The Ridgewood Village Council narrowly passed its Tuesday night after two members expressed concerns over a depreciating surplus and potential liabilities in tax appeals.
The average resident with a home valued at $794,550 will see a tax hike of $129, a 3.79 percent increase. Rebuilding its workforce with a piecemeal strategy after cutting too deeply in 2010, the upcoming budget does not call for any layoffs in 2012.
"We have heard complaints for the budget, against the budget, we've heard complaints if we cut too much, we've heard complaints if we cut too little," outgoing Councilman Steve Wellinghorst said prior to the vote. "We were elected to make tough decisions for the village and that's what we're going to do."
, Deputy Mayor Tom Riche and Councilman Paul Aronsohn voted in favor of the budget. Mayor Keith Killion and Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh voted against its passage.
Major expenditures in 2012 include an increase in police salaries by 6.4 percent ($356,712), a spike in health care insurance costs at 5.5 percent ($264,973), a tax assessment ($69,965) and . The village expects 2011 emergency appropriations for and to account for all but $75,000, though Ridgewood must still raise $1.16 million in 2012 to cover costs. About $46 of the $129 tax increase is attributed to the storm cleanup, Village CFO Steve Sanzari said.
Councilwoman Walsh – who previously voted to not introduce the budget in late May – expressed unease with anticipated revenue projections. Citing real estate sales data in 2011 and 2012, the real estate professional said a small sample of homes are selling at 93 percent of their asking prices. When extrapolating that out to the 8,500 homes in the village, Walsh said a real problem could emerge.
"These are the concerns I have for the budget, that we're not out of the woods in terms of property value, the fact that the [average] estimated property in Ridgewood is $800,000 [and] I'm not confident that estimate is going to stay in the coming years, which could cause some potential problems going forward."
A reassessment is scheduled to be conducted later in 2012 and though it will not , officials say it will mitigate some of the losses. The village lost more than $1.3 million due to successful tax appeals in the last year.
Walsh and Killion also found the declining village surplus a troublesome point given the recent unpredictability of storms. The village surplus is down just over $102,000, to $2,567,129 in the upcoming budget.
The capital budget include plans to finish the Village Hall renovations, advancing at the Saddle River and Ho-Ho-Kus Brook, as well as vehicle upgrades and road pavings.
Walsh also spoke against the council , remarking that the council can't direct negotiations with the union staff, so citizens could be on the hook for future escalating expenditures. A few residents also spoke out against the appropriation to the library, telling the council they felt the Parks & Recreation Department should have had a larger share of the pie.
Councilman Aronsohn – – said the budget is "clearly not a perfect" one, but better than the initial projections (at over 7 percent). Aronsohn alluded to his push for a hybrid zero-based-budgeting (ZBB) approach for 2013 during his brief remarks.
"We've already started thinking about next year's budget," he said. "We're going to get a jumpstart on that and we're going to do even better."
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