LITTLE FALLS, NJ - Mayor James Damiano presented his proposed 2020 budget to the Township Council at Monday night's council meeting, which highlights no increase to municipal taxes. Council members will have an opportunity to review the Mayor’s budget and make any additions, deletions or changes they see fit. If approved without amendments, the total appropriations for the 2020 budget stand at $9,593,164. The reserve for uncollected taxes is $950,000.

The debt service stands at $2,158,000, while salaries comprise $7,630,923. The budget revenue reflects $7,251,389, and the amount to be raised by taxation is $13,130,698.

Mayor James Damiano, who formally introduced the spending plan, said it represents a budget of a little over $20,000,000 this year. He added that the proposed budget is under the tax levy cap by $381,164 and under the appropriations cap by $6,658.

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"In 2019, the Township had an assessed value of $1,509,081,000 and in 2020 we have assessed value of $1,508,451,600, a slight decrease this year," he explained, attributing the drop to the reduction in assessed values due to tax appeals. "Several tax appeals and properties acquired through the FEMA program create the most difficult parts to make up in a budget, and of course we're always trying to increase our assessed values here in town. Unfortunately, between 2019 and 2020, we did see a decrease to our assessed value of the municipality."

Municipal taxes are projected for 2020 at $0.870 and the 2019 the amount was also at $0.870.

"That means that this year there is a zero percent tax change from the 2019 rate," he emphasized. "The average home for 2020 is valued at $310,000. The 2019 municipal tax was $2,697 and in 2020 it's an identical number, so that means there will be no local increase in municipal taxes in 2020." 

Damiano also touted a fund balance anticipated this year at $2,000,000 utilized from the 2019 year end Fund Balance of $2,826,515, leaving $826,515 remaining.

"We have an increase in our surplus balance of about $800,000 and we were able to do that without having any tax increase in municipal taxes. I believe we have good news here in Little Falls," noted Mayor Damiano in his presentation. "I'm happy to share all this information. I think we have been good stewards of taxpayers funds, which have resulted in a strong financial position and our ability to stabilize municipal taxes."

Other highlights include administrative salary increase set to reflect 2.75 percent base increase, public employees retirement system cost per employee of $7,722, and a change in an administrative position from a part-time administrative clerk to full-time. A part-time administrative clerk to the finance office was also added, as well as an additional fill in senior bus driver, and new clean communities coordinator. Salaries for police have been incorporated into the 2020 budget in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement at a 2.75 percent increase. Police and Fire pension costs reflect cost per officer of $30, 380.70.

The Township has entered into a shared services arrangement with the Borough of Elmwood Park to provide EMS services to that community. The expenses of $369,060 are offset by revenues from Elmwood Park of $369,060.

Damiano also spoke of the township's vehicle acquisition program for police, which is continuing with the purchase of two new police vehicles this year. 

"I think keeping this program where we purchase new vehicles every year gives us lower maintenance costs over the life of these vehicles. This program has been effective for us so I would like to continue with that," he said.

The budget is expected to be introduced by the Township Council on March 9, 2020. The public hearing and adoption would then be scheduled for April 13, 2020.