SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The municipal tax bill will go up $66 on a home assessed at the village average of $558,392 under the $34.4 million 2011 budget adopted by the Board of Trustees on Monday.
The tax rate increase is 1.57 percent, the lowest increase in 12 years, according to John Gross, village administrator. The largest portion of the budget is personnel costs, at $21.8 million.
The budget passed 4-1, with Trustee Michael Goldberg voting against its adoption. Trustee Janine Bauer was absent. At the trustees’ final budget workshop on Aug. 8, Goldberg pushed for a lower tax rate increase, and trustees compromised with $94,000 in budget cuts.
Trustee Deborah Davis Ford said that everyone had agreed to those cuts. She said she was “stunned” to find that the budget did not pass unanimously, adding that “this budget was crafted with negotiation and compromise.”
Two village residents spoke during the public hearing on the budget.
The owner of Kitchen a la Mode, Ben Salmon, said he was disappointed that funding for a recruiter to attract new business to the village had been cut from the budget.
He said that South Orange lacks a “competitive edge” when it comes to attracting businesses. He noted the recruiter position has been in the works for at least two years. “I don’t ever see us making a commitment to downtown,” he said.
Dr. Robert Chandross, who serves on the Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, said the budget cuts did not go nearly far enough.
“There is no austerity in this budget, there are no structural changes, there were no reductions of staff, there were no layoffs, there were no reductions in salary,” he said. “It is business as usual.”
In other action:
-- the search committee reported it is interviewing candidates for an interim administrator position and hopes to make an announcement in the next couple of days. Ford said it was important that the person hired be able to work with Gross before he leaves at the end of the month to take a position in West Orange.
-- defeated by a 3-2 vote a resolution to update the village code regarding regulation of political signs. Village Counsel Steven Rother said that requiring residents to obtain a permit and pay a fee, as well as the limits on the number of signs, are unconstitutional. He noted the ordinance is not being enforced.
-- hired Harac Consulting LLC, a financial consulting service, to examine the finances of the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The village has not received the Clearview rental income or loan fees that SOPAC had agreed to pay.