ROSELAND, NJ — The Borough Council introduced the 2021 municipal budget during a special meeting held virtually on Tuesday evening. 

As finance chairman, Councilman Chris Bardi introduced the preliminary budget he thanked and acknowledged the efforts of Mayor James Spango, department heads, and Business Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Maureen Chumacas for their input. For the past several months a series of meetings were conducted to review line items, staffing and capital projects. 

Bardi noted the current fiscal year’s successes. The municipal portion of the tax bill had increased for 2020 by $17 for the average home that is assessed at $467,168. Grants had been received for infrastructure improvements and a bond ordinance had been passed to improve the Harrison Avenue playground that had last been updated two decades ago.

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The total municipal budget for 2021 is $15,197,091.46 which represents a total increase of less than 1% (.963%), with an impact of an increase of $26.98 to homes assessed at the municipal average. Despite the tax increase, municipal spending has decreased by 3.28%. 

There was a significant decrease in commercial ratables of $13,811,415 for properties along Becker Farm Road and Eisenhower Parkway due to depreciation because of office empty space. Because of the decrease in ratables .839% or $23.51 of the proposed increase of $26.98 is directly related to the loss of revenue. Spango commented if those ratables had not decreased, the budget that is presented for 2021, would have been realized an increase of $3.51 to the average homeowner.

The borough’s total surplus is over $4M which is 26.18% of the total budget. Bardi explained that the surplus ensures efficient cash flow for daily needs, protects against unforeseen expenditures related to emergencies and offsets economic downturns on revenue shortfalls. The borough maintains a AA+ grade bond rating.

Bardi confirmed that the goals of the administration and the budget remain a constant. Keeping Roseland affordable through responsible spending, increase transparency, communication, and resident involvement, to keep the borough safe through investing in the community and infrastructure and to provide “thoughtful planning for the future.”

A few of the investments for the community include the priority for public safety with the purchase of a Mack Fire Truck and body cameras for the police department. Infrastructure upgrades include a generator for the 140 Eagle Rock Avenue municipal building in addition to the repaving of the parking lot at 19 Harrison Ave. 

Road resurfacing is planned for Stonegate Drive, Thackeray Drive, Second Avenue and Browning Court in 2021. Steel Court, Minnisink Drive, Westview Avenue, Evergreen Place, Green Avenue and Lenape Drive are scheduled to be repaved in 2022. Water main replacements and utility system improvements will continue to be ongoing. Recreation projects include upgrades to the tennis courts, Tedesco Park phase one renovations during the summer of 2021 and phase two renovations are scheduled for the Spring of 2022.

Bardi did confirm that the municipal portion of the property tax is 26.1% of the overall tax bill. In drafting the preliminary budget both the local and regional school portion of the tax bill are estimated utilizing the 2020 figure. Once the school districts finalize their budget for the next fiscal school year the final tax bill will be adjusted accordingly. He said, “we are in a good place. We will continue to keep our taxes low, continue to keep our services at or better than what we have, and we will continue to invest into the community and spend and do the proper projects that are right for the town.

Spango noted he wanted the “public to be aware of the work that went into to this.”  Notably, he referenced “an increase of $200,000 that the borough realized due to the increase of solid waste and the $300,000 that we had to cut, which was $500,000 that we had to absorb to get this rate.  This is now three straight years under 1%, while we are doing our fields, improving our infrastructure, investing in our community. The loss in ratables, if you take away that loss, this is a $3.51 increase for the average home. It’s really remarkable. I applaud the whole council and thank you for the work you have done.”