West Milford council is facing the prospect of cutting $2 million in spending for 2005. Council members, the mayor and town accountant Chuck Ferraioli have spent five meetings pouring over budget issues. The most recent of these meetings took place last Saturday morning in the town meeting hall to an audience of three reporters and no members of the public. The budget itself is still in the early stages. Services and programs will have to be cut, or alternatively, municipal taxes will be raised to meet the $2 million differential. But most of the council members have voiced a desirte to avoid a tax increase. The council took pride in itself at this stage last year in its ability to avoid raising municipal taxes but may find repeating that feat beyond them this time around. The proposed 2005 budget requires $15.8 million from taxpayers which is an increase of $2.4 million on the amount raised last year. Where possible cuts could come is open to speculation, but earlier this year council member Paul Bailey, who is leaving his seat on the council at the end of 2005, posed the question as to whether there was a continuing need for a planning department in the town in view of the Highlands Act. The Highlands Act prevents almost all new development in the township and therefore the need for a planning department comes into question. The subject of salaries for the most senior town officials came to the forefront earlier this year when an ordinance seeking to raise the pay scales for the top 28 employees was rejected by a majority vote in a council poll. Five council members requested a comparison with nearby municipalities before considering the increases. Township Administrator Richard Kunze is compiling sample figures and said this week "We have received salary range information from several towns and are waiting for responses from several more. I hope to have an analysis complete within the next month." Figures obtained from Wayne Township show that a measure of similarity in pay exists between the two towns despite the disparity in size and population. Wayne covers only 27 square miles while West Milford spreads over more than 80, however at a population of 55,000 Wayne has almost exactly double the population of West Milford. West Milford's top earner is engineer Richard McFadden who currently earns $103,000 per year. The proposed pay scale increase would raise his maximum possible pay to $120,500. In Wayne the pay scales have increased steadily over the past three years rising four percent annually, which if applied in 2005 would result in their town engineer's maximum to be just over $111,000. The town planner in West Milford, Bill Drew, is the second top earner with $98,126 annually. The proposed pay scale increase for his job being a max of $115,000. Wayne's town planner however could earn up to $130,000 if the four percent raise continues.Other top earners in West Milford include Police Chief and Director of Public Safety James Dykstra - $97,110, Library Director Barbara Cordaro - $89,854 and Township Clerk Kevin Byrnes - $83,075. Mayor Joseph DiDonato receives compensation to the sum of $5,348 for his position while each of the six council members receives $4,753.