WEST CALDWELL, NJ — If the 2016 municipal budget as it is currently prepared receives approval from the mayor and township council of West Caldwell, it will be officially introduced in detail during a public meeting on March 15.

Township Administrator Adam Brewer, who worked closely and extensively with Chief Financial Officer Nikole Monroig and members of the finance committee to prepare a concrete budget for the year, displayed a brief overview and some updates during the public council meeting on March 1. According to Brewer, the budget was prepared in hard copies and sent to Mayor Joseph Tempesta and councilmen for review.

The bottom line on the current funds is at a 1.50-percent increase, according to Brewer, who has previously reviewed this number in detail. The budget currently shows that total general appropriations are down .88 percent, that salary and wages will increase .03 percent and that other expenses are up 8.58 percent, which is primarily driven by health-insurance prices in the budget as prepared.

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With respect to the water-utility and pool-utility expense, both are included in the current budget and are balanced, according to Brewer. From a capital perspective, the general capital budget is at 1.632 million in authorizations, the water capital is at $465,000 and pool capital is at $90,020.

Stating that if it wasn’t for the .88 increase, the budget would likely come in close to zero again, Tempesta questioned whether Brewer could be more specific about the exact increase of heath-insurance prices during his March 15 presentation.  

“I never like to see taxes go up,” said Councilman Stanley Hladik. “But I think that with our progressive plans to do roads and build our infrastructure, we have to balance that with the debt we take, so I’m personally comfortable with this. But I think we need to stick to our plan and reinvest in our capital because if we don’t, we’ll be behind.”

Agreeing with Hladik, Tempesta suggested that the budget-introduction meeting specifically identify projects that have been done the last two years and what is projected for this year so that the public can get a sense of the kind of money the township is spending on infrastructure. For example, Tempesta and the council recommended that Brewer and Monroig prepare a detailed outline about the township’s recent service to roads and pipes and other expenses such as providing heavy equipment for certain departments.

“I’ve always felt that maintaining our infrastructure is equally as important as trying to manage and balance everything else that goes along with it, and to me that’s vitally important,” said Tempesta. “I think we’re catching up very nicely, we’re on a good pace.”

Complying with the state’s budget schedule, the council will publically introduce the budget on March 15 and will vote on and adopt a completed budget in the following weeks.

“I listened to what you said about balancing out tax increases with infrastructure and I want it noted that that’s a very progressive idea and I’m all for it,” said West Caldwell resident Dana Hunter.

Hunter had also attended this meeting to bring attention to mosquito issues occurring in the Essex County area, which she said is getting increasingly worse and needs to be addressed. With the onset of mosquito season, Hunter made phone calls at the state and county levels and discovered that there has not been a mosquito administrator at the state level for nearly a year.

Hunter was told by the county that one issue in regard to water management is that we the county does not have the proper permits. Hunter said that to the best of her knowledge this is false. Specific to Essex County, Hunter said there have not been any large water-management projects in five years at the county level.

Aside from the nuisance issue, Hunter, who has been a resident for 23 years, is concerned that she hasn’t been affected by mosquitos in more than a decade and is suddenly seeing an onslaught of these insects during a time of increased mosquito-borne diseases.

The council agreed that Hunter’s trepidation is not only a public nuisance but also a potential health issue for the state as well as the country and assured her that they would look into contacted the right state or county official.

In other news, Councilmen Hladik and Michael Crudele were also congratulated on coaching the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade recreational basketball championship team this year.

“This was my second season assistant coaching the rec basketball and it’s really heartwarming to watch how these young girls can develop,” said Crudele. “Not just physically on the basketball court, but how they can come together as a cohesive team and work toward a common goal.”