2014 budget: more cuts coming

Looks to continue cutting with sights on Recreation Department

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  • Photo by Linda Smith Hancharick Interim township Administrator Robert Casey addresses the township council on Wednesday regarding the budget. The council approved the final budget and instructed Casey to continue cutting.

By the Numbers
Total 2014 municipal budget: $31,240,449.38
Includes: Municipal, library, open space, reserves for uncollected taxes and appropriation excluded from caps
Solid waste budget: $2,098,965.59
Avg. Home assessed at $247,000
Pays: $2,180.65 Municipal taxes
2013 avg. municipal taxes: $2,075.81
Municipal tax increase of $104.84 for the average
Total average tax increase (includes school and county): $255

The township's 2014 budget is in place as the council approved the plan on Wednesday night. Last week they cut an additional $61,000 from the Community Services and Recreation budget - that’s in addition to the $30,000 they cut in their preliminary budget - and have directed the interim administrator to cut an additional $115,000 from the Recreation Budget for the remainder of the year.

Recreation gets sliced
Last Friday, the council had its final budget session and focused on the recreation budget. Interim Administrator Bob Casey put together a spreadsheet of expenditures and income from the programs offered by the Community Services and Recreation Department. He included all costs, from facilities use to clerical time. The council determined these programs can be run differently, from the outside instructor programs to the senior activities.

For example, take the seniors. Casey determined that the total cost of the senior activities, including salaries and facilities, is $178,173 per year. Other towns give senior groups a stipend to spend as they wish, which West Milford is considering for next year. That would eliminate all salaries and overhead associated with the program.

“Why are we administering senior activities when most towns give them money,” said Councilman Mike Hensley.

The township also offers many programs by outside instructors, like science and music programs for kids and exercise programs for adults. The figures provided by Casey show a net cost to the township of nearly $218,000 for this program alone. Councilwoman CarlLa Horton said the council had been told in the past that this program was self sustaining.

“This is not the sort of thing I want to have taxpayers subsidize,” said Horton.

On Wednesday night, Hensley said he wants $100,000 more cut from that department, and that’s in addition to the $75,000.

“Do you want to shut down Recreation?” asked Casey. “I’m not sure you want to jump into that."

Residents won’t feel the result of the $60,000 cut since that money was moved to fund a liability case.

Rice notices are coming

Councilman Lou Signorino said the additional $100,000 they just requested will be for the second half of this current year. Next year, the benefit will double since it will be applied to the entire year.

Basically, the council is restructuring the department as a whole. There is no director in place since the administration fired its director, Jayme Mulhern, earlier this year. The township is interviewing potential replacements and the council will send Rice notices to the department’s employees soon, letting them know their jobs may be on the chopping block.

Township attorney Fred Semrau said the law requires the township to give employees 48-hour notice if they are considering eliminating a position. The employees have the right to be heard, either in public or executive session.

Hensley said pink slips are needed “to stem the burden on taxpayers. It has to happen now.”

“It’s a bold thing that I’m suggesting,” Hensley continued. “The people of West Milford want bold leadership by this council. I am prepared to make these changes in this significant way.”

Budget adopted

The council adopted the budget as revised but asked the administration to continue cutting expenditures. Although the budget was approved, the council does not have to spend the full amount budgeted. Horton said she didn’t want to hold up the process waiting for Casey to make the additional cuts and then hold another public hearing. Any unexpended funds go into surplus next year.

What are your thoughts? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and tell us.

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