When it comes to putting Westwood residents first, Chris Montana & Christopher Owens have a record that stretches long before their election as our Council Members.
From their dedication as volunteers with local organizations, all the way to their service to our local government, Chris and Christopher have shown that actions speak louder than words, and that partisan politics have no place in making Westwood stronger for everyone.
On the Council, they have stood strong as fiscally responsible, non-partisan leaders who are focused on preserving the unique character of Westwood – and standing strong against outside political and other special interests.
With our support, they will build upon the successful initiatives they began in their first term: reducing debt, keeping controllable expenses in check, expanding shared services, and keeping our families and senior’s safe.
We hope you will join the Montana & Owens Team to help us ensure that the best interests of Westwood will always come first.
Success Across the Board
Responsible Fiscal Leadership
The Montana-Owens team is holding property taxes stable here in Westwood through smarter fiscal planning and continued oversight. Together, they architected the plan that reduced debt by $1 Million in 2016, and are on track to further reduce borough debt in 2017. Concurrently, they continue to invest in our borough to improve parks, buildings, technology and roads.
They will continue to work on securing increased grant funding for local projects and find ways to share expenses with the right municipal partners.
The result of all this hard work? Residential property values have increased, while the tax rate has decreased. For 2017, the net result has been the lowest municipal residential tax increase in the last 5 years.
A Safer, Better Westwood
The Montana-Owens Team is helping make Westwood safer by ensuring our ability to hire two new police officers and one new police special. The two new police officers began eariler this year.
Together, Chris and Christopher launched a Pedestrian Safety Taskforce that seeks to keep our families safer while walking or biking in town. The Taskforce puts resident concerns at the table with our police, engineers and members of the governing body to identify problems, plan together, and strategically implement solutions.
Montana & Owens are a constant presence in our downtown business district, our parks and often found walking through various neighborhoods. As members of the Taskforce, they are always making recommendations based on what they see.
Preserving Our Small Town Character
The Montana-Owens Team will continue to follow Westwood's Master Plan that provides for positive growth in our community while protecting the small town character that drove many of us here. They reject outside mandates that seek to polarize our community and are not in line with the best interest of Westwood residents.
The Montana-Owens team works in a bipartisan manner with Mayor Birkner to make sure the best people - regardless of political affiliation - are appointed to the Borough's boards, committees and commissions. The result? Quality government, progress and services without the political fights.
Deep Roots in Westwood
Councilman Chris Montana
Council President Chris Montana is a proven leader who serves Westwood out of devotion to our community, and the desire to see it prosper for years to come. Chris serves as the Boroughs liaison to Finance/Administration/Capital Projects, Senior Advisory committee and Shade Tree Committee. In previous years Chris worked with Recreation, Health Departments.
With deep roots in Westwood since 2001, Chris has been a welcome community volunteer, board member and elected official. From youth sports to community outreach and support, he is always there for Westwood.
Chris and his wife, Maria, have been married for 27 years and have two daughters, Amanda and Alexa. A proven professional businessman, he heads Business Development for a Marketing Technology firm and knows what it takes to get things done on budget, effectively and efficiently.
In addition to serving the residents as a Council Member since 2015, Chris continues to commit himself to multiple community organizations, including:
- Westwood’s Special Needs Athletic Program – 6 years
- Coach Co-Ed Basketball Program
- Coach Co-Ed Baseball Program
- Meals On Wheels North Jersey (AKA Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels) – 10 Years
- Board Member/Trustee
- Meal deliveries volunteer for Westwood, Washington Twp & Hillsdale homebound adults.
- Westwood for All Ages Steering Committee Member – 1 year
- Westwood Soft Ball Association & Recreation Girls Basketball Former Coach – 6 Years
- Westwood Zoning Board of Adjustment – Former Board member prior to Council election – 2 years
Since joining the Council in 2015, Chris has been actively proposing and implementing initiatives that have helped improve the quality of life in our community. Below is a sample of some of those important initiatives:
- Architected a multi year plan to reduce Borough Debt. Along with running mate Christopher Owens, crafted the strategy which reduced borough debt, allowing us over time to shift payments from debt service to the municipal operating budget. 2016 debt reduction was $1 million dollars with another $400K+ planned in 2017. Reducing the tax burden on Westwood residents and improving the boroughs financial position is a focal point which benefits us all.
- Helped secure $225,000 grant to fund Westwood For All Ages Project. Working in tandem with Meals on Wheels and the Mayor, Chris attended meetings with and spoke on behalf of the Borough and Meals on Wheels with the private Grantor on how a private/public partnership would benefit our current senior residents and improve the lives of current residents as they seek to age in place.
- Increasing the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in Westwood. Chris worked with the Board of Health to craft an ordinance increasing the minimum age for purchasing Tobacco in Westwood to 21. A move that that the State recently followed to help protect our kids from picking up this dangerous habit.
- Licensing sellers of e-Cigarette and “Vape” Products in Westwood. Chris worked with the Health Department to license Westwood shops selling E-cigarette and “Vape” products, the proceeds from the license have funded educational materials given to borough youth about the dangers of tobacco and these products.
- Formed Westwood’s Pedestrian Safety Taskforce. In the wake of increased safety concerns, Chris along with other council members analyzed Westwood Police reports to identify problem areas and form the Taskforce to uncover solutions and a logical step-by-step plan to implement fixes. As projects are completed, a plan to analyze and assess will be put in place and additional intersections will be added to expand the taskforces effectiveness.
- Tree City USA As liaison to the Shade Tree committee and the objectives they have set, our community is once again a National Arbor Day Foundation Tree City USA community. Chris’ vision, through the committee is to establish a community tree farm and continue to ensure our streets are tree lined and environmentally friendly.
Councilman Christopher Owens
Christopher has lived in Westwood since an early age, graduated from Westwood High School in 1982, and went on to attain his certification in Information Technology in 1983. Today, he works for the same IT company he joined 30 years ago, and continues to find his career choice to be rewarding and challenging.
Homeowners in Westwood for more than 20 years, Christopher and his wife raised their two children in our community. After volunteering as a chaperone with Teen Night when his kids were in the program, Christopher became more interested in Westwood government and began attending public meetings. Seeing his interest in making a difference, town leaders appointed Chris to the Zoning Board of Adjustment serving as a board member and as vice chair for 8 years and in 2014, and he later became a member of Borough Council.
On Council, Christopher is actively involved in numerous committees where he works to ensure the best for all residents of Westwood. Christopher’s work includes as:
- Liaison to Department of Recreation / Health The taxpayers were funding many of the initiatives of the department while the revenues which are generated by the various recreation programs remained in the Recreation Trust Fund. As the liaison Christopher questioned the expenses and hearing of past practices started working with the CFO to identify the expenses that can be paid out of the recreation trust fund. The process took some time to develop however overtime with minor tweaks and a few bumps along the way the taxpayers have less of a tax burden.
- Liaison to Public Properties The Department of Public Works is one of the larger expenses within Westwood’s budget. The revenue generating opportunities are somewhat limited while the cost saving through shared service agreements are sought with neighboring municipalities and the County.
- The DPW Committee negotiated a 5 year agreement which was fair to the current employees and taxpayers. The borough sought the removal of several past practices such as longevity for new hires.
- Held off on purchasing a new street sweeper as the current vehicle was shared with Rivervale. Christopher reasoned that while Rivervale opted to purchase a new machine in 2015 the use of the current machine will be cut in half. The street sweeper continues to be used today with the required maintenance being performed saving the taxpayers $125,000.00 expense.
- Liaison to Fire Department and Ambulance Corps These two volunteer departments are well run and budget conscious however the financial needs are many with very little revenue generating opportunities. Christopher has held a large appreciation for each of these departments as over the years he has witnessed the dedication each member has when responding to a call.
- In 1999, the Westwood taxpayers passed a referendum to create a Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) on behalf of the volunteers of our emergency services. The contribution for each member is determined by how active the member was in that given year. The contribution amounts are based on a points system managed by each of the departments. The maximum contribution amount to be earned has not increased since 1999. Christopher is working through the finance committee to see if the maximum contribution can be raised in a sustained manner without negatively affecting our budget goals. Deputy Liaison to Police Department.
- In 2015 and 2016 the Police Committee were in negotiations with the PBA. The process was long and tedious but in the end the agreement reached will help the taxpayers today and in the years ahead.
- Among the changes includes the removal of longevity for new hires as well as a modification to the step guide moving it from 6 years to 15 year.
- Deputy Liaison to Finance Committee In 2016, Christopher was involved in the budget discussions early on where we went over each line item. The process was initiated very early in the year which gave Chris Montana and myself some time to develop questions and foster ideas towards altering past practices. Initiating the 5 year rolling reassessment program was a big risk politically however is was the right decision for the budget and overall your pocket. While some property owners will pay more of the share of the tax burden others will see a decrease. The reassessment was not a way for the borough to raise additional revenue. It was a way to keep our property assessments at current market value to defend against appeals which since 2013 has been a burden to you financially.