Affordable Housing, Dial-A-Ride, Community Garden Are Topics in Stafford

Mar 21, 2018

The first order of business on the Stafford Township Council’s agenda at the March 13 meeting was to pass a resolution approving and authorizing an affordable housing down payment assistance loan for a unit in Pine Crest Village. Stafford’s affordable housing program includes down payment assistance for applicants who qualify for a mortgage. The program provides a 10-year, no-interest, deferred loan in an amount matching, dollar for dollar, the contribution of the program participant, between 5 and 10 percent of the purchase price.

Initial eligibility for affordable units is determined by gross annual household income. To qualify, the total household income of all household members over the age of 18 must be no more than 80 percent of the median income in the region. Households with income between 50 and 80 percent of the median income would qualify for a moderate-income unit. Households with income less than 50 percent of the median income would qualify for a low-income unit.

A designated administrative agent screens applicants; income includes, but is not limited to, salary or wages (including regular overtime), alimony, child support, Social Security, benefits, pensions, business income, and actual or imputed interest earned from assets (bank accounts, securities) and real estate.

During years one through six, if the program participant sells his/her home, the full amount of the down payment assistance loan is to be repaid to the township upon transfer of the property to the next homeowner. During years seven through 10, the loan shall be forgiven at the rate of 20 percent per year. After 10 years, the loan is fully forgiven.

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During the public comment portion of the meeting, Little Egg Harbor resident and IRS-certified AARP volunteer tax aide MaryAnn O’Neill announced a new tax form this year for veterans who were honorably discharged to get a $3,000 exemption on their New Jersey state taxes – not a refundable credit, she clarified, but rather an exemption against tax liability.

The money comes out of the state gasoline tax, she said, which went up 23 cents last year under Gov. Chris Christie to help finance transportation infrastructure improvements.

The form is available at town hall and at all seven AARP tax assistance sites, as well as online at New Jersey’s Division of Taxation website, state.nj.us/treasury/taxation.

Tax aides also offer 1040H forms for renters who are over 65 or disabled to get $50 back from the state, she added. O’Neill travels around to the different housing communities to help people fill the form out.

The free service is extremely popular – “we’ve been averaging 65 people on a Monday at St. Mary’s Parish Center,” she said.

Help is available at the following times and locations:

• Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Mary’s Parish Center, 100 Bishop Way in Manahawkin. No appointment is necessary.

• Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Heritage Point Clubhouse, 1 Shore Point Blvd. in Barnegat. An appointment is necessary for this location. Call 609-489-9842.

• Tuesday, 1 to 5 p.m. at Village Lutheran Church, 701 Western Blvd. in Lanoka Harbor. No appointment is necessary.

• Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Theresa’s Church Faith Formation Center, 450 Radio Rd., Little Egg Harbor. No appointment is necessary.

• Wednesday, 1 to 5 p.m. at Perry’s Lake Clubhouse, 4 Princeton Ave., Manahawkin. Call for an appointment at 609-978-7554.

To locate the nearest AARP Tax Counseling for the Elderly site, visit the Tax-Aide webpage at aarp.org or call the National AARP office at 888-AARP-NOW.

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Mallard Island resident Marlene Longmore raised questions and concerns about the town’s recent Dial-A-Ride cutback, which eliminates the Saturday bus and the 5:30 p.m. run on weekdays, due to low ridership during those times. Seniors rely on the service to get to medical appointments, jobs and shopping, she said.

Township Administrator James Moran said the decision had been made based on a year’s worth of data. Medical offices are closed on Saturdays, and shopping can be done during the week. The changes will mean significant savings to the town, to the tune of $20,000 in overtime, and virtually no impact on the riders.

Every other year, the town is eligible for $30,000 in grant money to help run the service, “but that doesn’t even cover the cost of a bus,” Moran said. The large majority of the cost to maintain the vehicles and compensate the drivers is shouldered by the town.

The assisted living facilities in the area are for-profit entities and should run their own buses, he added.

Dial-A-Ride is a handicap-accessible bus transportation service operating within the township and available to Stafford Township residents only. Residents between the ages of 12 and 17 are allowed to ride the bus, with a special pass obtained by a parent or legal guardian with proof of residency. (Apply at the Public Works office at 320 Haywood Rd.)

Dial-A-Ride has five runs each day, Monday through Friday, the first at 8:30 a.m., followed by 10 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Call 609-597-1000, extension 8222, at least 30 minutes before the preferred run. Speak clearly and slowly, leaving the pickup address and the destination location desired. To cancel a request, the extension is 8556 or 8609.

The bus will come within the two-hour period. Precise pickup and dropoff time frames cannot be guaranteed, given the variables – number of pickup requests, traffic, emergencies, etc.

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On a final note, the Mill Creek Park’s community garden will have a welcome and kickoff on Friday, March 23, from 3 to 5 p.m., open to all residents to learn how it works and hear about volunteer opportunities.

— Victoria Ford

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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