Council finally moves budget toward adoption

West Milford. The 2019 township budget may finally be adopted next Wednesday night.

| 05 Sep 2019 | 01:02

A four-member majority of the Township Council voted Wednesday night to amend the proposed $35 million 2019 budget by using about $300,000 in surplus and making some $400,000 in spending cuts to reach a zero tax increase.

Councilwomen Ada Erik and Marylin Lichtenberg voted against the amendment.

Both councilwomen are opposed to using any of the remaining $1 million surplus to fill the about $700,000 budget hole because they say it may cause the town’s bond rating to drop, making it more expensive in the future to borrow money.

Councilmen Peter McGuinness and Lou Signorino, along with Councilwomen Andie Pegel and Patricia Gerst, voted for the amendment and to use roughly $300,000 in surplus as well as some $400,000 in cuts recommended by Acting Administrator and Budget Consultant Bob Casey, to reach a zero tax increase.

When all is said and done, the amended plan could amount to a reduction of about eight-tenths of a cent per $100 of assessed valuation in the tax rate.

For the owner of an average township home assessed at $242,000, that would mean a reduction of about $20.

Mayor Michele Dale and Casey have cautioned the council about using the surplus funds during the past several attempts to pass the budget.

Signorino said the funds should be used to reduce taxes, instead of increasing the rate by about 2.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

He pointed to the record $3.7 million in surplus generated last year as a harbinger of things to come in the next budget cycle.

Casy and Dale, however, said the moving three-year average for the surplus funds is not that high, and comes out to around $3.2 million.

Both said that using the funds would create about a $400,000 increase in next year’s budget.

The council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 11 at town hall for a final public hearing and adoption of the spending plan.

That meeting will take place before the 7 p.m. 9/11 commemoration ceremony at the memorial in front of the building.