WAYNE, NJ – During a Mayors conference call led by NJ Senator Bob Menendez on Tuesday, Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano laid out the difficult financial situation the Township is facing.
On the call, Menendez introduced legislation he is co-sponsoring called the State and Municipal Aid for Recovery and Transition (SMART) fund which, if passed, would provide federal financial assistance to cities and municipalities that were hit hardest by COVID-19. He then asked the Mayors of Wayne, Paterson, Hoboken, Cherry Hill, Rahway, Brick, Galloway and New Brunswick to speak about their town’s individual challenges.
“We are very concerned about our revenue situation here in Wayne Township,” said Vergano. “We introduced our budget in March, and I'm recommending to our Municipal Council that they do not adopt the budget because, at this point in time, we have very big concerns.”
The Mayor then mentioned various areas of concern regarding Wayne's revenues:
- Building Permits and Inspection Fees
- Court Fees
- Hotel Occupancy Tax
- Interest Income
- Property Taxes
“We anticipate that our revenue stream loss will be between $850,000 and $950,000,” Vergano told Menendez on the call.
Vergano ended his portion of the call with: “We're facing the unknown here. We don't know when this is going to end. We don't know how many people are going to be affected. We don't know how people are going to pay their taxes if they're not working. We have to keep our Police Department out there each and every day, so we have tremendous expenses and at the same time our revenues are falling.”
All the Mayors on the call expressed their support for Menendez's proposed SMART bill.
After the call, Vergano spoke with TAPintoWAYNE, who asked if the anticipated shortfall in revenue was based just on the last six weeks, and does the Mayor expect it to increase.
“The $850,000 - $950,000 shortfall is based on projections and could grow depending on how long we remain like this,” he said.
He was asked if any township employees have been furloughed or layed-off. His answer was no. When asked how close the Township is to having to furlough or lay-off employees, Vergano said: “We’re not close. I don’t believe in the concept.”
“We still have to maintain services, but we're looking at every expenditure that we're spending now to make sure that whatever we spend is absolutely needed,” he said. “Because we don't know what our tax revenue or collection rate is going to be.”
Second quarter property tax payments were due on May 1, and the Mayor expects some shortfalls here, but his real concern is the third quarter tax payments due on August 1.
“Not just for residential but for businesses,” he said. “We have businesses that have been closed since the beginning. How do we expect them to pay their taxes? Although, we need them to pay, because we still have to pay employees, and have health insurance and buy gasoline and all those kinds of things.”
The Willowbrook Mall is Wayne’s biggest taxpayer. They’ve been closed for six weeks and no one knows when they will be allowed to reopen. For hundreds of Wayne businesses, the same holds true.
With revenues falling, and no way to anticipate how far they will fall, Vergano and the Mayors on the call supported Senator Menendez’s bill. “This is very important to my community,” said Vergano.