ROSELAND, NJ — Residents of Roseland will see a municipal tax increase of .54 percent (or $14.94) to the average home assessed at $466,907 according to the municipal budget as introduced during Tuesday’s virtual council meeting. A public hearing will be held in May prior to a final vote.

Prior to presenting the budget, which was unanimously approved on first reading, Council President Chris Bardi thanked the governing body and administration for drafting a budget that is “responsible, forward-looking and in line with [Roseland’s] overall priorities.” While putting the municipal budget together each year, Bardi said the borough strives to “keep taxes low while continuing to deliver valuable services to [Roseland] residents."

“It is remarkable when we can provide a budget with a reduction in the tax rate from last year while not just maintaining services but improving them,” said Mayor James Spango. “All while maintaining and contributing to our surplus is a great example of fiscal responsibility.” 

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The total appropriations for the municipal budget, which represents 26.2 percent of the total property tax, amounts to $15,912,289.75, according to Bardi’s presentation. Total revenues equate to $5,969,046, and the total amount to be collected in taxes is $10,683.74, which represents monies designated for usage by the municipality, local schools, regional schools, Essex County, Open Space Fund and library costs.

The local schools, regional schools and Essex County figures are estimated based upon 2019 figures.

Priority projects for public safety under the approved budget include: new turnout gear; replacement of the fire department’s bay floor; improvements to the first aid squad’s bay floor; and new computers and toughbooks (a device to be used in police cars) for the police department.

Infrastructure investments included in the budget are improvements to the municipal buildings; new overhead garage doors at 300 Eagle Rock Avenue; repaving of the parking lot at 140 Eagle Rock Avenue; a new leaf vacuum; road resurfacing of Steel Court, Crestview Court, Cobb Terrace, Baldwin Court and Conover Avenue; water main replacements; and utility system improvements.

Other investments in the community include upgrades to Harrison Playground, which are scheduled to begin in the fall, and upgrades to Tedesco Park, which are scheduled for the spring of 2021.

Built into the budget is a surplus of $1,704,210 and an expenditure of $205,210 for costs related to the pandemic, such as disinfecting supplies, personal protective equipment and additional salary costs.

The budget presentation can be found on the borough website, and the public hearing for the budget is scheduled for May 19.

Mayor and Committee Reports:

During his report, Mayor Spango provided a local update on COVID-19 and its effect on the community, stating that 61 cases have been reported in the borough and that there have been eight deaths attributed to the coronavirus. According to Spango, Roseland’s current total of cases and deaths are directly proportionate to communities with the same size and demographics.

The mayor thanked members of the emergency management, police, public works, recreation and fire departments for their efforts during the crisis as well as the medical professions, first responders and all essential employees. He specifically acknowledged bus and truck drivers, cashiers, supermarket workers, bank tellers and gas station attendants.

Spango also addressed a recent issue with mail deliveries, assuring the public that he has been in daily communication with the necessary parties to ensure that residents and businesses continue to receive mail as expected. He noted that Roseland’s mail services are currently operating out of the Livingston facility.

According to the mayor, the borough will be also be providing small business owners with information as it becomes available regarding federal stimulus programs to assist with payroll and other needs.

During committee reports, Bardi stated that the planned property re-evaluation will most likely be moved to next year. He also took the opportunity to acknowledge and thank Spango “for his leadership during this crisis.”

In addition to thanking the first responders and other community members for their contributions during the health crisis, Councilwoman Eileen Fishman also acknowledged her fellow pharmacists, who she said are often “forgotten for [their] contributions as frontline healthcare professionals.”

“We are an integral part of the healthcare team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists,” she said. “Pharmacists are essential healthcare workers; we are providers. So, I’d like to thank all of the pharmacists that go into their pharmacies daily to make sure their patients get the medications they need or those who work in hospitals who are working double shifts, etc., to keep the meds flowing to the floors for the patients that they are serving during this crisis and always. 

“In addition, to those pharmacists that are doing the research daily to find us a vaccine, a cure, or a medication to help reduce this novel virus to a disease state that can be overcome. To all my fellow pharmacists who are unseen, unheard and unnoticed…I see you, I hear you and I appreciate you.”

Councilwoman Jean Perrotti cited a recent warning from Police Chief Richard McDonough, who alerted residents to a surge in scams through the Internet, mail and telephone related to stimulus checks.

She also reported that the Noecker Elementary School budget calls for an increase of 3.2 percent (or $62.83 annually) to the average Roseland home assessed at $466,000. She noted that the local district is looking at multiple capital and maintenance projects as well as the addition of one new special education teacher.

The West Essex Regional Public Schools district has yet to present its budget for the 2020-2021 school year.

Councilwoman Michelle Tolli reported that the Caldwell Food Bank is available to all Roseland residents in need on Wednesdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Residents looking to donate to the food bank can drop off items on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Tolli also offered condolences to the family of longtime resident and business owner Santo Barretta on behalf of the council, stating that Barretta was a “pillar in the community” who served as a member of the local Unico chapter, a member of the Roseland Board of Adjustment and a member of the Roseland Volunteer First Aid Squad, to name a few.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council accepted the resignation of Jeff Liddle from the recreation committee and thanked him for his service to the community.

The council also adopted a handful of ordinances, including one to allow modifications to permit fees for use of certain fields by non-sanctioned groups, organizations or activities; an ordinance to exceed the municipal budget appropriate to establish a banked cap; and an ordinance to appropriate $82,000 from the capital improvement fund for the acquisition of computers and related equipment.

Spango concluded the meeting by urging residents to “stay home, stay healthy, stay positive and stay safe.”