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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.
limabean March 08, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Are you kidding me.this is just another reason why people are leaving this town and why over 100 homes are for sale.
James Kleimann March 08, 2012 at 06:02 AM
This is just the first look at the 2012 budget. Officials say it's likely to be lowered as the process moves along.
Dominick Nizza March 08, 2012 at 11:57 AM
This "trial balloon" posting covered too many pieces to the Village budget for Council discussion. That's what it was designed to do,in my opinion. I know of several parts of this budget that could be pared down easily if the Council had the courage to do so.
Boyd A. Loving March 08, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Two consecutive years of municipal tax increases exceeding 7% is not the kind of news taxpayers like to receive in an election year. This will be a tough sell for the two incumbent candidates. Despite the fact that initial figures bandied about in previous years MAY have been higher, 7.6% is something to "scream" about in my opinion. The BOE's budget increase is a flat 2%, which will result in a $195 tax increase for the average assessed homeowner. How can Village Council members possibly justify a $276 annual tax increase for their much smaller operating budget? Something is amiss here folks, big time. Where is the money going? Services have been cut, workers have been laid off, roads aren't being paved, police cars are slowing disintegrating, permit fees are being raised, and so on. But yet, we still seem to be short on funds? Again I ask, where is the money going? With regard to comments made during Wednesday's budget discussion: 1) Another administrator for the Recreation Department? What do the Director and Deputy Director do? We don't need more queen bees; we need more worker bees. 2) "Three younger workers will be hired?" Isn't age discrimination an unlawful hiring practice? 3) Forget hiring an Aquatics Director; we don't need another administrator. 4) Aren't residents waiting too long now for building permits? Slashing Tony Merlino's budget is dumb; it will just increase the already unbearable wait times.
James Kleimann March 08, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Re: 2) I should have used the proper term – it's likely the workers will be younger, as the current workers have about 25 years of experience. To realize breakage, the new hires would really have be less experienced.
RdgwdGRock March 08, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Graydon costing too much; time to close it. What about savings from the roads dept due an easy winter with virtually no plowing, salting and sanding? It's easy for Gabbert to say taxes "might rise by 7.6 percent" when it is not his money. I'm tired of waste. The Village should surprise us and go with no tax increase and work with what they have.
Mike March 08, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Tax increases have been absurd now for a decade because of rampant irresponsible behavior. There's simply no excuse for tax increases that are, on average, much higher than inflation. Ridgewood has manged to average probably dramatically over 5% annually for as long as I can remember. Other states, such as MA have instituted laws to prevent property tax increases from going up more than 2% annually without town approval. We need this here to prevent such pathetically run government.
B Carlson March 08, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Watch what happens...they get everyone all excited and upset and then come down to a lesser increase...so we're supposed to feel like we're getting a "deal" and they are doing a good job.
RdgwdGRock March 08, 2012 at 03:55 PM
bunch of inept hacks
RdgwdGRock March 08, 2012 at 03:58 PM
B Carlson - that's the game. it's done in the biz world. come in first with a higher estimate, then state "we will take a scaple to the budget" and bring it in where they really want it. If they first stated a 5% increase, we the people would certainly want it down around 2%-3% (which the hacks can't work with). if Mr. Grabbit works his "magic", will he ask for another $20k raise?
MaroonMom March 08, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Was there money set aside to make sure we don't have way more closures than last year at the library?!?
Alan Seiden March 08, 2012 at 04:49 PM
@RidgewoodGuy12: For at least the last couple of years, the Village has included a proportion of Parks & Rec management salaries under Graydon's costs. Therefore, the "loss" figure includes expenses that would occur even if Graydon weren't there.
henry c March 08, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I think they meant "wean".....
James Kleimann March 08, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Ha, Henry is right. Yeah, my mistake. I must have subliminally been thinking of the band Ween. Which of course makes no sense. I'll fix that up. Thanks, Henry.
James Kleimann March 08, 2012 at 07:10 PM
We haven't gotten to that part of the budget discussions yet. I'll definitely keep everyone updated. As you remember, the council funded half of the request ($35K) made by the library last year.
Dominick Nizza March 08, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Then why is a $108,000 loss this past year being posted if it's not a loss? Lots of comingled funds here being played with, don't you think?
Bill Connor March 08, 2012 at 08:00 PM
its just unacceptable on all fronts.
Craig Hueneke March 08, 2012 at 09:24 PM
REVOLT!!! Taxation without representation.. Anyone remember hearing that? But instead we all just bitch and moan about it as they keep wasting taxpayer's $!
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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