SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Taxpayers in Scotch Plains received welcome news at Tuesday's Township Council meeting when it was announced that there will be no municipal tax increase in the Scotch Plains 2015 budget.
While municipal taxes will not go up, it does not guarantee a zero increase since approximately 63% of property tax dollars go to the school district, while Union County gets 21%, and the township gets about 16%, according to 2014 figures. The county is in the process of finalizing its budget, as is the school district.
Township Manager Al Mirabella reported that the Scotch Plains budget will remain at roughly $24.5 million. Mirabella said that he worked with all department heads to look for ways to save money. as he prepared his first township budget. The Council will vote on the budget after a public hearing on Tuesday, April 21.
Mirabella explained that the budget provides for necessary services, public safety, recreation and cultural events, while preserving historical sites and addressing building infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. Since taking over as Township Manager on January 1, he has met with all of the departments that report to him and asked them to trim up to 7 percent of their budget in an effort to trim the fat from the township's overall spending.
"This is a “good, solid budget," said Mirabella at the Council meeting, adding that state aid of more than $2 million, which was rumored to be cut, will remain the same.
"Creating a budget is not a three-month project, it's a year-round process. You have to make sure you adopt a budget you can live with," said Mirabella in an exclusive interview with TAPintoSPF. "I come into this position having worked in the private sector and developing budgets. Although some have tried to say I had no experience doing this, it (creating budgets) is something that I've done for many years."
Proud that the spending plan calls for zero tax increases, Mayor Kevin Glover described township officials as “good guardians of the town’s resources.”
"Fiscal conservatism has been my goal since I first joined the Council eight years ago. I'm very pleased that we have achieved that with this budget that has no increase for the taxpayers of Scotch Plains," said Mayor Kevin Glover.
Councilman Llewellyn Jones, the sole Republican on the governing body, raised some questions about the plan, including the budget for the Scotch Plains Library, which he said has been cut to the minimum allowed by the state of New Jersey. (In 2013, library hours were cut but later restored in 2014.)
A portion of the budget that has increased is the township's legal budget. Deputy Mayor Colleen Gialanella maintained that it is necessary to have adequate dollars for legal counsel and that the money allocated for legal services is not always spent.
The downloadable draft of the working session budget is available on the Scotch Plains Township website by clicking here.