Three out of the five 1st Ward city council candidates said they oppose mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ recreation tax which – if approved by voters on November 3rd, 2015 – will raise $3 million from property owners in order to acquire and maintain recreational facilities.
“I am in favor of recreation and anything we can do to increase our recreational budget, but I’m not in favor of any additional tax increase,” said Michael Jackson, owner of Jacksonville Restaurant.
Jackson said taxpayers are already reeling from the increases that they recently saw on their year-end bill. Jackson is not alone in opposing the new tax, both Bernard Jones and Veronica Ovalles said they are not in favor of Torres’ recreation tax.
Alveria Spencer did not respond to a message seeking her comment for this story.
School board member Manny Martinez, who previously expressed his support for Torres’ recreation tax, was in doubt about his support on Tuesday evening, after he witnessed more than 30 taxpayers complain about rapacious taxation.
“It complicates things,” said Martinez when asked about his position on Torres’ recreation tax. He would not positively say whether his position has shifted completely against the tax that will likely exact several hundred dollars per year.
Martinez on Friday afternoon said he still remains in favor of the recreation tax.
An average property owner could see as much as $145 per year in additional taxes if the measure passes. “It is outright foolishness. It’s another way to rob the people,” said Bernard Jones. He said for a poverty stricken city where an average family makes less than $35,000 the constant tax increases makes little sense.
“Taxpayers are hurting pretty bad,” said Jackson.
Ovalles, like Jackson, said she supports recreation, but didn’t think it prudent to extract more money from the city’s already overburdened homeowners. Both Ovalles and Jackson said the city ought to look somewhere else to bolster the recreation budget.
A number of city residents have suggested seeking out grant money to fund recreation.
The recreation tax proposition will be on the same ballot as the five candidates seeking to capture the 1st Ward seat on November 3rd, 2015.
Torres’ recreation tax received a beating this week as residents complained about large tax bills. The opposition against the recreation tax is gaining momentum. Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, has organized a forum for to oppose Torres’ recreation tax.
Alex Mendez, councilman at-large, said he has been campaigning against the recreation tax as well. Torres’ recreation tax, according to insiders, was hurriedly placed on the ballot to galvanize urban voters to the polls.
Torres championed the proposition in order curry favor with New Jersey Democrat Party chairman John Currie, said insiders. The two men fell out after the chairman endorsed Sayegh in the 2014 mayoral election.
The special election was called after disgraced 1st Ward councilman Anthony Davis pleaded guilty to accepting $10,000 in bribes from an ostensible developer.
Davis was sentenced to a two-year prison term, but not before United States district judge William Walls bawled him out for taking bribes that the corrupt councilman claimed were for city children.
The city council appointed pastor James Staton to represent the 1st Ward for the time being until the special election determines which of the five contestants get a seat on the nine-person council.
This report was updated on September 25th, 2015 with additional clarifications on Martinez’s position on the recreation tax.