LIVINGSTON, NJ – Livingston’s Township Council held a public hearing on the 2014 municipal budget at its latest town meeting, resulting in the budget being passed by resolution in a vote of 4-1.

Township Manager Michele Meade presented the budget with the aid of a slide show, just as she did about a month prior on the meeting of March 24, which held the same content. The details of her presentation can be found here, in a previous article.

The highlights of Meade’s presentation are as follows:

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The 2014 budget saw a 2.8 percent increase from the previous year, coming to a total of $48,257,778.  This means an average increase of $63.68 for property taxes this year coming from the municipality.

According to Meade’s presentation, this brings the average monthly cost for municipal taxes up to $223.30, the majority of which goes to public safety (26 percent or $57.94), capital debt service (16.4 percent or $36.56), the library (10.3 percent or $22.98), and insurance costs (10 percent or $22.08).

The council called for anyone who wished to dispute the budget to rise, however no one did. Councilman Rudy Fernandez asked Russell Jones, assistant town manager, “Was that the first time no one rose to the microphone (for the budget)?” to which Jones replied “we’ve had years where no one was even in the audience” which was taken in with light laughter.

Fernandez went on to vote yes and explained that  “we continue to be faced with many challenges, some of which are out of our control, this year’s tax increase is $63.68 but without the decrease in ratables (income from property taxes) and tax appeals which all towns are struggling with, the tax increase would have only been $43 on average.”

Councilman Al Anthony also voted yes on the budget, calling it an “easy vote”. “As the saying goes don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value. I think what the budget shows …(is)  that what we put first and value is the general health and safety of the community, along with the great services which this town provides which make it such a great place to live” said Anthony.

Councilwoman Deborah Shapiro cast the sole “no” vote for the budget. Shapiro said no for a number of reasons, including the Livingston Shuttle. “I will not support a program that at most benefits approximately 60 riders out of 29,000 residents. To get this appropriation off the budget in total would only add a cost of 50 cents per ride.”

Shapiro stated that her biggest issue with the 2014 budget was the “library surplus.” “Livingston funds the Library over $900,000 beyond what the law dictates the township must.”

Although Shapiro believes that the library should be given more funds than is legally desired, she believes the current funding to be excessive. “I don’t believe it should be given such a large surplus, and that this issue should be pushed aside for another year.” Shapiro also emphasized that this is an added cost to the taxpayer.

To read more on Councilwoman Shapiro’s budget vote, click here.

Deputy Mayor Michael Silverman voted “yes” and complimented Livingston stating “services are strong and they are available. We have services and opportunities that other communities simply don’t.”

Mayor Rieber voted “yes” as well, stating that “only 18 percent of property taxes are for municipal services” the rest going to state, county, etc. Rieber expressed that although “no one likes taxes” that a little bit over $5 per month was an acceptable increase for him. In regards to the shuttle, Rieber stated that “not everyone uses every service in Livingston” and the shuttle “attracts future homeowners to Livingston.”

Rieber stated that the budget came to him as a success, and that there is much to be proud of being a Livingston resident. “We were rated the number one place to rent in New Jersey … We won best tasting water.”