May 28, 2014 at 7:00 AM
SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - The Scotch Plains Township Council has approved the township’s $24 million municipal budget in a 3-2 majority vote held last week. Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover and Councilwoman Colleen Gialanella, both Democrats, voted against the municipal budget, while Republicans Llewellyn Jones, Mickey Marcus, and Bo Vastine approved it.
Councilman Jones explained the municipal budget, the component of the town's taxes that the council is responsible for, which resulted in an increase of $11. Additionally he offered a breakdown of the property tax increase, which includes a $400 tax increase on average for homeowners in Scotch Plains.
The majority of tax dollars (more than 60 percent) are funneled into the school system, while the rest of the money goes to Union County and to the municipality of Scotch Plains. The average $400 tax increase breaks down as follows:
- Scotch Plains School District: $254
- Union County: $135
- Municipal : $11
The budget represents the lowest tax increase in Scotch Plains in 11 years. In a five-year analysis, municipal taxes have gradually decreased, and in a countywide comparison, Scotch Plains ranked the second lowest in municipal tax increases.
“I voted against it because I didn’t see any need to raise the taxes on the citizens of Scotch Plains,” explained Mayor Kevin Glover in a phone interview with The Alternative Press. “I’ve reviewed the budget and see places where we have excess moneys available.”
“In difficult times -- and these are still difficult times -- I see no reason to increase the municipal taxes,” added Glover. “Taxes are too high in the county and the state, and we’d like to give our residents a break.”
“The annual budget process is one of, if not the most important responsibilities that we have,” said Jones, who gave a comprehensive presentation on the municipal budget as well as the school district and county budget. “While we want to keep tax increases at a minimum, we need to be responsible and this is a responsible budget.”
Meanwhile the capital ordinance budget of $1.6M did not pass. The resolution required a two-thirds vote from the council. Democrats Glover and Gialanella, voted against the resolution.
The capital ordinance budget, presented by township manager Jerry Giaimis at the recent Scotch Plains Council meeting, focuses on the following areas:
- Public safety and Public works equipment
- Finance and Technology systems
- Recreational improvements
“The ordinance they voted against included many important items for the town, amongst them, emergency dispatch for EMS and Fire departments,” said Jones in an interview with The Alternative Press.
Glover identified technology, procurement of vehicles and maintenance equipment concerns that he thought needed to be reviewed more thoroughly before signing off on his approval.
“I voted to introduce the ordinance to the public because it is standard policy to allow the public to review it and offer feedback,” said Glover, who added that he saw areas that needed improvement.
“This is about the citizens and fiscal responsibility.”
According to Councilman Jones, the ordinance must be reintroduced at the first June meeting and then approved at the business meeting scheduled later in the month.