SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The Scotch Plains Township Council voted unanimously to approve its 2020 municipal budget, totaling $26 million which includes a zero tax increase for the municipal portion of tax levy, during the governing body's meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
The budget pie is cut into three pieces: funding for the Board of Education comprises roughly two-thirds of every taxpayer dollar paid, while the County and the Township of Scotch Plains roughly split the remaining third of the money.
Township Manager Al Mirabella walked the council through the budget, which began with individual department meetings starting in 2019.
Scotch Plains's $26 million budget is funded by $15.4 million in property taxes, $3.6 million taken out of township's surplus, $2.2 million in state aid, as well as construction permit fees and other sources. Of those sources, the state funding is by no means a guarantee, given the reduction of revenues and heightened expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mirabella said his aim was to implement cost effective municipal budget while maintaining the Township's Aaa bond rating from Moody’s. He also reported that Standard and Poor upgraded its rating to Aa+. He added that Scotch Plains continues to prioritize downtown redevelopment, public safety presence in schools, fire department improvements, road resurfacing, continuing a second branch and brush pick up, and emergency preparedness.
"(We've had) in the previous 6 years of relatively flat budget," Mirabella said. "This budget is one we can all feel god about. We have a zero increase, and that's not easy to do. It takes a lot of work with the department heads and the chiefs, but we have been able to find revenue sources. We are making it work, and we are doing it well."
The township manager took pride in the fact that "we are maintaining services as good or better as they have been." He also noted that there are some variables beyond the township's control that could result in potential shortfalls, including a possible delay in state aid, problems with tax collection due to COVID-19's economic impact on residents' ability to pay, and other funding issues.
Mayor Al Smith approved of the budget but expressed concerns about potential problems in receiving state funding. Smith, a Republican, added that he has been supportive of proposed legislation proposed by Democrats in Washington that would send federal money to municipalities in New Jersey to help pay for critical expenses. New Jersey's leaders in DC, Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, and Congressional leaders including Tom Malinowski (D, NJ-7), have been pushing hard to secure additional funding for the Garden State.
"I know you are spending money wisely so that we are in good shape next quarter," Deputy Mayor Josh Losardo told Mirabella.
"It works for today and plans for the future. We are keeping taxes as flat as possible," added Councilman Ted Spera. "It's well done and meets the needs of the town."
Councilwoman Elizabeth Stamler and Councilman Roc White also voted to approve the budget.
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