PLAINFIELD, NJ — The Plainfield City Council held a virtual Combined Agenda Fixing Session/Regular Meeting on Monday despite an earlier decision to postpone its April meetings. All seven members were in attendance on the GoToMeeting, and Mayor Adrian O. Mapp made opening remarks on the introduction of this year's $88 million municipal budget. He said it’s his budget until the council receives and approves it by resolution.
Mapp reviewed the five-step process that starts with council approval. The budget then needs to be advertised, and a public hearing is held, not less than 28 days since its introduction and approval. Council members can make amendments, and depending upon the amounts, it may need to be advertised again. The final step is the adoption of the budget.
Department of Finance Director Ron West took over, saying the proposed municipal budget totals $88,005,023.45, representing a year-over-year increase of 1.6 percent. He added the proposed tax increase is 2.72 percent, for an average of $144.27 per the average assessed home value, which is $107,684.
West, who said the budget process began in October, noted $1,356,439.99 was eliminated from the first draft, which, he said, "would have required $62,152,442.41 in the amount to be raised by taxes,” for an increase of 5.02%, or an average increase of $265.95 per home.
In the submitted 2020 budget, salaries and wages are up 2.61 percent, and other expenses are up 0.83 percent. The budget includes $7,356,565 of surplus funds; $590,000 are allotted for one-time emergency authorizations; $40,000 are reserved for the Master Plan; and $1,245,129 are for uncontrollable expenses.
Assessed home values have decreased to $2,069,648 (-1.72%) compared to last year. “That number itself has a $10 impact per household," West said.
A March 31 robocall from the mayor indicated there could be a revenue shortfall due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. "The city's revenues have been dramatically affected. That means we may not generate the level of funds necessary to keep the city afloat. Our finance professionals estimated that under a worst case scenario, we could have a revenue shortfall of about $18 million."
Resident Mary Burgwinkle, in a Letter to the Editor, laid out a list of expenditures she thinks the city should carefully consider paring back, including the North Avenue Pedestrian Mall project, developer contributions to the city, the use of consultants, and the use of city-owned vehicles, to name a few.
The 6-1 council-accepted budget (Sean McKenna was the lone 'no' vote) will raise taxes for Queen City residents unless cuts are made.
As in previous years, the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee will review conduct public hearings on the departmental budgets. Goals of the CBAC include:
- Conduct analysis comparing Plainfield to municipalities with similar size, demographics and budget to review sources and types of revenue, service costs, etc.;
- Identify possibilities for shared services, reviewing what shared service agreements, if any, similar municipalities have agreed to;
- Identify core services, as defined by residents and rank their priority order;
- Identify structural budget imbalances caused by one time measures and recommend strategies to eliminate them;
- Make a final set of budget recommendations for 2020 Calendar Year Budget.
Each council member nominates a CBAC member:
- Kenny Howard (Councilwoman Ashley Davis)
- Tim O'Connor (Councilman Sean McKenna)
- Robin Bright (Councilman Charles McRae)
- John Davis (Councilman Barry Goode)
- Tuwisha Denise Rogers (Councilwoman Joylette Mills-Ransome)
- Walter Harris (Vice President Elton Armady)
- Stacey Welch (Council President Steve Hockaday)
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