BELLEVILLE –  As the Belleville Township Council prepares to introduce the municipal spending plan Tuesday night, Mayor Michael Melham is calling for drastic budget cuts to offset future tax increases.

Melham is ordering his administration to identify numerous ways in which to reduce spending, such as voluntary furloughs, or, in the worst-case scenario, staff layoffs and demotions. Other cost savings could be generated by privatizing some municipal services, as well as developing more shared services agreements with surrounding municipalities to greatly reduce duplication, beginning January 1, 2021.

The proposed budget for 2020 calls for a municipal tax increase of $298 for a home assessed at about $276,000, the township average.

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“The Township Council must consider drastic measures to cut spending,” Melham said. “I expect that my Council colleagues will review the Township Manager’s proposed spending cuts and move forward on prudent initiatives that will limit tax increases in the future.”

Melham said this is the seventh municipal budget he has been involved with, noting the township professional staff always seems to convince the majority of the Township Council that “next year will be better.”

“Sadly, this never comes to fruition,” the mayor said. “While COVID-19 has certainly made this a challenging year, we need to prepare not just for next year, but for the years after that. We need a solid long-term plan.”

Belleville will reap the tax benefits of new redevelopment that has been secured over the past two years.  But true tax stabilization can only be achieved if new tax streams are coupled with a strategic, consistent reduction in spending.

“I need assurances that not only will difficult conversations and decisions be had, but that approved recommendations will be immediately ready for 2021,” Melham said. “I've often said: Belleville doesn't necessarily have a spending problem; it's more of an income problem.
However, until our anticipated future revenue is realized, and it is coming, I believe we have an obligation to the residential taxpayers to drastically limit spending.”

Melham expects his administration to have recommended spending cuts to the Township Council for review by Tuesday night’s council meeting, giving the Township Council several weeks to contemplate a fiscally-conservative path for 2021.