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First Pass at Village Budget Projects 7.6 Percent Tax Increase

Officials will work to 'wean down the budget,' Village Manager says

Buckled by storms, rising costs and tax appeals, residents may be looking at a municipal tax increase of over 7 percent for the .

In a preliminary 2012 budget overview, Village Manager Ken Gabbert told the council municipal taxes might rise by 7.6 percent, which would represent an increase of $276 for the average assessed homeowner at roughly $794,000. For that average homeowner, the $3,844 municipal tax portion could balloon to $4,120.

The first stab at the budget may sound high at 7.6 percent, Gabbert said, but it's not when compared to the initial figures bandied around in previous years.

"That is remarkably low from the last two years," he said. "So don't start screaming about 7.6. Obviously the process you're going through is to wean down the budget and to get a budget that will be ready for introduction."

Though within the allowed two percent budget cap, because of exceptions the municipal taxes rose 7.4 percent in 2011. High insurance and pension costs, rehiring of workers and workman's compensation claims contributed to the bump.

"We are well within the 2 percent levy cap," Gabbert said of the first 2012 budget pass. "And we are well within the 3.5 index cap that is the other barometer."

Even in the first budget presentation, it's clear there are many challenges ahead. The fund balance – essentially surplus funds – has wilted considerably. The village might burn through $2.2 million in surplus funds to keep taxes down, Gabbert said.

The village was also hit with "pretty hefty tax appeals," Gabbert said, one that totals about two-thirds of a tax point.

Before it even looks at financial damage from the storms, the village is in the red by a tax point, the manager said.

Per Steve Sanzari, Village CFO, administrators anticipate receiving about 65 percent of the insurance and FEMA storm claims from 'Snowtober', which total about $890,000.

But without money in hand, the village can't pencil it into the budget.

"What that probably means is we will be delaying the option of the budget until we know about that money," Gabbert said. "We could be talking about $600,000 plus another $100,000."

The budget introduction may come later than usual if the funds aren't allocated, he said. The budget meetings will continue over the next few months until introduced formally over the summer.

Various department heads made requests to the council and provided updates on their finances.

  • Tim Cronin, Director of , and Nancy Bigos, Deputy Director, requested a full time administrator be hired at the Recreation division. Instead, Deputy Mayor Tom Riche asked that new hires go toward the maintenance of village parks and facilities, which he said has declined of late. 
  • Parks & Rec are also looking to fill the positions of tree workers, three of whom are set to retire in 2012. One supervisory position would be eliminated and three lower-paid (including less generous benefits and no longevity pay) workers hired, representing a likely savings. Still, a still needs to be developed, Cronin said.
  • In news, water quality in 2011 wasn't as good as in the previous year, Cronin said. Graydon, which closed early and suffered through record rainfall, lost $108K, according to figures. The Parks & Rec Department have ideas to take over the Graydon Swim Team, which could yield $21,000 a year in revenue, though there would also be a cost to filling a new position – an "aquatics director." The department is also looking into privatizing the concession stand at the pool, which they think could save over $50,000.
  • Additionally, as Graydon had accepted outsiders in 2011, non-residents will be able to join the P&R-run camps in 2012. It could create revenue around $40,000, Cronin said.

In other department budgetary matters:

  • Dylan Hansen, IT Director, said he's requested a largely flat spending budget in 2012. The council expressed concern the proposed or wanted. The resolution to approve the $19,800 has since been tabled.
  • Tony Merlino, head of the Building Department, said his budget will be reduced for 2012. He'll be working on a communication plan to better inform residents/contractors that often make complaints of the department.
  • Dawn Cetrulo, Health Supervisor, requested that one part-time staffer be made full-time due to increased departmental activity. She reported the animal canvassing has been successful. Her budget greatly pleased the mayor and council.
Steve Holder March 09, 2012 at 12:40 AM
I am tired.. I am really trying NOT to increase my prices but come on you guys.. you have to cut costs, STOP wasting our money and tighten your belts.. Christie said keep it to 2%, let's really try to achieve that. I already pay Ridgewood more than I pay in federal taxes for a year.. what does that tell you? Time to leave this bloody town. Anyone want to buy my house? Make me an offer! Because I cannot afford to live here anymore! Steve Holder Fix My PC 2
delgado March 09, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Look, voter sent the message, cut, cut, cut, cut. The Bergen Republicans and their supporters in R'wood got support and attend Tea Party rallies, now they must deliver, cut the cops, cut the Police Chief, cut surplus, cut all human services and privitze everything. Cut so there are potholes, cut all street lites, cut all recreation, cut capital to fire dept, make it go 100% volunteer, cut cut cut until it hurts...now.
Steve Holder March 09, 2012 at 12:38 PM
Nobody is saying we should cut vital services or good teachers BUT why not be smarter. What is the problem with combining Glen Rock and Ridgewood Police, town management and school districts.. would that be so bad? Maybe we would be better for it. less chiefs and more Indians would cut costs and probably improve services.
Concerned Ridgewood Resident March 09, 2012 at 04:30 PM
They want to put a cell tower in my neighborhood - Im going to be looking for a TAX CUT - not a tax increase!!!!!!!!!!!!
Concerned Ridgewood Resident March 09, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I say we get rid of the Village Manager Ken Gabbert - hes pretty much worthless - never can get a response from him when things in the village need to be taken care of.

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