Christopher Montana – Council President/Finance, Administration & Capital Projects Chair
Spring has finally arrived and it’s a much welcomed change of pace! Since early January, the borough’s finance committee has been hard at work crunching revenue and appropriation numbers from 2016, and reviewing 2017 operational and capital budget requests submitted by our department heads.
As finance chair, I wanted to thank my fellow committee members who include Mayor Birkner, Councilman Owens (2016), Councilman Greyfrath (2017), borough CFO Durene Ayer and Administrator Ben Kezmarsky. This team worked diligently with departments and their Council liaisons to deliver a financial roadmap and budget that moves our community forward, while being mindful of taxpayers.
The 2017 public hearing on the municipal budget was held on March 21st during the Mayor & Council Meeting. It was discussed, opened for public comment, voted on, and approved at that meeting. This budget was developed by our committee and presented to the governing body. It ultimately provides funding that allows us to maintain both service levels to our residents and expectations for quality deliverables. Additionally, the budget includes new community enhancing capital projects, while continuing to provide a stable fiscal foundation for future years. The budget numbers referenced in this update are for the municipal portion of your taxes only, and do not include school and county taxes, which are out of the governing body’s control. Please keep in mind that only 31% of the yearly total property taxes you pay fund municipal and library operations.
This year’s budget equates to an increase of $50 on an average assessed home of $410,000 in the borough. The 2017 total municipal budget appropriations are $18,616,300, with $15,232,600 to be raised through taxation. Highlights of the 2017 municipal budget include, but are not limited to:
- Additional funding of $58,800 for the Library, which is over the state mandated minimum of $641,202.
- The hiring of two new police officers for our patrol squads. After a short training period, these new officers will be ready to protect and serve our community in May 2017.
- The hiring of one additional special police officer.
- Full year of funding for our LEADS (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program to our schools.
- Repair of the McKinley Park Tennis Courts and Brookside Park Basketball Courts.
- HVAC upgrades to replace inefficient and failing equipment at our Community Center, Library, and Municipal complex.
- Infrastructure improvements at our Community Center and Library.
- Resurfacing of borough roads as recommended by our DPW and Borough Engineer.
- Increased funding of reserves to Storm Recovery, Accumulated Absence, and Tax Appeal accounts. All of these liabilities have potential significant tax implication on future budgets if not properly planned for.
- Holding the line on the amount of surplus used to provide property tax relief for residents. This year we utilized $835,000 from our surplus, which was equal to the surplus used in 2016.
- Planned reduction in the borough’s overall debt by approximately $450,000.
The preparation for the 2017 budget began in July of 2016 with monthly status calls and quarterly committee reviews of revenue and appropriation trends against our budget. We will continue this detailed level of planning and analysis in 2017 allowing us to:
- Provide our CFO, finance committee, and department heads with a 360 degree real time view of borough revenues and expenses against the budget. This allows us to identify trends (positive & negative) and limit unwanted surprises.
- Provide a continued financial road map, necessary for planning at a micro and macro level.
- Ensure we can continue providing a superior level of services to our residents and business owners while minimizing the tax impact.
- Continue to provide the capital improvements necessary to maintain the borough’s reputation of being the best location in the Pascack Valley region for residents and businesses to reside, while reducing the borough’s debt burden.
As the costs for commodities and services used for borough operation and resident services continue to increase, it is imperative that we continue with our disciplined review throughout our fiscal year and plan well in advance of the upcoming budget year. The finance committee is focused on understanding and identifying trends, remaining proactive rather than reactive, and doing our best to eliminate “surprises” that have historically cause upward and unwelcomed fluctuations in property taxes.