WESTFIELD, NJ — At the March 5 council conference meeting, members of the town council discussed the municipal budget proposed by the finance committee that evening, which could be adopted soon.

The proposed budget keeps taxes below the 2013 state-required two-percent tax levy cap. This will mean an increase of approximately $7.50 per month on the average assessed (i.e. $180,500) home.

Staying under the tax levy cap “was a goal that the finance committee started with,” said Finance Policy Committee Chairman Sam Della Fera.

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State aid remains the same as last year.

The town now has a fund balance of $750,00 that is being used to offset the reserve for tax appeals.

Salary and wages have decreased $129,049 as compared to 2012 because of retirements, salary freezes, reductions in overtime and negotiated concessions from unionized employees. Three full-time positions have been eliminated after three public works employees retired. No layoffs have been made.

“Our salary and wages are below 2005 levels,” noted Mayor Andy Skibitsky.

Though this is the fourth year in a row that total salaries and wages have decreased, “We continue to preserve services,” insisted Della Fera.

When new people are eventually hired, said Della Fera, their salaries will be “much more sustainable.”

Public works will see an increase of $226,000 in operating expenditures in 2013 as brush, tree parts and stump removal after Superstorm Sandy continue. “Most of that is a one-time expense for 2013,” Della Fera explained.

Though some of these costs may be reimbursed by FEMA, he told the council, “We can’t really count on that right now.”

Spending on the fire department will increase by over 15 percent (or $25,200), though fire department salaries and wages have decreased slightly.  Spending on the police department will increase by over 12 percent (or $63,300). Spending on administration will increase by $73,410—more than 44 percent.

“I think the residents of Westfield will be very satisfied with the budget,” said Della Fera.

The proposed budget will be presented to the public at the March 19 town council meeting.