LIVINGSTON, NJ — The average Livingston home, assessed at approximately $617,445 in 2018, will see a tax rate increase of 1.28 percent, or $37.53 for the year, based on the 2018 municipal budget that was unanimously adopted at Monday’s council meeting.
Livingston Mayor Ed Meinhardt said this is a “very responsible budget for this town” and that Livingston’s future is very bright. He and his fellow council members took turns addressing the benefits of this year’s budget, which was presented by Township Manager Barry Lewis on April 23, and thanking Lewis, Assistant Manager Russ Jones, Chief Financial Officer Kim Kientz and all of the township department heads for their hard work in this challenging process.
“The budget is almost $800,000 under the state-appropriations cap and $1.2 million under the state-levy cap, so thank you for your hard work on doing that,” said Councilman Rudy Fernandez. “The increase this year—the $517,000 increase in appropriations—is only driven by two items that were outside of our control; $256,000 of that was a state-required increase in police pension contributions and then we had about a $132,000 increase in our recycling costs. This budget does maintain all of our municipal services and also continues to invest in our community through all of our important infrastructure improvements, which really will save taxpayers in the town money in the long run.”
The total appropriations as read on Monday by Glenn Turtletaub, township clerk, amount to $31,962,802.98 for municipal purposes; $0 for school purposes; $365,328 for open space, recreation, farmland and historic preservation purposes; and $2,682,274.21 for the minimum library levy. More information on this budget and how tax dollars will be spent can be seen HERE.
“Everyone up here on the council has their passions—it might be doing green things, it might be the fields, it might be senior issues or the arts—everyone has their favorites, but everyone up here understands that the most important issue is the budget,” said Councilman Shawn Klein. “It is our job here to spend this town’s money as wisely as possible and to put mechanisms and people in place that will help us to do that, and I think that we’ve done a good job doing that.”
Klein cited Lewis’ budget slideshow from the April 23 meeting, where Lewis showed that the township has consistently adopted a municipal budget with an increase of 2 percent or less over the last four years. Klein said this shows that the township is being efficient, and that this year’s increase is “way below inflation and way below the caps that are set for us.”
“We are making governments smaller and more efficient in enacting this budget this year,” he said. “I think that’s something we can be proud and something we take seriously. For all the good times that we have up here and the continual spirit that we have, that is job number one and always is.”
Councilman Michael Silverman, who said it is “imperative that [the council members] are the stewards of the township,” reiterated that the budget process was especially challenging this year with the simultaneous transition in township manager. To Assistant Township Manager Russ Jones, who was invaluable to the township during this time, Silverman said, “It never ceases to amaze me what you have your hands in and how you’re behind the scenes in so many things, and were the front scene for so long over the last year and a half.”
He also extended his thanks to Kientz, who is also fairly new to the township having only been appointed in 2017, for her extra work this year and to Lewis for coming in last minute and still presenting such a responsible budget.
“This council has learned so much from you already in this process,” he said to Lewis. “I’m actually looking forward to the process for next year, as there are so many new things that are coming down the pipe that we’ll have to figure out how to get into this budget. But it’s exciting and I think Livingston is on a really, really strong, positive path in the future.”
Deputy Mayor Al Anthony echoed his fellow councilmen, stating that “Livingston’s future is bright” and commending Lewis for stepping in during the middle of budget season and still managing to “keep services high and the tax rate low.”
“Nice job closing it out with such a low increase,” he said. “I want to go for the allusive no tax increase or maybe perhaps a decrease, but $38 is dollars a month.”
“It’s truly my honor to serve as the mayor this year, and tonight is certainly no different,” said Meinhardt. “We kid around a lot up here, we kid around a lot sometimes in conference, but we really do work hard and we are very, very fortunate that we have a great staff in this building—our town employees, our department heads, Kim, Russ and Barry, who really came in and did a great job being the closer this year and getting it all together this year.”
The final vote on the budget was postponed from the previous council meeting due to a pending public hearing of an amendment to the budget. The amendment was introduced on April 23 after the budget was sent in for state review, and the state returned it with a slight amendment that would not affect the numbers as presented.
The budget also changed slightly since it was first introduced in March to include new ratables that resulted in an increase on the average assessed home.
After seeing no public comments on the amendment on Monday, the council was able to move forward with the budget adoption.