WEST CALDWELL, NJ – Members of the West Caldwell Township Council unanimously voted to approve and introduce the 2019 municipal budget and tax resolution during Tuesday’s meeting. Based on the budget as introduced, the expected tax rate increase to the average home assessed at $448,000 is $71.34 annually, or $17.84 per quarter—representing a 2.46 percent increase over last year's budget. 

The township saw an increase of new ratables from new construction and additions valued at $8,843,000 that provided an increase in revenue of $49,966. Although the maximum allowable amount to be raised in municipal taxes can be $13,298,771, according to Tuesday's budget presentation, the amount to be raised by taxation for municipal purposes is estimated to be $13,087,676. 

The municipal tax represents approximately 22.36 percent of all entities levying property tax, and the municipal library represents 1.45 percent of tax collected according to the 2018 calendar year property tax levy.

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Chief Financial Officer Nikole Baltycki noted that usage of $1.435 million of the surplus is included in the budget, which would leave approximately $2 million surplus. 

For the public’s edification moving forward, Mayor Joseph Tempesta suggested that the “market value” of a home be noted whenever the “assessed value” is referenced so that the public is made aware of the differences.

The mayor and council urged any taxpayers and interested parties to attend the public budget hearing on May 21 at 7:15 p.m. in council chambers in order to address the council with any comments or concerns.

Other council news and committee reports:

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council unanimously approved a resolution providing for a bond in the amount of $892,000 for capital improvements—including, but not limited to, the reconstruction of Fairfield Avenue and Ravine Avenue. 

Following Council President Joseph Cecere’s well wishes to the community during the Easter and Passover holidays, Councilwoman Katy Canale reported that the recent Easter Egg Hunt was extremely well-attended by not only West Caldwell residents, but from other western Essex County towns as well.

Councilman Michael Crudele and his family were thanked for their efforts at the recent electronic recycling event. Thanks to the mailers sent out this year, Crudele noted that attendance increased by three of four times compared to previous recycling events. He thanked his family as well as Michael Wagner for their efforts in making this possible.

During his own committee report, Crudele announced that Camp Wyanokie will celebrate its 100-year anniversary during a “Family Day” to be held on Saturday, June 15 (rain date June 22). The West Caldwell Fire Department will man the grill for this event and more information is forthcoming, he said.

After recently attending a meeting with Gov. Phil Murphy and other Essex County mayors, Tempesta said he was concerned to hear that Murphy expects savings of between $800,000 and $1 billion in his proposed budget through negotiations with the unions—mostly from health benefits.

Tempesta noted his “confusion on this issue,” as it appears that unions are currently viewing Chapter 78—a law that requires contribution from public sector employees for their health benefits—as negotiable for perpetuity, he said.

“It makes no sense to me,” said Tempesta, who added that he and the other mayors had limited opportunity to ask questions during the event.

Public comments:

Park Avenue residents Jim and Jane D’Onofrio addressed their recent experience with overflow from the culvert behind their home and the effect it has had on neighborhood properties and streets.  Discussion regarding aging infrastructure and its effect ensued. Jim D’Onofrio noted that

“The sewers are no longer adequate,” said Jim, noting that they fill up immediately during bad rainstorms. “It’s a capacity issue with infrastructure over 70 years old. How do we proceed to make sure this is corrected?”

Tempesta noted that 40-to-50 years ago, “it was like the wild west out there,” and that common practices by many developers would never be approved by today’s standards.  He assured the couple that the township would follow up with this issue and “do whatever we can do, depending upon what they find.”

The next township council meeting will be held on May 7.