First Municipal Budget Workshop Has $137 Household Tax Increase

The first municipal budget workshop held on February 11th had a tax impact increase of $136.62 for a house assessed at the new assessed rate amount of $253,000. This new amount is a result of the townwide revaluation conducted last year by Realty Appraisal Company. Up until last year, the rate for decades was $65,000. The municipality is now at 100% market rate. This amount is solely for the municpal portion of property taxes, which are made up of municipal, school, county, and open space taxes as well as the required library minimum.

Ken Blum, Roselle Park Chief Financial Officer (CFO) started by reviewing surplus, the tax collection rate (98.19%), the 2016 Net Value Taxable, and the amount reserved for tax appeals ($400,000) – that last amount was increased by $100,000 from last year.

The CFO stated during his introduction that in order to have a tax increase of zero ($0), there would need to be a cut in appropriations or reduce revenues by roughly $568,000. He also discussed the 2% cap on raising the tax levy from last year. He stated that even though a hard 2% cap would limit the increase to $244,037.81 – or a $58.57 increase for a house assessed at $253,000 – there are numerous exceptions that are added to the increase. Those exceptions include increases in shared service agreements, health insurance costs, pension obligations, LOSAP (Length Of Service Award Program), capital improvement, debt service, capital leases, recycling tax, deferred charges, and emergencies. All that amounts to $12,750,627.90 which does not include the minimum amount of $363,328.32 required to be given to the library this year – that amount is an increase over last year’s required minimum. For Roselle Park, the maximum allowable amount with exception is $12,551,394. The municipality is over the cap by a little under $200,00 but, there is cap banking of over $250,00 that can be used to cover the difference so the budget – with its increases – is allowable.

These mandatory increases account for almost 97% of the $136.62 increase.

On the revenue side, most remain the same as last year with the exception of the parking meters which had a decrease of $5,000 due to the fact that parking in municipal lots is now free.

Mandatory increases that deal with amounts either agreed to through negotiations or obligations beyond the control of the municipality – such as utilities – include:

  • Salaries and wages had a $198,807 increase
  • Board Of Health had a $3,915 decrease
  • Fire hydrant  service utilities had a $5,000 increase
  • Telephone had an $11,000 increase
  • Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) had a $9,517 increase
  • Social Security had a $1,400 increase
  • Police & Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) had a$55,442 increase
  • Implementation of the Fair Share Housing Plan had a $100,000 increase
  • Group insurance plan for employees had an$80,00 increase
  • Health benefits waivers had a $5,000 increase
  • Workers’ Comp Insurance had a $7,000 increase
  • Reserve for uncollected taxes had a $60,414 increase

They totaled $551,480 or a tax impact of $132.35. These mandatory increases account for almost 97% of the $136.62 increase.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) had a significant increase due to the budgeting for an additional equipment operator ($66,291.79) and an additional laborer ($45,894.96); these amounts are just for salaries and do not include benefit costs. With the laborer added last year which has not yet been filled, this will increase the headcount at the DPW by three.

The Casano Community Center and the Code Enforcement Office also had increases.

Two expenses that decreased were for the Public Defender  with a decrease of $1,250 and engineering services which had a decrease of almost $5,000 due to a decrease in their contract bid. The Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) had an increased budget of $41,000 due to the municipality needing to review its Master Plan. Police had a $62,400 for renewal of camera equipment and the maintenance contract for the body worn cameras (BWCs) that police officers now wear. The Roselle Park First Aid Squad (RPFAS) submitted an across the board 5% increase request of $647.50 with no explanation. Emergency Management had a $5,100 increase for Auxiliary Police equipment and uniforms. There was a $9,000 increase for garbage collection and another $8,000 for recycling. Garbage collection remained the same. Maintenance of vehicles requested an additional $18,300.

This budget has two bulk pick-ups.

The celebration of public events had a $29,250 price tag and the Casano Community Center requested an increase of $8,000 for new programs.

The library asked for an additional $61,197.68 over the required minimum of $363,328.32 for a total budget request of $424,526. That required amount itself was an almost $20,000 increase over last year’s $343,875.75 library minimum. It was stated during the workshop that the library had to go into its reserves but at the February Library Board meeting it was stated that none of the library’s surplus was used in 2015.

To increase revenues, there was discussion to update construction permit fees to bring them up-to-date and in line with what other municipalities charge.

The next municipal budget workshop is scheduled for tonight, February 25th, at 6:30 p.m. in the second floor conference room of the Roselle Park Municipal Complex, located at 110 East Westfield Avenue. There will be a second round of adjustments and discussion regarding the budget as well as an opportunity for the public to ask questions, offer suggestions, and provide input during the public comment portion of the meeting.