News

For Immediate Release:
April 10, 2018
Contact: Natalie Pineiro
INK Creative Strategies
InkCreativeStrategies@gmail.com

Mayor Vertreese’s 1st 100 days Marked with Improvements and Efficiencies

Hillside, NJ – When Mayor Dahlia Vertreese took office on January second, she stood at the podium in the auditorium in Kean University’s STEM Building, eager to take her position. She gave a heart felt thank you speech to all of the people that helped her along her journey, but also talked about the difficulties that lay ahead.

Her road to becoming Mayor was an uphill battle, but the next one hundred days would prove even more daunting as she endeavored to begin the process of fixing a government that was in many ways neglected and broken.

A labor organizer by trade, and former School Board member, Vertreese is no stranger to tackling multi-faceted issues and hit the ground running. Armed with her Transition Team report, and the feedback of the residents she had met along the campaign trail, her plan was to start cleaning up the town immediately- internally and externally.

“We discovered some serious quality of life issues which we took very seriously,” said Vertreese.

She started by filling important vacancies within Municipal Government, and creating a more open and service-oriented organizational culture.

One of these vacancies was Department of Public Works (DPW) Director.
“There were issues with our sewer systems that were causing some environmental concerns,” said Vertreese, “so getting someone qualified in this position was extremely important.”

These issues range from proper coverage of manholes, to the structural integrity of pipes, and stormwater issues that had previously gone unaddressed. In addition, through the Department of Public Works, the Township needed to address loitering ordinances, a reassessment of signage, and compliance with OSHA and DEP Standards.

Quality of life, cleanliness and services are what attract prospective residents, investors and businesses to town Vertreese commented. It is through this invigorated work by DPW paired with increased attention towards addressing and eliminating vacant properties, reassessing assets and attention to affordable housing requirements, that the Mayor hopes will put Hillside back on the map.

“Everything is connected,” Vertreese said, “Foreclosures and Vacancies create a need for investment, but investors and businesses don’t want to come to a town that’s being drained of its tax revenue.”

On the new hire list to address this area are two new code enforcement officers, two new health inspectors, and two new construction officials who now have the task of going through lists of vacant and foreclosed properties.

Some, which are in arrears for almost $600,000 have already been scheduled to be demolished. The Mayor is now in talks with the council and administration to think about an auctioning process to unload more of these properties as a way to further stabilize taxes.

But the plan doesn’t stop there, the Mayor has a wants to work with developers to make sure that they don’t over price homes in order to keep them occupied longer, thereby contributing to a stabilization of Hillside’s housing market.

Hand in hand with the housing market, is stabilizing property taxes- a feat every town struggles with -but something even more crucial to a town that in 2015 was listed among the top 50 New Jersey towns with the highest foreclosure rates by RealtyTrac.

The average property tax rate for a Hillside resident is just above $9,000 and in order to stabilize those numbers Vertreese is starting with plugging all of the Township’s small money bleeds. Part of that starts with hiring a new full-time CFO in accordance with State law.

“We need to adequately assess our spending versus incoming tax dollars and ensure that proper protocol is being followed when contracting and purchasing,” said Vertreese. “We also need to analyze that we are saving money in all areas.”

Along these lines changes are taking place in town hall as well, with focused attention on improvements in human resources and employee relations as well as a comprehensive review of the state auditor’s report to ensure that government is operating more efficiently.

It’s an investment in total quality management that the Mayor believes is long overdue.

Other quality of life areas of focus for the Mayor have been to increase communication and transparency with residents.

Not only has Vertreese authorized the design of a more efficient and user-friendly website, but the Township also launched an online “news room” and Facebook page.

She also initiated a series of ward-specific town hall meetings where the public was invited to talk about their concerns. Directors and Administrators of various municipal departments were present, in person, at each event to directly answer questions particular to their areas of responsibility.

Her next step is to help residents better understand their form of government.

Hillside operated under the Township Committee form of government until mid 1997 when it changed to a strong Mayor-Council form under the Faulkner Act.

“We would like to host a retreat, open to the public, to explain the process so people understand exactly who is responsible for what under this form of government,” said Vertreese.

As Vertreese looks to the future, she knows that there is much more work to be done. She plans on continuing to build on these milestones and also examine other areas where the Township can progress.

Two major projects she would like to see come to fruition are capital improvements to the Hillside Public Library, and the rehabilitation of the Hillside Firehouses.

“Our people deserve better, and our employees deserve better,” Vertreese said, “Our government gives power to the people, and I want our administration to be a reflection of that.”

For any additional information, please contact the Township of Hillside at 973-926-3002, visit them online at www.hillsidenj.us or follow them on Facebook @TwpHillsideNJ.

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For Immediate Release:
April 10, 2018
Contact: Natalie Pineiro
INK Creative Strategies
InkCreativeStrategies@gmail.com

Hillside Graduates 10 New Officers from Academy

Photo Caption (photo attached): On Thursday, April 5, Hillside Police Department graduated 10 new officers from the Essex County Police Academy following a rigorous five month full-time training program. The class was one of the largest classes in recent history. Mayor Dahlia Vertreese was present to congratulate the new officers who begun serving the community on Sunday, April 8th. Featured, from left to right are: Captain Lashonda Burgess, Officer Brian I. Wilson, Officer Giovanni Esposito, Officer Branden McNeil, Officer Amadeu Fernandes Da Cruz, Officer Krysti Janusz, Mayor Dahlia Vertreese, Chief Vincent Ricciardi, Officer Manuel Diaz Jr., Officer Diego Coral, Officer Carlos Rivas-Difo, Officer Carlos Nascimento, Officer Michael Morales, Sergeant Ronald Bartell. (photo courtesy of the Township of Hillside)

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For Immediate Release:
March 9, 2018
Contact: Natalie Pineiro
INK Creative Strategies
InkCreativeStrategies@gmail.com

Hillside Tax Collector Reminds Residents about 2017 Senior Freeze Program

The Tax Collectors Office of the Township of Hillside would like to remind residents that the State of New Jersey’s Division of Taxation is now accepting applications for the “2017 Senior Freeze,” a program that reimburses qualified senior citizens and disabled residents for property tax increases to their homes.
“This program offers a lifeline to many of our senior residents living on a fixed income,” said Dahlia O. Vertreese, Township Mayor. “We encourage all of those who qualify to take advantage of this resource.”
Now in its 20th year, the program qualifies residents based on income, age, and residency. Once qualified, residents must continue to meet the requirements and reapply each year to receive the reimbursement.
2017 eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • You were 65 or older on December 31, 2016, or, if under age 65 you were receiving Social Security disability payments on December 31, 2016, and also on December 31, 2017; and
  • You have lived in New Jersey continuously since December 31, 2006, or earlier as either a homeowner or a renter; and
  • You have owned and lived in your home or have leased a site in a mobile home park for a manufactured or mobile home that you own since December 31, 2013, or earlier; and
  • You paid all 2016 property taxes by June 1, 2017, and all 2017 property taxes by June 1, 2018; and
  • Your annual income did not exceed $87,007* in 2016 and $87,268 in 2017.* NOTE: With few exceptions, all income must be taken into account, including Social Security, pension, etc.

There are two versions of the Senior Freeze application- a form for first time applicants and a personalized version for residents who received a 2016 reimbursement check, or would have received one were it not for budgetary restrictions.
The applications have sections to be completed by the homeowner as well as sections to be completed by the Tax Collector’s office. Applications are available online at www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/ or at the Township of Hillside Tax Collectors office, located at 1409 Liberty Avenue, Hillside, NJ.

The Deadline for filing applications is October 31,2018. For additional information contact the Township of Hillside at 973-926-3002 or visit them online at www.HILLSIDENJ.us.

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For Immediate Release:
March 6, 2018
Contact: Natalie Pineiro
INK Creative Strategies
InkCreativeStrategies@gmail.com

Hillside Councilman-at-large Spearheads Black Panther Screening

PHOTO CAPTION: Hillside Councilman-at-large George L. Cook worked with community partners to sponsor a screening of Black Panther at Union Theater on Saturday, March 3rd giving almost 140 residents the opportunity to see the blockbuster movie free of charge. Councilman Cook was joined by Mayor Dahlia O. Vertreese, Councilman-at-large Craigs Epps, Councilman Donald DeAugustine (3rd Ward), and Councilman Christopher Mobley (2nd Ward). (photo credit: Christine Jackson)

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For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2018
Contact: Natalie Pineiro
INK Creative Strategies
InkCreativeStrategies@gmail.com

Mayor of Hillside Invites Residents to Town Hall Meetings


The Mayor and Council of the Township of Hillside invite residents to take part in one of four ward-specific Town Hall Meetings to get to know the Mayor, and engage with the Directors and Administration about the status of the Township. “One of our goals for 2018 is to ensure that we are increasing our level of transparency and communication as well as providing the highest level of service to our residents,” said Dahlia Vertreese, Township Mayor.

The meetings will take place at 6:00 p.m. at Town Hall located at 1409 Liberty Ave, Hillside, NJ 07205, on the following dates:
Ward 1: Monday, March 5
Ward 2: Tuesday, March 6
Ward 3: Monday, March 12
Ward 4: Wednesday, March 14

The Township encourages residents to come prepared with any questions, concerns or feedback they may have about programs and services as the event will provide direct access to departments like Police, Fire, Public Works, Recreation, and the Tax Office, among others.

For additional information, please contact the Township of Hillside at 973-926-3000 or visit online at hillsidenj.us.

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