MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The Township Committee introduced a $39,300,000 municipal budget for 2014 at its meeting on Tuesday night, which is $280,000 lower than that of 2013.
“The budget that we are introducing tonight for 2014 reflects the values and the goals of the Township Committee,” said Mayor Victor DeLuca. “And those are to balance improving municipal services and improving the quality of life with sensitivity to the property tax burden that is felt by our residents. When we started budget discussions in January, we committed ourselves to keeping to a real 2 percent increase or even going lower, and we have accomplished that.”
Included in the budget is: $175,000 to be used to retire municipal debt; funds to hire two new police officers which brings the number up from 60 to 62; increasing the hours of the cultural affairs office to full time in anticipation of the programs at the former Women’s Club; expanded jitney service to include a fourth route; and increasing the budget of the Maplewood Memorial Library by 4 percent.
State aid will only pay 5 percent of the budget. The revenue will come mostly from property taxes, a full 72 percent of the budget, up from 69 percent this year. The tax rate will go up to 9.2 cents per $100 from 9 cents, so on an average home, assessed at $395,000, the municipal tax would increase $75 over 2013.
A budget hearing will take place on May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at which the public is invited to comment on the budget.
“Nice job by the finance committee and administration for getting us where we need to be,” said Committeeman Gerard Ryan.
Committeewoman India Larrier added, “I would like to commend Mr. Manning. He went through this process with us without the benefit of a CFO. Thank you for that. It could not have been easy. Kudos to you.”
In other business, the Committee approved by a vote of 3-2 an ordinance that will allow residents to erect rear property line fences with a height of six feet under certain circumstances. Police representatives have expressed a preference for four-foot fences, citing safety issues. Committee members Ryan and Leventhal objected to the ordinance.
The committee also passed a bond ordinance appropriating $3,624,022 to fund capital improvements, including: more than $1,000,000 in road and curb improvements (half of Springfield Avenue will be paved); the parking lot at 60 Woodland Road will be improved; a new fire engine; a new street sweeper; a new jitney bus; police dispatch and video equipment; and library improvements.
Regarding parking downtown, DeLuca said, “It is the Township Committee’s intention, as the owner of the property at 60 Woodland, to create additional public parking there. Our engineer has looked at that site and we believe that we can create additional public parking on the west side of the building and also that we want to merge the two lots, the Highland lot and the 60 Woodland lot to create a flow of cars between the two parking lots. After talking to Mr. Desiderio, we believe that we are within our rights as the owner of the properties to make that improvement for the public good. What we want to come out of this is a motion to move forward to create that parking.” A motion was passed that a review of the site plan would be done with the Planning Board and the next steps be taken toward making those parking changes.