PILOT Programs Hurt Westfield Schools

June 4, 2021

Last week, Westfield’s Mayor and Council introduced for approval both a 193-unit mixed use development on South Avenue, and a 30-year payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) property tax break to the corporate developer.

While it is true that the South Avenue site was included in Westfield’s 2017 state-mandated affordable housing plan, it is equally true that no prior administration ever approved a PILOT tax giveaway for this project.  That brilliant idea has sprung entirely from the mind of Mayor Brindle and her administration.  Why should the Town’s hand-picked, for-profit developer not pay property taxes at the same rate as you and me, and do its part to fund our schools?

Before Mayor Brindle, properties in Westfield were developed or redeveloped without any tax breaks: the Savannah on Prospect, the new Trader Joe’s and Ferraro’s buildings, the development of the former Pan American Cleaners site on the South Avenue circle, and The Parker project at the former Westfield Car Wash site are just a few examples.  Why do developers need tax break hand-outs now?  What has changed?  Our local leadership.

The cost of the new South Avenue project is estimated at over $52 million.  Rather than pay property taxes on that value like the rest of us, the developer has cut a deal with the Brindle Administration.  That deal ensures that, rather than Westfield’s schools getting roughly 60% of the property taxes that otherwise would be paid on the project, they will get zero.  Zilch.  Nothing; except, of course, more students.

This school tax avoidance scheme is just the beginning of what Mayor Brindle has planned for Westfield.  As a result of her actions, the Lord & Taylor site and several downtown parking lots, among other parcels, also qualify for the 30-year PILOT giveaways that will strip our schools of funding while at the same time increasing the student population.  That is a recipe for disaster.

There is only one way to end overdevelopment in Westfield and unnecessary property tax breaks to developers that prejudice our schools, and that is to end the Brindle Administration.

Sam Della Fera, Jr.

Westfield, NJ

Chairman of the Westfield Republican Committee.