WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, the West Orange Town Council will vote on the amended Municipal Budget for 2012-2013.  In light of the reductions made by Mayor Parisi, town administrators, and town council members, The Alternative Press of West Orange asked the Town Council members to comment on the proposed budget and the proposed zero percent budget increase.

Town Council President Victor Cirilo

"I refuse to consider any additional budgetary expenditure that will result in higher municipal taxes during this fiscal year. The residents of West Orange have requested and deserve lower property taxes now. Concerns always have a price tag attached them and at this point we have responded with a third year of 0% municipal tax increase without sacrificing the essential services that we are accustomed to.

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I have concerns about public safety just like any other tax payer. Through this budget we are assured that there is no shortage of service and that we maintain the same number of West Orange finest patrolling our streets. It does not mean that we are not taking safety matters or recent incidents seriously, but the reality is that statistics show that so far there has been an overall reduction in crime of 70%. That is a testament to the hard work of our police department and they deserve all the credit for continuing to keep our town safe and secure.

Mayor Parisi gave an excellent presentation on the past, present, and future state of West Orange municipal finances at our special budget hearing. He has assured me that will soon provide the Town Council with a presentation on public safety statistics so that we can evaluate this essential public service. In the mean time, I urge the public to visit our website www.westorange.org to view the archived budgetary presentation." 

Councilwoman Susan McCartney

"For the municipal budget work session scheduled on Monday, I requested a Table of Organization for the Department of Public Works & for the Police Department. Our Police Officers are educated, highly trained, and hold many certificates in Police Force administration, negating the need to question any clerical, or administrative position possibly held by an Officer.

Also, since the Council recently voted to outsource much of the groundskeeping work in the Department of Public Works, I was prepared to ask how the DPW workload should and would be reshuffled. I am ecstatic to see that with the "0" entry on Line 6 of the budget amendment, that the Administration has truly been aiming for a 0% tax increase -- surprisingly, without any lay-offs and without any risk of jeopardizing public safety.

I commend and thank the Mayor, Business Administrator and Chief Financial Officer for presenting this budget amendment."

Councilwoman Patty Spango

"For the third year, Mayor Parisi has brought in a zero municipal increase budget. Four council members voted in favor of the budget, while only one councilman dissented, stating he needed more information before voting in approval. As we were originally looking at a nearly 2% increase, I applaud Mayor Parisi for holding the line on municipal taxes without cutting services to the people of West Orange."

Councilman Jerry Guarino

"In these ever changing economic times across America, all state and local governments are faced with the same budgetary issues.  Even though we may be different in size for both population and land, the constant concerns are how do we deliver the necessary services our residents require to live in a safe, clean, yet affordable, community. You ask yourself, what do we give up and what do we retain to keep our expenses in check while on the same page, we try to keep our tax levy requirements either at a zero increase or at an acceptable level which will not further burden our residents.

The Mayor & administration, along with the township council are submitting the 2012 municipal budget with a zero increase , while also maintaining the current level of services we receive today. In addition, the budget reduces the number of township employee from the 2011 level of 320 full time employees to 294 through attrition. The budget submitted is as lean as you can get and I do not see any unnecessary expenditures that can be reduced or eliminated without further exposing the township to increased risks.

The risks I refer to our multiple in nature as what we eliminate today can have dramatic impacts as to:

1. The safety of our town employee in their work routines ( police & fire ) - Capital budget to replace equipment that is past its acceptable age & condition.

2. The inability to establish or maintain reserves to offset increased tax appeals, reduction and or elimination of state & federal grants.

I commend Mayor Parisi and the administration for the due diligence, research and presentation of the 2012 municipal budget.

The level of detail, statistics and what ifs, that have gone into the preparation of the West Orange municipal budget give me the confidence to vote in favor of the submitted budget."

Councilman Joe Krakoviak was the lone dissenter in voting against the proposed amendment.  His comments are as follows:

Councilman Joe Krakoviak

"Many taxpayers are pleased to see the mayor reduce his proposed tax increase from nearly 2% to none. I thought it prudent to take time to study all the data and analysis we got Monday before deciding whether the proposal could be improved. For example: We've had a spate of violent crime in the town recently, and I want to carefully consider whether we should cut another four police patrol positions on top of the eight cuts last year. Instead of the council locking itself into an up or down vote on the mayor's proposed budget, I thought the council should take more time to decide what it wants to do."

Further explanation:

I and many taxpayers are pleased to see the mayor reduce his proposed tax increase from nearly 2% to none, which would keep the town tax rate essentially unchanged for a third straight year.

But after a lengthy 50-slide presentation and delivery of several additional documents from the administration and Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, I thought it prudent to take time to study all the data and analysis we got Monday before deciding whether the proposal could be improved. For example: We've had a spate of violent crime in the town recently, and I want to carefully consider whether we should cut another four police patrol positions on top of the eight cuts last year.  Two years ago, I pointed out the no-tax-increase budget came only by selling off millions of dollars in future cell-tower profits, and now part of our budget challenge is lower revenue.

Instead of the council locking itself into an up or down vote on the mayor's proposed budget, I thought it was better to give the proposal more review. We know what the mayor wants to do. I thought the council should take more time to decide what it wants to do."

A review of the budget amendments and documents posted on the http://www.westorange.org website indicate that the bulk of reductions came from current unfilled and/or vacant positions in the township.  The Mayor and Town Council will begin work on the 2013-2014 budget in January, 2013, at which time the need for these positions will be revisited and reviewed.  The Town Council will vote on the 2012-2013 budget on Tuesday, August, 20, at 6:30 pm.