EAST ORANGE, NJ - Mayor Lester E. Taylor III introduced a budget to the East Orange City Council during Monday’s City Council Meeting that he says marks the culmination of four years of hard work that has brought financial stability and balance to the city, while preserving programmatic goals and making targeted investments to bring East Orange into a new era of progress.
The proposed $140 million budget includes a $16 million fund balance, which means money in the bank reserved to cover the city’s annual budget expenditures without having to borrow money, a common practice from previous administrations.
After having to raise taxes by 4.5% in his first year, Mayor Taylor assembled a strong team of financial experts to help the city create an aggressive, but realistic plan that would put East Orange on strong fiscal footing for years to come.
The plan included a slight increase in the tax levy that progressively got lower in each subsequent year that followed (Taxes went up 2.5% in 2015 and 1.5% in 2016).
“Now we are in a position to lessen the tax burden of our homeowners and provide some relief in the form of a proposed .5% tax reduction,” said Mayor Taylor. “That translates into approximately $96 in tax savings for the average homeowner.”
In his budget address, Taylor painted a picture for those in attendance, describing where East Orange was three years ago and where East Orange is now.
Some highlights from his address include:
· Nearly a half billion of private capital investment in East Orange, up from $100 million three years ago
· Revamped East Orange Golf Course, which brought in $900,000 in revenue in 2016
· A completely overhauled East Orange Water Commission which is now a national leader in municipal water management
· The purchase of East Orange General Hospital by Prospect Medical, which saved the community hospital from closing
· Establishment of the Division of Vacant and Abandoned Properties which has brought in over $3.2 million
· Over $5 million in grants to support public safety personnel and keep our residents safe
· New employment training programs and additional recreational opportunities for young people
“The challenges in our first budget inspired our departments to think critically and creatively over the past three years. We’ve reduced superfluous spending and developed forward-thinking and innovative solutions that eliminate duplicative services, inefficiency and overlap,” said Mayor Taylor. “In essence, we have demonstrated what it means to set the standard for urban excellence.”