WAYNE, NJ - The Wayne Town Council passed the long-delayed township’s 2020 budget at Wednesday night’s virtual public meeting. Stating a revenue deficit of over $1.8 million, the budget was passed with a tax increase that will average just over $45 per household.
The original budget was introduced in March and was scheduled to be voted for adoption. However, Mayor Chris Vergano at that time suggested that the Council hold off on voting on the budget, stating the uncertainties of the future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Month-after-month, the budget decision was pushed back. One of the reasons for the delay was that the administration was waiting for the third quarter taxes and whether there was going to be many taxpayers who weren’t going to be able to pay.
Wayne’s Chief Financial Officer, Heather McNamara, who gave the budget presentation, announced the good news that there had not been a significant drop-off of taxes collected for the first three quarters of 2020. The reported tax collection rate for 2020 so far is 93.52%. For the same period in 2019, the tax collection rate was 94.86%.
Another reason for the delay was to get a better idea of anticipated revenues for the year. When a budget is created, much of the revenue that will eventually offset costs is strictly an educated guess. CFO McNamara has been very good at anticipating revenues, but 2020 has been a unique year. The budget amendment that was adopted just before the budget vote, changed the anticipated revenues.
The difference in anticipated revenues for 2020, according to McNamara are:
- Hotel Occupancy Tax: $170,000
- Interest on Investments: $150,000
- Uniform Construction Code Fees: $400,000
- Municipal Court Fines: $327,456
- Total Reductions: $1,047,456
Because of this shortfall, taxes will be increased to offset this amount. This increase in taxes, according to McNamara will be “two points.” This will result in an average increase of $45.94 per household.
The township auditor, Gary Higgins told the council: “We are replacing lost revenues with tax dollars.”
The increase was relatively low according to the reactions of several of the council members.
“I’m very surprised and relieved,” said Sixth Ward Councilman, Jon Ettman. “I thought this was going to be much worse.”
Vergano spoke briefly about the “expense side” of the budget. “Since January 1, 2008, we have eliminated 42 full-time positions out of the municipal workforce,” he said. “We are running lean and mean. We have less people doing more than ever before.”
The municipal budget was passed 7-2 with Second Ward Councilman Al Sadowski and Joe Scuralli, the Council President voting no.
This tax increase is for the municipal government only. The total amount of taxes could change because of Passaic County Taxes and for taxes raised for the Wayne Board of Education.