2018 Municipal Budget: Fourth annual maximum allowed 2% property tax increase and $9.2 million in bonding The 2018 municipal budget proposed by Mayor Parisi would raise property taxes 2%, the fourth consecutive year of increasing by the maximum allowed by state law. Spending would rise $3.5 million, or 4.4%, to $83.2 million. The mayor proposed $9.2 million in borrowing, including $110,000 for an "ice bumper car facility". The borrowing would raise our debt to a record $82 million, up $22.2 million, or 37%, during Mayor Parisi's tenure. In the same time period, annual debt service -- paying back the bonding with interest -- is up $2.4 million, or 48%, to more than $7.3 million. This occurred during a period of historically low interest rates; with them rising over the last two years and consensus expectations to continue, these costs are likely to rise even more.
The Administration presented the proposed budget at the May 22, 2018, Town Council meeting. For video, please click here. (Please note that several mistakes are identified in the slides; none of them has been corrected.) Following the meeting, I wrote an article about the proposals for The West Orange Chronicle. (Subsequently, Council voted to approve the budget and bonding 4-1, with me voting no on both.)
"Opinion: Further scrutiny of our town's budget, bonding"
"WEST ORANGE, NJ — Curious about the proposed 2018 municipal budget, its 2-percent tax increase and the proposed $9.2 million bond ordinance that includes a $110,000 “ice bumper car facility”? After the administration’s presentation at the May 22 council meeting, and the subsequent West Orange Chronicle article, it would greatly benefit residents to have additional key information and context ... " For the rest of the article, please click here.
My perspective on the 2018 budget Our Green West Orange, a local group advocating for change in the town with the motto "Working to keep West Orange green, safe and affordable," invited me to my perspective on the 2018 municipal budget at a meeting May 12, 2018, at Total Wine. I tried to highlight some issues and provide context. You may be interested in the parts where I show that the town's chief financial officer was budgeted for his fourth and fifth consecutive annual raises -- including one for next year! -- to a salary of nearly $174,000. That's up $33,500, or 24%, over five years. He and three others in his department received raises of $36,000 -- three of them already making more than $100,000 and one making nearly $65,000. I also took questions from the audience. The meeting was LiveCast on Facebook. For video, please click here.
Senior Citizens Advisory Board This 9:45 video shows Joe's 2016 efforts to create a Senior Citizens Advisory Board and the resistance to the legislation from other council members, one of whom cites the mayor's opposition. The resistance includes delays in placing the legislation on a meeting agenda and the council's vote to not even allow discussion or public comment of the proposed ordinance, which is here.
Essex Green Executive Drive Redevelopment Area For the last year, the township administration and council majority have pushed for the creation of a redevelopment area comprising Essex Green and Executive Drive. In January, the council voted to create the redevelopment area based on a report from the town's part-time planner finding that the proposed area qualified under the state law and that Essex Green was "untenantable." (Since that report was completed, in October 2017, Essex Green has signed three new tenants.) The law deems an area in need of redevelopment to be "blighted," for the purposes of meeting the requirement of the state constitution. It also allows the municipality to grant 30-year tax abatements and Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs) as incentives to developers to invest in areas that cannot attract private capital. Following the designation, Joe wrote an opinion article for The West Orange Chronicle summarizing the many ways the project meets neither the language nor the intent of the redevelopment law.
"Opinion: A grave misinterpretation of redevelopment law"
"I was the sole vote against creating the Essex Green Executive Drive Redevelopment Area at the Jan. 9 Township Council meeting, primarily because I believe it does not even come close to meeting the law’s restrictive standards. The state Legislature limited usage because the law’s authority allowing incentives could be abused. This could hurt taxpayers at the expense of wealthy commercial property owners that don’t need any help, but are happy to accept abatements, avoiding millions of dollars in future property taxes that must be made up by the rest of us.
"The Legislature is clear on the law’s purpose: to bring private capital and economic activity to areas that cannot attract either ..." For the rest of the article, please click here.