t say enough good things about what (Gottheimer) is doing, he recognizes the failed infrastructure, sees that we are not getting the tax dollars we deserve and is aggressive about it. He makes sure New Jerseyans are respected,” he said.

Morgan said he was grateful that Gottheimer discussed the various grants available, taking the time to discuss those eligible grants with each respective mayor at the round table.
McGovern said that Sunday’s meeting came at an opportune time since discussion about what grants the township could apply for came up during a recent committee meeting.

In addition, she stated that the township is continuing to pursue the Lackawanna Cutoff railroad extension project and noted Gottheimer, as he did last year, is willing to offer additional help to move the project forward.

“Since Gottheimer has come into office, he has been extremely helpful to our town,” McGovern stated. “He’s helping us find ways to lower our budget so what was once paid by the taxpayers can now potentially be paid by a grant.”

Also in attendance Sunday were Hackettstown Mayor Maria DiGiovanni; Allamuchy Mayor Keith DeTombeur; Mansfield Township Mayor Joseph Watters; Washington Borough Mayor Dave Higgins; Hope Mayor Timothy McDonough; Independence Mayor Robert Giordano; Allamuchy Deputy Mayor Elliott Koppel; Hackettstown Councilman Matt Engelau; Hackettstown councilmen Jerry DiMaio, James Lambo and Scott Sheldon.