RP M&C Meeting (September 17, 2009)

On September 17, 2009, in Mayor & Council, Video, by RP Citizens

Mayor & council were in attendance with the exception of councilman Matarante who was in Detroit, Michigan. The mayor stated that he had a charity dinner dance to attend and he would be leaving after the budget was adopted.

   

Budget Hearing & Adoption

Resolution 181-09

The Borough Clerk read the resolution and mandated statement into the record. Resolution 181-09 was moved and seconded. The public hearing on the budget was opened.

 

Jacob Magiera

* Mr. Magiera stated that an additional 10% should be taken off for all other expenses with the exception of the police department, volunteer fire department, and volunteer first aid.
* Mr. Magiera spoke on resolution 175-09 with regard to the purchase of natural gas through the Union County Cooperative Pricing Agreement. Mr. Magiera had previously stated that the cost of natural gas was going to go down and an article in the newspaper confirmed that statement. Mr. Magiera asked what the cost was in resolution 175-09 and if included the rate decrease from Elizabethtown Gas. The mayor asked if Mr. Magiera wanted to know how that resolution would affect the municipal budget. Mr. Magiera wanted to know the cost of Roselle Park’s natural gas. The mayor stated that any decrease would affect the last quarter of the municipal year since the reduction was announced recently. Mr. Magiera stated that the rate came down 37%. Mr. Blum stated that the natural gas line item for 2009 is $70,000 and the Union County Co-Op agreement rate was 2.38 per therm. The CFO did not know if that included the 37% decrease stated by Mr. Magiera. Mr. Magiera asked when does the Union County Co-Op contract begin. The CFO did not have that information available. The mayor stated that no one knows the exact effect on the budget yet but the last quarter’s savings could be used to project the budget for 2010. Mr. Magiera stated and any money saved could be used to purchase “Yield To Pedestrian” signs. The mayor stated that NJ allows the transfer of unused funds in November and December to be used for such purchases. Mr. Magiera asked who votes to transfer line items at the end of the year. He was notified that the CFO makes his recommendations and that council votes on whether or not to transfer to line items.
* Mr. Magiera wanted to confirm that mayor & council will not take a pay increase for 2010, continuing the practice of no pay increase starting from 2006 on.
* Mr. Magiera spoke on Ordinance 2281. He wanted to ask if the shared services with Cranford included the DPW. The mayor stated that the Borough Clerk approached Cranford’s Business Administrator to see if services could be shared, including the DPW.
* Mr. Magiera stated that the backbone of Roselle Park is its seniors. There is no COLA (Cost Of Living Allowance) increase for Social Security for 2010-2011 and possibly 2012-2013. Taking the taxpayer into consideration, council should look into freezing wages, freezing hiring, and freezing spending.

 

Glen Marczewski

* Mr. Marczewski asked about the $375,000 cuts made in the budget. He wanted to know where the cuts were made. He was read portions from the 2009 Municipal Budget Narrative Summary that pointed out cuts made. Mr. Marczewski asked if the cuts were needed due to the legal proceeding with AvalonBay since that cost around $350,000. The mayor stated that the Borough was required by the state to meet a 3.5% cap limit on appropriations and a 4% cap on property tax levy. There are exceptions but those mandates are required by law. Mr. Marczewski stated that he thought the corresponding figures meant that it was do to the lawsuit with AvalonBay. The mayor stated that if the lawsuit continued, that would require more spending and more cutting of services from the budget.

 

Robert Zeglarski

* Mr. Zeglarski asked if the information provided to those in the audience was part of the new user-friendly budget. He was notified that the information came by way of a request from councilwoman Larissa Chen-Hoerning. Mr. Zeglarski thanked the councilwoman for the information provided.
* Mr. Zeglarski asked why there would need to be a $384,000 salary lien item in a $1.642 million sewer budget; with benefits it would come out to $428,000. Mr. Blum stated that the line item covers six (6) full-time employees and three (3) part-time employees, all from Roselle Park. They do sewer utility work, payroll charges, and clerical work.
* Mr. Zeglarski stated that the unemployment rate reached 9.7% and it will continue to rise. He stated that council raised the reserve on uncollected taxes, which will further be a burden on the tax payer. Mr. Zeglarski stated that he knew that mayor & council were good people with good intentions but that a 5.3% increase in taxes does not reflect the real world – a 4% increase would have been more realistic.
* Mr. Zeglarski stated that nine and a half months into the budget year, the budget is actually reporting on what has been done during the year. Perhaps council should start considering doing something about speeding up the process. One suggestion would be to see if the Borough can change from a calendar year to a municipal one. Another suggestion would be to start the process a little earlier and have the professionals (the CFO, the tax collector, and the treasurer) do more of the work and have council step back a little bit to have them do their work more efficiently. Most of the budget, around 80% is salary and benefits. Salaried have been determined by contract negotiations. Council should remember that negotiated salaries will translate into increases in future budgets. Also, those negotiating should realize that although they are hard-working and good people that they are public employees and that maybe the world has changed and that we all are going to have to not expect raises over 4%.

 

Andrew Casais

* Mr. Casais stated he was speaking for himself, not as the Chair of the Concerned Citizens Of Roselle Park. Stating that he attended the budget meetings he wanted to commend council for all their hard work. He stated that more people should attend the budget meetings since that is when decisions are made on how to spend the taxes paid by the residents.

 

Eugene Meola

* Mr. Meola started to speak on the storm sewer drain on Sheridan Avenue. The mayor noticed that Mr. Meola had arrived to the meeting late and notified him that this public portion was for the budget only, not the general public portion. Mr. Meola stated he would come back during the regular public portion.

 

The mayor wanted to congratulate councilwoman Chen-Hoerning and council-at-large Carl Hokanson. The mayor stated that one criticism he had was that the goal of council was to leave most of the work to the professionals but in doing that, there were more meetings with department heads.

Council-at-large Hokanson stated that there were 11 budget meetings and 6 capital budget meetings. In looking at the problems surrounding towns had, Roselle Park still had their fireworks, the Christmas decorations stayed in the budget, and the Borough maintained its fore & police departments. Council did not incur future debts for its residents by partaking in partial pension payments. $1.5 million was pu tint for streets but that was knocked down. Council could have done more, especially with RVSA and contracts and the council-at-large will look into have multiple bids for the Borough’s insurance carrier. Council will look into more joint services. Council did a good job since there were no major lay0offs and no major cutbacks.

Councilwoman Chen-Hoerning stated, and the mayor concurred, that everyone worked together to get the budget as low as possible. The CFO did a lot more work and council talked more on tough issues, not simply line items. One suggestions the councilwoman had was to start the process a little earlier. Perhaps the Finance Chair next year could meet with department heads earlier to get the process going. The councilwoman also asked if someone could find the increases in the surrounding municipalities.

The CFO stated, with regard to contractual negotiations, that blue collar increases in salary was at 3.75% and PBA salary increases were at about 4.4%. The 4% cap from the state was meant as a means to fight arbitration in salary increase. When the negotiations with the PBA went into arbitration, council met with professionals in the field and they were told that the law is so new that arbitration will most likely side with the police department. Additionally, the PBA sees surrounding communities with regard to increases and most likely, fighting any arbitration would result in a loss for the municipality.

The mayor stated that he does not recall a budget process that did not include a CFO. In looking at this budget historical data and revenues were looked into. With regard to changing from calendar to fiscal budget years, the CFO stated that the state will not allow municipalities to change from calendar to fiscal. Some municipalities want to go back to calendar and that will be allowed but with restrictions.

The mayor asked for the reason for the large amount in reserve for uncollected taxes. The CFO stated that the budget needed to ensure that the municipality had enough to pay county and school taxes because if taxes are not paid due to appeals or other circumstance, the municipality would be out its funds but both the county and the schools would have their share paid by the Borough. Based on the collection rates and the current economy, the possibility of lower tax payments appears likely and a larger reserve needs to be in place.

The mayor spoke on the suggestion to cut line items by an additional 10%. The mayor researched the existing budget and read from a list of the cuts made from requests from department heads at the beginning of the budget process to what was finally put into the budget:

* Municipal Clerk’s Budget- 11.39% decrease
* Finance & Administration Budget – 2.4% decrease
* Legal Budget – 11.76% decrease
* Mayor & council Budget – 24.17% decrease
* Municipal Court Budget – 4.14%
* Human Resources Budget – 8.33% decrease
* CAASA Budget – 36.3% decrease
* Planning Board Budget – 41% decrease
* Zoning Board Budget – 11% decrease
* Public Works Budget – 5.72% increase
* Sanitation Costs – 7.2% decrease
* Maintenance of Vehicles Budget – 27.67% increase
* Celebration Of Public Events Budget – 28% decrease
* Code & Other Expense Budget – 4.2 % decrease

The significant increases that resulted in an increase in the tax levy were pension increases, utilities, insurance, and the reserve for uncollected taxes.

Councilman Yakubov commended members of council. He stated that council was working from a zero increase budget and that they looked for creative ideas for savings but that some of the savings were not worth the initial increase in the budget, such as solar panels. The councilman suggested a back-pack program to have more people aware of the budget meetings. He additionally suggested to invite the BOE sit in on municipal budget meetings and have the municipality sit in on BOE meetings. Asking department heads to form a shared services committee would be another way to try and find savings. The councilman felt that all department heads should have been brought in instead of having them submit reports because speaking with someone could give a better understanding if something is really needed or if it could wait another year. The councilman stated that the decrease in state aid did affect the budget but the good news was that most of the road work received grant money. He did wish more residents would come out to budget meetings and perhaps something akin to a coffee hour could be started to have residents keep up with the process.

The budget was voted on and approved.

 

The mayor stated that Verizon FIOS has an installation date set for September 21 to have local access channels included in their system. There will be some testing and the scheduled launch date is September 30, 2009.

 

The mayor excused himself from the dais to leave for a prior engagement. Councilman Yakubov acting in the capacity of mayor and councilman Dinardo was council president.

Communications

* All communications, including the fire drill at the old A&B Auto Glass were moved, seconded, voted on, and approved.

 

Report Of Standing Committees And Other Mayor & Council Committees

Council-At-Large Carl Hokanson
 

Councilwoman Larissa Chen-Hoerning
 

Councilman Modesto Miranda
 

Councilman Larry Dinardo
 

Councilman Michael Yakubov
 

Reports Of Departments

* All reports were moved, voted on, and approved.

The Minutes To Be Approved, Pending Any Corrections, Motion that Bills & Payrolls Not Be Read, Motion that Bills & Payrolls Be Passed For Payment, and Minutes for Meetings were all voted on and carried.

 

Public Portion

Paul Irslinger
 

Jacob Magiera
 

Nick Pagnetti
 

Glenn Marczewski
 

Andrew Casais
 

Eugene Meola
 

Closed Session Item

 

Ordinances For 1st Reading

Ordinance 2281

 

Ordinance 2282

 

Resolutions

* No resolutions were pulled from consent

 

Closed Session Notice