Edison, NJ - On Monday, the Edison Town Council narrowly adopted the Mayor’s proposed 2019 Calendar Year Budget, with Council President Alvaro Gomez casting the deciding vote. It represents the sixth straight year that taxes will increase for the state’s fifth largest municipality.
Council Vice President Ajay Patil, Councilman Joseph Coyle, and Councilman Samip Joshi voted against the budget, which includes a municipal tax increase of 4.15%.
Council President Alvaro Gomez, Councilman Robert Diehl, Councilman Michael Lombardi, and Councilman Leonard Sendelsky voted in favor of the budget.
During his address to the Council in July, Mr. Lankey cited decreasing revenue, rising costs and a growth in the number of tax appeals as reasons for the increase.
“In the past few years I’ve generally come with a lot of positive energy and a lot of positive news. This year’s budget is a much greater challenge than we’ve had in previous years,” said Mr. Lankey during the annual budget presentation. “We’ve seen some of our revenues decrease. We’ve had to use a lot of one-time items this year which as you know we generally try not to do but in an effort to try to keep the tax increase low we did use a lot of one-time items,” he said.
Detractors of the budget cited the lack of a long-term vision with respect to the township’s finances.
“Where’s the five year plan, the ten year plan?” asked Mr. Patil in an interview with TAPinto Edison. “The current budget process is flawed. We are voting on a 2019 budget with 3 months to go in the year. Instead of looking forward, we are patching holes and we are asking our residents to fill the gaps. Tax breaks for multi-million dollar corporations are being funded by the people, and this budget did not include a strategy to fix that situation,” he said.
Mr. Coyle said that he voted against the budget because he felt it did not address systemic issues and placed an undue burden on tax payers.
“For the past several years, I have been asking for a real, transparent plan to bring neighborhood friendly ratables to town, to make that investment. This budget once again failed to that. Instead it harms our residents who are getting priced out of town. This tax increase impacts families in a very real way, and I will not sign off on that,” he said.
Both Mr. Patil and Mr. Coyle also voted against last year’s budget, which passed on a 5-2 vote.
Mr. Lombardi defended his vote in favor of the budget, stating that it was a tough decision, but necssary.
“In my eight years on council, one of my most difficult tasks is evaluating the budget year after year and determining whether an increase is needed, knowing that the Council’s actions may have a financial impact on the residents of this township,” said Mr. Lombardi after vote.
“Unfortunately, this year, due to significant revenue shortfalls, additional contractual obligations, and no increase in assistance from the State, the township is again in the position, where in order to continue to provide the same level of services, public safety, we must consider an approximate 4% budget increase,” he said.
According to the Administration, the Township’s 2018 revenues were approximately $2.5 million less than anticipated. Mr. Lankey cited a number of reasons for decreased revenues, including a drop in Uniform Construction Code fees. In 2018, the township received nearly $6.2 million in fees compared to $4.9 million this year, a decrease of nearly 20%.
At his annual address, Mr. Lankey also stated that the Township was facing several significant fixed costs, pointing to public safety and insurance costs. Approximately 85% of the Township’s budget is due to union contracts and state regulations, according to the Administration.
“Budgets are difficult primarily because, depending on what side you are looking at it. For some people it is how much surplus can you generate. In our case, we haven’t been fortunate enough that the economy has allowed us to grow back at the rate it will cover all the expenses,” said Mr. Gomez.