June 26, 2014 at 6:55 AM
EDISON, NJ – With the likelihood of a 9% tax hike in their future, more than100 Edison residents filled the council chambers to listen to Mayor Tom Lankey present the 2014 Edison Township Budget. The mayor carefully and articulately addressed a 12-page PowerPoint presentation that was projected onto a large screen for attendees to view and follow.
The presentation compared the 2006 and 2013 adopted budgets to the 2014 proposed budget with regards to the municipal, county and school portions of the budget and tax rates.
Tax appeal refunds accounted for over $19 million in the last three years according to the presentation. Lankey pointed out that tax appeals peaked in 2013 with 411 tax appeals from 5 in 2009 and noted that only 195 tax appeals were filed for 2014. He hopes the downward trend in tax appeals continues. He also emphasized a difference in tax appeals between commercial properties and residential properties in which commercial properties represented the highest cost drivers in the appeal process.
Another challenge facing Lankey are 9 out of 12 union contracts that need to be negotiated. He simply stated that he is open to all options during future negotiations.
Mayor Lankey summed up his presentation with his 12 Point 2014 Budget Initiatives:
1. Maintain/Enhance Services
2. Regenerate Surplus
4. Buildings and Equipment
5. Strategic Plan
6. Health Care Costs
7. Employee Contracts
8. Economic Development
9. Tax Appeals
10. Strong Financial Foundation
11. Reduced Legal Related Costs
12. 21st Century
Following the presentation the floor was opened up for public comment on the budget only. Resident after resident stepped up to the microphone asking the mayor direct questions or simply made comments on the budget.
The police department was a common theme resonating amongst residents’ concerns with the budget. The concerns ranged from salaries levels to staffing levels questioning the need for additional police officers.
The budget now goes to the town council for review before final adoption. Mayor Lankey doesn’t expect any further cuts in budget to reduce the 9% increase.