MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ – Borough resident Liz Truman attended the Tuesday, May 21 council meeting and approached the governing body with some questions regarding the budgeted legal and health insurance costs.

Truman noted that the 2019 municipal budget features $147,000 increase over last year’s budget. This is a 1.7 percent increase. She also pointed out that significantly more funds, some $675,000 worth, have been allocated to legal costs. By October 2018 the borough had spent approximately $200,000 in legal fees related to the police department legal matter. There must have been a lot of legal bills to pay after the elections, she said. Furthermore, she stated that the public was led to believe that the governing body didn’t have to raise taxes to cover the legal expenses.

If you hadn’t had to spend $650,000 in legal fees our taxes wouldn’t have gone up 1.7 percent. Instead, the taxes might have gone down by five percent, Truman speculated. I think Mountainside residents should be made aware of this, she added. She also pondered what programs or services were cut to bolster the legal fund. Mayor Paul Mirabelli responded that no programs for residents were cut.

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Additionally, Truman asked who in the borough is entitled to health benefits. Mirabelli responded that only full-time employees are eligible for health insurance benefits. Truman noted that it appears that the employees are paying 23.2 percent of the health insurance cost. This is “a very rich plan with very low co-insurance. People who are getting it are very lucky,” she said.

Truman also questioned the health benefit insurance for one elected official. The cost of the policy for the borough is $31,467.01 of which the elected official pays $940.30. It turned out that the elected official in question is Mirabelli. “Why are we paying for your health insurance?” she asked. Mirabelli noted that he is entitled to the insurance because of his long service to the borough. “Do you think that is fair?” Truman asked. Mirabelli repeated that he is entitled to the policy, but this benefit is no longer available for other elected officials.

With regard to other news Councilman Robert Messler announced that the Port Authority of NY and NJ is seeking interested individuals who commute regularly or live near the midtown bus terminal to serve on the agency’s Port Authority Bus Terminal Advisory Council. This 12-month pilot program will begin in July. The purpose of the advisory council is to provide input to facility management on operations, customer service issues, and other related topics. Bus terminal council members will meet every two months either in person or via teleconference, Messler explained.

Interested applicants must submit applications by June 7, 2019. The application can be obtained at http://www.panynj.gov/PABTAC.  Messler explained that more information on the advisory council will be posted on the borough website.