Road to Flat Municipal Budget Will Require Layoffs

Down revenue from 2012, a preliminary budget offered to the council could not meet the sought zero percent tax and budget increases. Doing so would require cuts of at least $500,000, and in all likelihood, further layoffs.

The Village’s municipal budget is likely to fall short of a sought zero percent increase in 2013 unless the council is willing to slash more than $500,000, according to the proposal introduced to the council by manager Ken Gabbert Wednesday night.

Mayor Paul Aronsohn, Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli, and Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck campaigned on a ‘zero based budgeting approach’ in the election last year that brought them to the council last July. This will be their first budget as a majority on the council.

The draft budget proposed by Gabbert, which council members called a “work in progress,” represents a 1.1 percent increase over last year’s final number of $45,2363,596. Two workers would be laid off and departments would have to be restructured under that budget scenario, the village manager said. 

The drivers of the increase, said Gabbert, were a 7.5 percent rise in healthcare costs, $485,000 in contractual increases for public safety—primarily the police department—and $100,000 in negotiated salary increases for other union employees.

“We also have at this point a rather large decrease in revenue,” he said. By state statute, the Village can only include in the budget revenue it actually received in 2012.

“We had for whatever reason a drop in 2012, and we have to drop everything in 2013 even though we’re pretty sure that we’ll bounce back,” Gabbert told the council.

Federal money to repair damage sustained from Super Storm Sandy is unlikely to be received in 2013, Gabbert said. (A good portion of Hurricane Irene reimbursements from 2011 aren't even in purse yet.)

The council has been pushing Gabbert to explore scenarios where the town could pass a flat budget or one without tax increases.

Due to the drop in revenue, Gabbert said, a zero percent budget increase for 2013 would require $500,000 in cuts, all while a reassessment currently underway is expected to decrease assessed home values in the village.

“We had the budget going up 1.1 percent, we had the reduction in revenue,” he explained. “So we have a larger budget and less money coming from outside. So the totals of those two required additional 3.4 percent taxes over last year.”

Even greater cuts would be needed to pass a budget with a zero percent tax increase, Gabbert said. With the reassessment still ongoing, he said at least $1 million would likely have to be cut to hit a flat zero percent increase.

Both scenarios are almost guaranteed to require sizable layoffs. The village said goodbye to more than 30 workers in 2010, but has made few large-scale changes in staffing levels since. It's not yet clear how many would see the axe were the council to mandate deeper cuts.

With union contracts locked up over the next few years and revenue at a premium, it's clear the road to zero won't be easy. Complicating the matter, police manpower is at its lowest levels in years. Numerous firefighters are also expected to be retiring in the next two years, Patch has learned.

The average homeowner paid $3,970 in municipal taxes in 2012 and the volunteer 'Tiger Team' finance committee projected costs to soar in the next decade if taxes aren't controlled.

“Again...this is really rough stuff,” Gabbert cautioned council members during the budget scenario discussion Wednesday night.

Meetings between department heads and the council over the next two months will finalize line items on the budget, and Mayor Aronsohn indicated a desire to release the preliminary figures so that the public could be more involved in the hearings.

“I think it would be very useful for them to look at all the departments, all the proposals, all the recommendations,” he said, asking the council to consider making the numbers available on the village website.

Following meetings and public hearings, the final budget could be adopted as early as April 10, though it's more likely to be passed in June.

James Kleimann contributed to this report.

Bob Royal February 01, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Yes, it is very tough. But it is also what the private sector has been dealing with for more than 4 years now. Layoffs and/or salary reductions for public employees are necessary. Village residents have faced reductions in their pay and/or have lost jobs too. And while Ridgewood residents may generally be better off compared to the general NJ public, it does not change the fact that the financial committments (mortgages, taxes, etc.) of Ridgewood residents have become harder to meet. We simply cannot expect Ridgewood residents to maintain the status quo for the public sector under those circumstances.
Gary Rabinowitz February 01, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Another episode of throw the new guys (gals) under the bus? ..... Since cuts are required, and $500k of budget savings must be found, why cut 100% of 2 (or however many) employees' salaries? Why not cut 2% of all (100%) of the municipal employees? I know, "union agreements," right? Fact is, any and all employees (union or otherwise) could voluntarily agree to a collective give back and amend the contract in place. It would be the right thing to do -- for the sake of those few avoiding a 100% salary / benefit cut (who often, though not always, are the last to get hired and the younger/est employees). Have at it, VOR employees -- I hope seniority, tenure and entitlement don't deter you from doing right. GXR
thetentman February 01, 2013 at 07:38 PM
The average homeowner paid $3,970 in municipal taxes in 2012??????????????? I live in a very small house and my taxes were about triple that figure.
Mikka H February 01, 2013 at 08:00 PM
Start with the village manager.....
longtimer66 February 01, 2013 at 08:16 PM
That's because they are only talking the MUNI part of the taxes, not the BOE part. Yet all of us must pay BOTH parts. Both the muni govt and the BOE always do this because it makes the numbers look smaller of course... This is why it is so impt to have a similar study group like the "Tiger Team" fully go through the BOE budget too and analyze and give recommendations. We all have to pay for whole thing, and so the analysis has to involve everything. There are 3 major budgets 1/ BOE, 2/ muni and 3/ Library, which unlike nearly every other town in NJ seems to be its own payroll entity. In nearly all other towns, library is in muni, even in cities. . The numbers in the database at link below do not include perks, pensions, benefits, overtime, bonuses etc etc, which of course add greatly to the costs. It can be enlightening to compare the same job in other sim. size (by population) towns nearby to what is paid in Ridgewood for the identical job. To do that, you need to know the officeholder's name in each town but you can find those on most town websites. It's useful to look at jobs such as Clerk, Tax Collector and others that are mandated for any municipality to have. For most, you'll find that in Ridgewood we pay much more for same jobs than other towns do. Database covering 2011 (most recent) is here: http://php.app.com/NJpublicemployees12/search.php
RdgwdGRock February 01, 2013 at 08:26 PM
they are prob not including taxes collected for schools
RdgwdGRock February 01, 2013 at 08:28 PM
agreed, that is a good place to start. just last month, tthe Village was considering raises for top-level management. now this? do they know what they are doing?
John Q. February 01, 2013 at 08:45 PM
longtimer66 The parts of your municipal tax bill are as follows: (per $100 of assessed value) county tax 0.207 10.25% county open space 0.003 0.15% school tax 1.304 64.59% library tax 0.032 1.58% local municipal tax 0.468 23.18% municipal open space 0.005 0.25%
John Q. February 01, 2013 at 08:49 PM
So the school portion of your taxes is 64.59% the municipal portion of your taxes is 25.01% and the county portion is 10.40%
James Kleimann February 01, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Average local tax figures are somewhere around $16,000 in Ridgewood. This combines all the budgets. The municipal portion is around 25 percent of the total; the county at about 10 percent; and the school taxes clearing around 65 percent of the pot. The biggest driver, by no small sum, is the school taxes.
longtimer66 February 01, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Yep. When I said above 3 major budgets I didn't include open space and of course the county budget is not under muni control. I was trying to point out to the orig. poster why they didn't understand the difference in the question they posed... and also to make the point that we really need a Tiger Team type group to look at the BOE budget. Doubt that doing so for County and Open Space budgets would yield a big benefit to Village taxpayers. Library was discussed at last Council meeting somewhat and prob. does not need the "Tiger analysis" so much. It was explained that their budget has been actually flat, I think. The Deputy Mayor spoke on that. It is curious though why among nearly all municipalities in NJ, nearly none handle Library payroll etc as a separate entity, yet Ridgewood does. Sorry about the omission-- I should have been more clear about the 3 major budgets being those under control of Village entities. And I didn't include open space in that either-- county or muni for that matter. Point is, things need to change, we can't just keep spending - and so we need the kind of analysis that team did on the muni side for the BOE side too.
jp1 February 01, 2013 at 10:17 PM
After 30people were laid off maybe it is time for a manager or two to be eliminated.
John Q. February 02, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Legislation sponsored by New Jersey Assembly members Upendra J. Chivukula, Ruben J. Ramos Jr., and Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Senators Nia Gill and Sandra Cunningham that would render funding for libraries independent of municipalities, has been signed into law by Governor Christie. The measure (A-2679/S2068) provides fiscal parity to all public libraries by requiring a dedicated line item on property tax bills for funding for municipal libraries in addition to county libraries. Under previous law, appropriations for municipal and joint municipal libraries were part of the general municipal fund while county libraries had a dedicated line item.
Mike Kender February 02, 2013 at 04:51 AM
The problem is that the previous council screwed up and approved a very generous set of contracts for the police and fire unions, which gave them multi-year raises in a recession. That council blew a golden opportunity to extract cost cuts (instead of giving raises), and have now screwed up the budget for the next few years.
Kelly McKensy February 02, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Where is all the talk now from the new Republican-contributing councilmembers about merging police departments with surrounding towns??? Isn't that what the Republicans SWORE, smaller government. So R'wood has a coucilmember who had a fundraiser for MITT ROMNEY and Honorable Walsh who has given thousands in political to our double dipping County Executive and now when it comes time to act,,, we realize they are ALL talk....
Kelly McKensy February 02, 2013 at 02:00 PM
actually the new (Republican) councilmembers SAID they would merge Police Deptartments. They can do that at the next meeting...
Kelly McKensy February 02, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Merge R'Wood Police Depts with surrounding towns. THAT IS WHAT REPUBLICANS promised. Why are they not doing what they said they were going to do?
Lyn February 02, 2013 at 06:08 PM
People have to understand that layoffs are going to mean a reduction in services, which is something people in this town love to complain about as well. Sure, get rid of people to save me money on my tax bill... but don't you dare make me drag my garbage to the curb twice a week, or God forbid only pick up garbage once a week. And bring some of my own recycling to the center instead of having full pickups? Outrageous! Make sure that all departments at Village Hall are fully staffed and efficient when I need to use those departments, and when my family or home is in danger, make sure the police and firefighters are there quickly and in full force. But yes... cut salaries and lay off people to save me money.
B Carlson February 02, 2013 at 06:58 PM
GREENE, NANCY, K RIDGEWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY $123,304 from: http://www.nj.com/news/bythenumbers/
B Carlson February 02, 2013 at 07:00 PM
GABBERT, KENNETH, A RIDGEWOOD VILLAGE $178,385 from: http://www.nj.com/news/bythenumbers/
RdgwdGRock February 02, 2013 at 07:48 PM
anyone earning over $125k should be hit with a 5% salary reduction; anyone under $125k given a reduction of 2%. This should help to minimize or eliminate the budget shortfall
J.C. Lee February 02, 2013 at 09:39 PM
What makes you think that any of the surrounding towns would even be interested in going into business with Ridgewood for anything? Ridgewood is already being sued by surrounding towns for overcharging on water rates! The Ridgewood residents who post on the Patch about their dissatisfaction with overpaid Village services and management certainly don’t provide an attractive advertisement for anyone who would even think of going into business with the great village! Ridgewood made its own problems; don’t look to you neighbors to bail you out!
Phil Brooks February 03, 2013 at 03:54 PM
RdgwdGRock, Maybe there's something to be said for a little fiscal austerity in these tough times. But, what do you do for a living and how much do you make? After all, it's so easy to tell others what to do, isn't it? Maybe your salary can be dialed back a little, too.
RdgwdGRock February 03, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Phil Brooks - I am making less in this tight times. But, I continue to pay my taxes while less and less services are rendered. "It is what it is". If the civil employees at village hall don't like reduced salaries, I am sure plenty of others with be happy to line up for the new compensation levels.
Phil Brooks February 04, 2013 at 03:14 AM
I understand where you're coming from and don't necessarily disagree with you. If you're working for an entity where times are tight, it's time for everyone to bite the bullet in the same way that people should be able to hop on the gravy train when times are good. But, again, I'm just curious, what do you do for a living and why was your pay cut?
disgusted February 22, 2013 at 03:16 AM
Merging a police department with another is no easy task rwd has the busiest dept, sans paramus of the the towns bordering it . The village is a civil service town, midland park wyckoff, and glen rock and ho-ho-kus are all chiefs test. That leaves waldwick as the lone civil service town with whom rwd could merge. Why would they want to merge with rwd to supplement our lack of man power, who do you think would get the better end of the deal, rwd would and don't think the towns around us aren't aware of it. Also there would be the geographic difficulties that go along with merging 2 pd's
disgusted February 22, 2013 at 03:21 AM
In 2010 there were layoffs. The cops took furlough days to keep their guys from gettin layed off. I don't know whether or not the rest of the unions did that.


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