The 3rd U.S. Circuit of Appeals has ruled to halt eminent domain proceedings in Mount Holly. The Township intended to move forward over the next few weeks with eminent domain in the “West End” (the fluffy term the Township uses for the Gardens to make you forget what they’re talking about) area. Mount Holly is already over 17 million dollars in debt from the redevelopment and anticipates the debt to continue to grow in the the next fiscal year.
Township Manager Hoffman blamed the debt service from the Gardens, and the still pending financial settlement with Keating Urban Partners for the need to hold a special referendum April 27th, allowing the Township to raise the tax levy above the State cap of 2%. The tentative budget ($8.9 million) places the new tax levy at $6.9 million, which is $3.7 million higher than the previous year. If the referendum fails, the Township has threatened to lay off up to 8 police officers from the already short-staffed police department, and $1.6 million would have to be cut from the proposed levy to meet the cap.
Township officials expected to close with Keating by the end of 2010 at $2.6 million dollars but that closing was never realized. In total, Keating is to purchase the land at a cost of $9 million dollars.
James Maley, the Townships special redevelopment council for the Gardens redevelopment states he’s “disappointed” in the Court’s ruling. Disappointed? The people of the Gardens, who’ve been forced out of their homes are disappointed. The tax payers of Mount Holly, who were tricked into believing election-year gimmicks last year to keep taxes stable by using $700,000 in surplus and now will have to vote between higher taxes to support the redevelopment or the safety of their streets are disappointed. Mr. Maley, who has already made over $700,000 from the tax payers, isn’t disappointed. The longer this drags on, the more money he gets to pocket.
Let’s throw all of these numbers together:
$17.2 million debt service.
$8.9 million budget.
$6.9 million tax levy (proposed.)
$3.7 million increase.
$2.6 million unrealized revenue from Keating.
$700,000 of wasted surplus.
$700,000 paid to Maley.
The last three alone add up to $4 million dollars, $300,000 more than the increase in taxes the Township wants.
Federal court halts eminent domain at Mount Holly Gardens -BCT