FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Form of Government:

In our form of government, seven members of council are elected by residents.
Elections are held in even numbered years and seats are staggered (i.e. 3 or 4 seats will be up for election every other year)

  • As an example, 3 council seats were up for election in 2020 and 4 seats are up for election in 2022

After each council election, the newly constituted council appears on July 1st to “reorganize“.

At the reorganization meeting, all 7 council-members will choose form among themselves, a Mayor and two deputy mayors.

Not necessarily.

There is a commonly held belief that the individual elected with the highest number of votes should become mayor, but there is very little support for this in law or history.

1930 to 1988

From 1930 when our Town adopted the Council-Manager form of government to 1988 (when we switched to the current Faulkner act), we elected 5 members of council, every 4 years, to serve for four year terms.

This is how the law worked back then:

  1.  All members were elected in a single election.
  2. The council would try electing a Mayor from among themselves.
  3. If they couldn’t choose a mayor, the highest vote recipient would be chosen as mayor.

1988 to Present

In 1988, after a referendum was passed to proceed under the Faulkner Act, elections were staggered, so only a portion of the council would be elected every other year.

Because council members were not all chosen at the same time, this change made any determination of which member received the “highest number of votes” impossible.

Historical Evidence

May, 1966: In his address to the Township, Mayor Feldman lamented the lack of turnout in elections.  He noted that in the 1960’s turnout dipped below 50% of registered voters and wondered what could be done to help halt the trend.  In his speech, he referenced the issue of public misconceptions.

“I suspect that this bullet voting is motivated in large part by the commonly held belief that the high man in the voting is entitled to the post of mayor.”
– Matthew Feldman

In response, Councilman Henderson gave a brief historical record of the issue.

Councilman Henderson stated that “mention has been made of the fact that high man always received the vote for Mayor. In 1938, Mr. Van Wagner deferred to Mr. Votee, in 1946, Mr. Deissler who was high man voluntarily deferred to Mr. Clarence Brett, and the following term Mr. Brett was high man and voluntarily deferred to Mr. Deissler and Mr. Haggerty, third high man, was voted Deputy Mayor.”

When a resident later asked “if there was a written law on elected officials that the Councilman with the highest number of votes be elected Mayor“, Mayor Costa replied:

“It was not necessarily the Councilman with the highest number of votes.”

In the 1970, even before the 1988 referendum, we can see it was not the policy to elect the highest vote recipient as Mayor.

Here are the election results from the 1970 election:

Each of the highlighted council-members had a higher vote count than Mayor Burr.

So if someone tells you that the highest person should become Mayor, point them here.

 

 

Transparency:

The Local Government Ethics Law

In NJ, local government officers are required pursuant to the Local Government Ethics Law to file Financial Disclosure Statements (“FDS”).

What must be disclosed?

Section 40A:9-22.6 lays out the required disclosures

Click here to see required disclosures

a. Local government officers shall annually file a financial disclosure statement. All financial disclosure statements filed pursuant to this act shall include the following information which shall specify, where applicable, the name and address of each source and the local government officer’s job title:

(1) Each source of income, earned or unearned, exceeding $2,000 received by the local government officer or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year. Individual client fees, customer receipts or commissions on transactions received through a business organization need not be separately reported as sources of income. If a publicly traded security is the source of income, the security need not be reported unless the local government officer or member of his immediate family has an interest in the business organization;
(2) Each source of fees and honorariums having an aggregate amount exceeding $250 from any single source for personal appearances, speeches or writings received by the local government officer or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year;
(3) Each source of gifts, reimbursements or prepaid expenses having an aggregate value exceeding $400 from any single source, excluding relatives, received by the local government officer or a member of his immediate family during the preceding calendar year;
(4) The name and address of all business organizations in which the local government officer or a member of his immediate family had an interest during the preceding calendar year; and
(5) The address and brief description of all real property in the State in which the local government officer or a member of his immediate family held an interest during the preceding calendar year.
b. The Local Finance Board shall prescribe a financial disclosure statement form for filing purposes. For counties and municipalities which have not established ethics boards, the board shall transmit sufficient copies of the forms to the municipal clerk in each municipality and the county clerk in each county for filing in accordance with this act. The municipal clerk shall make the forms available to the local government officers serving the municipality. The county clerk shall make the forms available to the local government officers serving the county.

For counties and municipalities which have established ethics boards, the Local Finance Board shall transmit sufficient copies of the forms to the ethics boards for filing in accordance with this act. The ethics boards shall make the forms available to the local government officers within their jurisdiction.

For local government officers serving the municipality, the original statement shall be filed with the municipal clerk in the municipality in which the local government officer serves. For local government officers serving the county, the original statement shall be filed with the county clerk in the county in which the local government officer serves. A copy of the statement shall be filed with the board. In counties or municipalities which have established ethics boards a copy of the statement shall also be filed with the ethics board having jurisdiction over the local government officer. Local government officers shall file the initial financial disclosure statement within 90 days following the effective date of this act. Thereafter, statements shall be filed on or before April 30th each year.
c. All financial disclosure statements filed shall be public records.

What constitutes a violation?

Section 40A:9-22.5 lays out the provisions with which local government officers and employees must comply.

Click here to see the list

Local government officers or employees under the jurisdiction of the Local Finance Board shall comply with the following provisions:

  1. No local government officer or employee or member of his immediate family shall have an interest in a business organization or engage in any business, transaction, or professional activity, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest;
    bureau
  2. No independent local authority shall, for a period of one year next subsequent to the termination of office of a member of that authority:
    1. award any contract which is not publicly bid to a former member of that authority;
    2. allow a former member of that authority to represent, appear for or negotiate on behalf of any other party before that authority; or
    3. employ for compensation, except pursuant to open competitive examination in accordance with Title 11A of the New Jersey Statutes and the rules and regulations
      promulgated pursuant thereto, any former member of that authority. The restrictions contained in this subsection shall also apply to any business organization in which the former authority member holds an interest.
  3. No local government officer or employee shall use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or advantages for himself or others;
  4. No local government officer or employee shall act in his official capacity in any matter where he, a member of his immediate family, or a business organization in which he has an interest, has a direct or indirect financial or personal involvement that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgment;
  5. No local government officer or employee shall undertake any employment or service, whether compensated or not, which might reasonably be expected to prejudice his independence of judgment in the exercise of his official duties;
  6. No local government officer or employee, member of his immediate family, or business organization in which he has an interest, shall solicit or accept any gift, favor, loan, political contribution, service, promise of future employment, or other thing of value based upon an understanding that the gift, favor, loan, contribution, service, promise, or other thing of value was given or offered for the purpose of influencing him, directly or indirectly, in the discharge of his official duties. This provision shall not apply to the solicitation or acceptance of contributions to the campaign of an announced candidate for elective public office, if the local government officer has no knowledge or reason to believe that the campaign contribution, if accepted, was given with the intent to influence the local government officer in the discharge of his official duties;
  7. No local government officer or employee shall use, or allow to be used, his public office or employment, or any information, not generally available to the members of the public, which he receives or acquires in the course of and by reason of his office or employment, for the purpose of securing financial gain for himself, any member of his immediate family, or any business organization with which he is associated;
  8. No local government officer or employee or business organization in which he has an interest shall represent any person or party other than the local government in connection with any cause, proceeding, application or other matter pending before any agency in the local government in which he serves.
    This provision shall not be deemed to prohibit one local government employee from representing another local government employee where the local government agency is  the employer and the representation is within the context of official labor union or similar representational responsibilities;
  9. No local government officer shall be deemed in conflict with these provisions if, by reason of his participation in the enactment of any ordinance, resolution or other matter required to be voted upon or which is subject to executive approval or veto, no material or monetary gain accrues to him as a member of any business, profession, occupation or group, to any greater extent than any gain could reasonably be expected to accrue to any other member of such business, profession, occupation or group;
  10. No elected local government officer shall be prohibited from making an inquiry for information on behalf of a constituent, if no fee, reward or other thing of value is promised to, given to or accepted by the officer or a member of his immediate family, whether directly or indirectly, in return therefor; and
  11. Nothing shall prohibit any local government officer or employee, or members of his immediate family, from representing himself, or themselves, in negotiations or proceedings concerning his, or their, own interests.

How does one determine if an issue is a violation?

  • Someone covered by the Local Government Ethics Law
    may seek an advisory opinion from the Municipal Ethics Board pursuant to 40A:9-22.23.
  • Upon a written complaint to the municipal ethics board
    Upon receipt of a written complaint, a decision will be reached, if it is not determined to be outside their jurisdiction, frivolous or without any reasonable factual basis.

Section 40A:9-22.3 lays out the definition of “Local Government Officer”.  It includes members of council as well as statutory boards, such as the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Click here to see the definition of Local Government Officer

“Local government officer” means any person whether compensated or not, whether part-time or full-time:

(1) elected to any office of a local government agency;
(2) serving on a local government agency which has the authority to enact ordinances, approve development applications or grant zoning variances;
(3) who is a member of an independent municipal, county or regional authority; or
(4) who is a managerial executive or confidential employee of a local government agency, as defined in section 3 of the “New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act,” P.L.1941, c.100 (C.34:13A-3), but shall not mean any employee of a school district or member of a school board

Financial:

A breakdown of the average tax levy can be found below.

The average residential assessment for 2019 was $384,308.15 and it was $387,405.00 for 2020.

The tax bill for the average assessment breaks down as follows (approx):

2020 (%) 2020 ($) 2019 (%) 2019 ($)
Board of Education 56.63% $7,101.13 56.8% $6,979.04
Municipal 32.39% $4,060.00 32.87% $4,039.08
Municipal Open Space 0.31% $38.74 .31% $38.43
County 8.96% $1,123.47 8.48% $1,041.48
County Open Space 0.38% $46.49 .31% $38.43
Library 1.24% $154.96 1.22% $149.88

How does Teaneck compare to surrounding areas in terms of bonding?

In the State of New Jersey, municipalities may bond up to the debt limit1, which is 3.5% of the equalized valuation2 of taxable real estate.

In plain English: each town adds up the value of all their land, buildings, etc… averaged over last three years.  The limit they can bond is 3.5% of that number.  And since the amount each town can bond is relative to their individual valuations, you get a metric that can be compared.

The annual debt statement, allows you to compare neighboring municipalities’ percentage of authorized debt, against each other.
(The data below are pulled from the authorized debt statements submitted to the State)

Here’s how Teaneck looks, based on the submitted annual debt statements from Bergenfield, Bogota, Englewood, Hackensack and New Milford

click to enlarge

Click here to see a chart of the Annual Debt statement percentages for each municipality

 

Click Here To See Notes
  1. 40A:2-6. Debt limitation
    No bond ordinance shall be finally adopted if it appears from the supplemental debt
    statement required by this chapter that the percentage of net debt as stated therein
    pursuant to 40A:2-42 exceeds 2.00%, in the case of a county, or 3 1/2%, in the case of a
    municipality.
  2. 40A:2-41. Contents of annual debt statement
    The annual debt statement shall be in form prescribed by the director and shall set forth as
    to the local unit:
    a. Gross debt;
    b. Deductions;
    c. Net debt;
    d. The equalized valuations of the taxable real estate, together with improvements, for
    the last 3 preceding fiscal years, and the average thereof;
    e. Net debt expressed as a percentage of such average of equalized valuations; and
    f. Any other information or detail required by law or by the director. The amount of any
    item which is indefinite or unascertainable may be estimated.
    L.1960, c. 169, s. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1962. Amended by L.1964, c. 72, s. 5.

There are times that rates can provide a quick metric for comparison and times that they are not appropriate.

Two common uses are:

  1. Tax Rates (limited utility)
    – Tax Rates and amount paid do not necessarily flow together
    – Rates can vary dramatically between towns based on when they conduct a reval
  2. Debt Rates (fair comparisons)

Tax Rates

These are sample tax rates for Teaneck

Year Municipal School Total
2006 1.592 1.220 4.640
2007 0.748 1.250 2.150

The rate plummeted from 4.640 to 2.150 between 2006 and 2007.  But the budget in those years didn’t get chopped in half.

So what is happening?

Year Municipal School Total
2006 $ 41,754,975 $ 71,404,044 $ 130,357,925
2007 $ 45,134,088 $ 74,190,491 $ 133,851,961

Revaluation

Tax rates are floating modifiers. They work by taking value of land, comparing it to the current budget and obtaining the relative share from property owners. If your home is worth 2x that of your neighbor, you pay 2x as much in local taxes.

Everyone must pay their fair share, but since value of homes constantly changes, at certain intervals the town is required to find the full and fair value of property.

You can read about the issue on the State website here: What is Revaluation
There is also an explanation of the programs and processes here: Appraisal Systems Inc – Revaluation

Why can’t we just compare tax rates?

Since a revaluation changes the assessed values of homes to their full and fair value, it can affect how much is paid in taxes (since everyone pays a relative amount to everyone else).  If your home recently sold, it’s assessment may be an accurate reflection of it’s value.  If you have lived there for years, the assessment may need to be updated.

Assessed Value Of Home Tax Rate Amount Paid
$277,760 .025 $6,944
$555.520 .0125 $6944

As you can see in the example above, a house that was at full and fair value before an assessment will pay the same local taxes after a reval, although the tax rate will change based on the new assessed values.

Since the tax rate and the amount paid do not necessarily flow together, historical tax rate comparisons offer limited utility.

Since revaluation years vary from Town to Town, you also cannot compare historical tax rates across different communities.

Was there a revaluation during that time that would alter the numbers significantly?  If so, looking at budget values is the appropriate metric.


Debt Rates

The amount of authorized debt is very different rate.  You can use this to not only compare historical data, but also to compare your data across different municipalities.

In the State of New Jersey, municipalities may bond up to the debt limit, which is 3.5% of the equalized valuation of taxable real estate.

The annual debt statement, allows you to compare historical as well as neighboring municipalities’ percentage of authorized debt, against each other.

You can read more about debt rates here:
How does Teaneck compare to surrounding areas in terms of bonding?

Demographics:

Population Data

We’ll get a better sense after the 2020 Census, but here are our population data (by decade).

When did you move to Teaneck?

2000-09
  • The 2000 Census indicates 39,260 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 516 residents

1990-99
  • The 1990 Census indicates 37,825 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 1,951 residents

1980-89
  • The 1980 Census indicates 39,007 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 769 residents

1970-79
  • The 1970 Census indicates 42,355 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An decrease of 2,579 residents

The 1960’s – 70’s were the most populous period in Teaneck history.

1960-69
  • The 1960 Census indicates 42085 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An decrease of 2,309 residents

The 1960’s – 70’s were the most populous period in Teaneck history.

1950-59
  • The 1950 Census indicates 33,772 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 6,004 residents

The 1950’s – 60’s were the second most populous period in Teaneck history.

1940-49
  • The 1940 Census indicates 25,275 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 14,501 residents

1930-39
  • The 1930 Census indicates 16,513 residents living in Teaneck.
  • The 2010 Census indicates 39,776 residents.
    • An increase of 23,263 residents

There were a mere 16,,513 residents in Teaneck back in the 1930’s.  It was a decade that saw the GWB and Rt. 4 open, as well as a large amount of land owned by the Phelps estate, make its way to the market for development.

By 1940, there were 25,275 residents in Teaneck, representing a growth in Teaneck’s population of nearly 394%.


(↑) indicated an increase over the prior decade
() indicates a decrease over prior decade

Decade Population Change from prior decade (%) Change from prior decade (#)
2018* 40,619 (↑) 102.12% +  843
2010 39,776 (↑) 101.31% +  516
2000 39,260 (↑) 103.79% + 1,435
1990 37,825 () 96.97% –  1,182
1980 39,007 () 92.10% –  3,348
1970 42,355 (↑) 100.64% +   270
1960 42,085 (↑) 124.62% + 8,313
1950 33,772 (↑) 133.62% + 8,497
1940 25,275 (↑) 153.06% + 8,762
1930 16,513 (↑) 393.92% +12,321
1920   4,192 (↑) 201.34% + 2,110
1910   2,082 (↑) 271.09% + 1,314
1900     768

(* 2018 figure is an estimate from census.gov)

Every year, the Teaneck School District submits a document called the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

The most recent one available is for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2019.
You can access the entire report here.

The CAFR show Teaneck Schools enrollment is down 17.7% (840 students) since 2001*

(* The 2001 CAFR report was the earliest report available online at the Department of Education website, although the downward trend in enrollment has been noted for decades)

These are the enrollment numbers in the CAFR:

Fiscal Year Student Enrollment Percent Change
2018/19 3900 -0.2%
2017/18 3,971 +.5%
2016/17 3,953 ·1.6%
2015/16 4,018 ·1.3%
2014/15 4,071 ·0.7%
2013/14 4,098 ·0.8%
2012/13 4,131 ·1.5%
2011/12 4,196 -2.6
2010/11 4,308 +2.8%
2009/10 4,192 ·2.1%
2008/09 4,284 ·1.5%
2007/08 4,350 -2.9%
2006/07 4,482 -1.0%
2005/06 4,526 -0.1%
2004/05 4,531 -2.0%
2003/04 4,626 -1.3%
2002/03 4,685 -1.2%
2001/02 4,740 -0.8%

Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Email it to info@teanecktoday.com