West New York residents will have one last chance to voice their opinions about the $46 million fiscal year 2002 municipal budget this week. Residents can ask questions or make comments during the hearing and final adoption for the budget at a special meeting on Dec. 27.
This is the seventh budget that West New York Mayor Albio Sires and his administration have put together that does not include a tax increase.
"This is a tight budget, but we have lived within the budget before," Sires said.
The budget lowers spending by about $500,000. It also benefits from a $12 million increase in the amount of taxpaying properties - otherwise known as the ratable base. This means that more properties are paying into the tax levy, helping to reduce the tax rate paid by each resident. The increase in ratables has spread throughout the town. According to Sires, there have been many new housing developments throughout the town that contributed to the ratables, as well as the P.C. Richard and Sons and Walgreen's stores that opened last year.
Along with the decrease in spending, the increase in ratables has allowed the town to keep the same tax rate for the seventh year in a row.
Where the town gets its money
The town is expecting to collect $19.4 million from the taxpayers this year, including the school debt tax that the town collects for the Board of Education. The municipal tax rate stands at about $18.96 million, which is up $500,000 from last year's tax levy of $18.48 million.
"The increase does not translate into a tax increase because of the $12 million increase in our ratables," said Sires. "We set the tone in 1995 to lower taxes, and we are keeping with that tone in this budget."
The town's tax rate has been divided into those homeowners that qualify for the Regional Efficiency Aid Program Credits and those that do not. The town's residents began receiving this benefit after they regionalized their fire department. Landlords who live in their building and own a dwelling of up to four families, or an apartment building that is strictly residential, qualify for REAP credit. The landlord also had to have owned the building since October of the year before to qualify for the credit.
The municipal tax rate for homeowners who do not qualify for the REAP tax credit is $20.78 per $1,000 of property owned, and their overall tax rate - the rate for the combined municipal, school and county taxes - is $44.37 per $1,000 of the property. The municipal tax rate for those who qualify for the REAP tax credit is $16.85 per $1,000 of property owned, and their overall tax rate is $40.44 per $1,000
The town's budget will also be paid for partially with $6.9 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) collected. PILOT payments are a set tax rate given to developers to encourage them to develop in the town.
The town is also partially funding its budget with $3.1 million in surplus funds.
Where the money goes
This year's budget reflects a $500,000 decrease in the overall spending in West New York. This decrease is partially due to the restructuring of the town's debt several years ago. According to the town's business administrator, Richard Turner, last year, the town's debt was up to $8.5 million a year. This year the town allotted $6.7 million to pay debt service fees, including the school debt.
The town has appropriated $5.8 million to the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue squad. This money represents West New York's contribution to the department. Each of the five towns contribute to this fund which goes toward the fireman's salaries and all other services.
The largest portion of the budget will be used to pay for employee benefits and pension plans as well as employee salaries. The budget is appropriating $7.9 million toward employee benefits and insurance premiums, $8.4 million on police salaries and $8.2 million on city employee salaries.
These amounts include employee annual raises.
The special meeting of the Board of Commissioners will begin on Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. in City Hall on 60th Street. The public will have a chance to speak before the final vote on the budget.<