SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – A special work session was held by the Township of Scotch Plains Council on Saturday, March 5, to review the 2016 budget allocations. Department heads, including Parks & Recreation, presented at the public forum, which surprisingly attracted no members of the public.
The 2016 budget presents a flat municipal tax rate (no increase),and with $150,683.41 in ‘total other expenses’ eliminated in one year, the result would be a 1.5 percent decrease.
"Can anyone remember two years worth of zero tax increases, much less a decrease? Ever since I've been on this council, I've fought for fiscal responsibility," said Mayor Kevin Glover in a phone interview with TAPintoSPF. "I would venture to call this budget historic."
In a letter introducing this year's budget, Township Manager Al Mirabella noted the following highlights:
- Salaries: “Salary appropriations are $9,635,015, which is up from $9,530,505 or 1.1%. Much of this increase is attributed to contractual and non-exempt salary increases. Each vacancy presented was reviewed to ensure replacement was warranted with some filled, some positions converted to part time and others held.”
- Library: “The library appropriation is set at the state mandate of $1,332,081, which is an increase of $11,364 over last year’s minimum. I’m impressed with the new Director and her prudent use of budget funding.“
- State Aid: “It is anticipated that state aid will remain at the same level in 2016; however, we are awaiting confirmation from the Governor’s office.”
- Surplus: “Township surplus stands at $4,116,580.95 which represents an increase of $479,225 over the 2015 amount.”
- “The aid to senior housing is $0 as no deficiency exists.”
- “The reserve for uncollected taxes remains the same and is for 2016 as $1,850,000.”
- Capital Budget: “For the Capital budget, the focus will be on infrastructure, improvements to building, IT and equipment as well as a continued focus on the preservation of our historical buildings.”
The township manager added that the budget will continued to be refined through introduction and will require a team effort to streamline the processes and improve communication with the public.
“Last year, I made a commitment that the budget process isn’t completed at budget adoption,” Mirabella said. “Rather, the Scotch Plains municipal budget is a year-round responsibility; financial management is important throughout the year. I had 6-month budget reviews with each member of the leadership team to review the mid-year expenditures and ensure compliance.”
Even if the "zero increase" budget is approved, taxpayers could still pay higher taxes than they did last year. Almost two-thirds of the taxes collected from homeowners and others in Scotch Plains go towards the Board of Education budget, which is expected to top $90 million this year. A portion of the revenue that the Township collects also is allowcated to Union county.
To review the draft budget, download by clicking here.