VERONA, NJ – Township Manager Matthew Cavallo and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Laracy introduced a projected 2017 municipal budget of $23 million at the Verona town council meeting on Tuesday.

Laracy explained that municipal taxes under the proposed spending plan are not expected to increase.  The budget presented to the Council has a zero percent tax rate increase.

The CFO told the council that the township miscellaneous revenue exceeded budget totals by more than $350,000 in 2016.

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“A large portion of the $350,000 was from PILOT programs which the town received $260,000. Municipal court fines increased to $50,000 in revenue and we saw revenue increases in recreation and parking meter collections,” Laracy said.

According to the introduced budget, unanticipated revenue exceeded $125,000 and this had to do with FEMA reimbursements and interest on investments.

Total municipal expenses also decreased from 2015 to 2016 and the town saw a reduction of $229,000, despite average salary increases of six  percent for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and four percent for the Office and Professional Employees International Union.

A majority of the reduction in municipal expenses were due to personnel costs, according to the presentation. The town saved $472,000 from 2015 to 2016.

Laracy praised everyone for the reduction in overtime from 2015 to 2016.  

Overtime in the police force also saw a decrease as Chief Mitchell Stearn said that much of the work is being done during work hours and said that having four new policemen join the squad helped.

Cavallo and Laracy explained to the council that 38 percent of the budget is made up of employee salaries and wages. The two also said that three items can affect this budget with the first being the contracts for the PBA and OPEIU, both of which expired on Jan. 1

“Contract talks are underway,” Laracy said. “The result of negotiations will dictate a large portion of the township personnel expenses.”

The second area that can fluctuate the budget is health benefits. Cavallo and Laracy said that health benefit costs are rising across the nation.

“Verona moved out of a state plan and into a health insurance fund this year, and saw a significant savings in that,” Laracy explained.  

Additionally, they said that the cost of retiree benefits continue to increase. The last area that can affect the budget is the capital projects and debt. Mayor Kevin Ryan said that the library renovation is a high priority. The town is also looking at a bond sale that will bond older debt from 2013 to 2015, Laracy said.  

The township hopes to formally introduce the budget by March 7.