Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Mayor: River Club Tax Break Too Costly

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Ex-Mayor: River Club Tax Break Too Costly

Article excerpt

BOGOTA -- Former Mayor Patrick McHale, who is now on the Board of Education, is questioning how a tax abatement recently granted to a large residential development will affect the borough's schools.

McHale resigned as mayor after a similar tax break for a 44-unit apartment building on Palisade Avenue was approved more than three years ago. That approval caused a deep split within the community. McHale's political rivals attempted to recall him and a councilman from office. McHale resigned instead of going through the recall election.

"I really didn't want to do the PILOT, but it was the only way you could get something built over there," he said, referring to what's known as a payment in lieu of taxes. "That piece of property lay vacant for 18 years. You had a big hole in the ground that would flood and become a mosquito breeding ground."

In December, the Republican council majority approved a tax abatement for the River Club, a mixed-use apartment complex planned for West Fort Lee Road. Under the financial agreement, River Development will make payments in lieu of taxes for 30 years after the project's completion.

McHale, who is vice president of the borough school board, joins other board members in expressing concern that the tax break will put a hole the school district's budget.

"They had criticized me, and now there's a PILOT program for a development 10 times as big," McHale said. "What's going to happen when we have to build a new school?"

When completed, the five-building, 421-unit complex could increase the borough's population of roughly 8,200 by about 10 percent. As many as 45 students are expected to enroll in the borough schools when River Club is completed.

The three decades of payments are expected to total more than $60 million. The payments will go directly into the borough's coffers, instead of being split with the school district. Typically, about 60 percent of property taxes go to schools, 30 percent to the municipality and the rest to the county. The borough spends about $19,750 per student, according to state Department of Education statistics.

The district would likely be able to absorb some additional students. …

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