On April 24th, the governing body approved the 2017 budget for the borough. This year’s budget will be a major blow to residents, mainly due to a series of several large bonds that were passed by the previous administration last year. All said, the 2017 budget will result in an 8.69% tax increase, a result of a 6.19% increase that found their way on the books from last year’s spending. The other 2.5% are made by the decisions of the new administration to no longer ignore our deteriorating roads and parks by adding $200,000 to restart a town roads program for the first time in nearly three years and $50,000 to add capital maintenance improvements to our parks that haven’t seen notable investment in over five years.
This year’s budget process was more difficult than usual. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Councilman John Sapata was appointed as Chairman of the Budget Committee. Council President Shawn Haussermann explained, “Republicans got us into the fiscal situation we’re in today, and so we asked them to help us—to work with us—to find a solution together.”
Unfortunately, Councilman Sapata declined to chair the committee, the first time in recent history that a member of the governing body declined to fulfill his role upon a standing committee.
“The finance committee was forced to pick up the slack,” explained Councilman Jones, who sits on both the Finance and Budget committees. He continued, “Unfortunately, the finance committee can only do so much when much of the damage inflicted is from debt spending from last year. Fortunately though, we’re beginning to stabilize things by finding savings now and putting together new policies that will ultimately save us down the road.”
Councilwoman Julie Meira, who also sits on the finance committee explained the challenge, “We were presented with two options—we could accept a 6.19% tax increase gifted to us from the gentlemen we replaced and continue to ignore our roads and parks, or we could begin to make good on the promises we campaigned on and spend a little to begin maintenance so that our parks are welcoming and our roads aren’t littered with potholes.”
Councilmen Sapata and Gurchensky have already suggested in meetings that they are critical of this year’s budget, comments that are not lost on Council President Haussermann. “These are the folks that put forth budgets the last two years with tax increases of 3.5% and 5.9%. And what did we get with those increases? I’m not really sure if I can point to anything. Our parks need significant improvements and are roads are falling apart because we haven’t had a road’s program in years. Both of them were vocal supporters of the $15 million and growing firehouse instead of a more modest one that fits our town’s size. In fact, on December 29th, Sapata defended his support of the project, saying he’d continue to spend if necessary. Yet now, they’re critical, when a vast majority of this year’s budget is the result of their poor decisions. It just reeks of politics.”
“Besides,” he added, “if they’re in favor of the huge firehouse budget, what exactly are you against in this budget? Our roads? Our parks?”
If passed, the tax rate would go from $2.073 to $2.255, an increment of $0.182. The amount to be raised is $737,010. Haussermann concluded, “The finance committee has proposed a variety of ways to begin reining in spending and we have to take each of them seriously if we’re going to get out of this situation. Every dollar counts and they eventually add up to real savings.”